I canceled my Amazon Prime membership during the pandemic (to support local businesses instead)
I‘ve always wanted to be completely anti-Amazon, to cancel my Prime membership in a blaze of glory and a definitive click of the mouse. For years, I’ve wanted to completely forgo the convenience of the largest online marketplace and the promise of one-day or two-day delivery to opt for locally sourced and supported options instead.
Of course, like most Americans, I couldn’t get enough of the lighting fast delivery speeds and I wasn’t quite done with that detective series I had been bingeing on Prime Video (I’m looking at you, Adrian Monk). But finally, one day in the midst of the pandemic, just as most people were relying on Prime to do their household shopping, I canceled my membership.
And it felt good.
I was finally pushed to do so in mid-March after Amazon fired six warehouse workers for demanding increased pay and better working conditions―they just wanted their warehouses cleaned and sanitized, for heaven’s sake―while working on the front lines of the pandemic. The firings inspired Tim Bray, former VP and senior engineer at Amazon, to step down from his position, as he detailed in a positively scathing blog post.
That made me feel guilty about supporting the company but it got even worse when, after leaving my apartment for the first time post-pandemic, I saw that some of the local businesses I loved were closing their doors. All while Jeff Bezos grew even richer.
Sure, the pandemic might have been the figurative nail-in-the-coffin for these small businesses but Amazon has slowly been crushing brick-and-mortar stores for years. In fact, over the last decade, as many as 12,000 physical retail stores have closed due to Amazon and the convenience of online shopping.
But now that I didn’t have Prime I wanted to exclusively support the local businesses that I loved. And it was surprisingly easy to find everything that I needed to keep my household up and running locally.
You can still have your groceries delivered
Who doesn’t love the convenience of Whole Foods delivery? Free grocery delivery was one of my most-used Prime benefits, but as I quickly found out, Whole Foods isn’t the only place that delivers. In fact, there are a wide variety of better, locally-based, food delivery services available.
Beltex Meats, a Salt Lake City butcher shop now delivers a box of locally-sourced, antibiotic-free meat to your doorstep on a weekly basis. Farmer Next Door, a local CSA (community-supported agriculture), offers weekly fresh produce delivery to customers in Park City and Salt Lake County. Rosehill Dairy has you covered as far as getting milk, cheese, bread, and butter delivered is concerned. And Kristen’s Farm Stand is another great option for locally sourced foods.
Determined to help families access good, clean, organically grown local produce, available via weekly delivery (thank goodness!), Kristen Varela-Schild founded Kristen’s Farm Stand in Colorado in 2017 before moving their family farm to Snowville, Utah in 2020.
“We grow and sell the kind of food we want to feed our family. There is a correlation between the food we eat and how it relates to our health,” says Varela-Schild, mentioning how the idea for a farm food delivery service came after her daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease treatable only by food. She wanted everyone to have access to quality goods.
“The pandemic has given them a unique opportunity to access a wide range of customers who are looking to support local businesses whenever possible.
Unlike Whole Foods (bought by Amazon in 2017), who has been accused of labeling non-regulated frozen fruits and vegetables as organically grown, the produce grown on Varela-Schild’s farm is USDA certified, free of pesticides, and completely sustainable. Even better, unlike a weekly CSA where you get whatever happens to be available at random, you can customize your order to best fit your needs. Plus, the vegetables vary based on the season.
“[With us] there are no subscriptions or minimums, there’s no amount of produce that you have to pick. It’s just like shopping at the store,” says Varela-Schild.
Produce isn’t all they deliver. The Farm Stand offers pasture-raised eggs and pork, grass-fed beef and lamb, raw and unfiltered local honey, microgreens, mushrooms, as well as a host of other prepared products such as bone broth and homemade ketchup. Varela-Schild adds that all of the meat sold has been raised on the farm, though it is later sent to a trusted partner for processing.
“From the meat processing side of things, there is a lack of USDA approved processors in the country, and they are disappearing every day, so that is something challenging for us to work around because we don’t have control over that,” says Varela-Schild. “Finding a great processor that processes meats ethically, and the way we want, has been tricky but we just aren’t willing to compromise quality. It can be hard to be this particular, but it is worth it.”
Though the Farm Stand only started offering delivery to Salt Lake County a few months ago, the pandemic has given them a unique opportunity to access a wide range of customers who are looking to support local businesses whenever possible.
“It’s a challenging time right now from a food perspective. Our food supply chain is off-kilter and with COVID being around, you just don’t want to leave the safety of your home to go find the fresh, local, pesticide-free stuff that we are looking for this time of year in farmers markets,” says Varela-Schild. “We are able to bypass that whole system and get food straight from our farm to people’s doors in a non-contact manner. It is streamlined and simple, the way that it should be.”
You can still splurge on books
It’s no surprise that books is one of Amazon’s top-five most profitable categories, after all, the retailer started off as an online bookstore when it was founded in 1994. However, Amazon is slowly killing bookstores too. Since no one wants to stop reading and we all like the convenience of e-books and delivery, what’s a book-lover to do?
It’s simple, instead of ordering your next read via Prime, order through Bookshop.org instead. The brainchild of Andy Hunter, a publishing guru with a wealth of experience, Bookshop is an innovative platform in which you can purchase your favorite books online for delivery while still supporting your local bookstores. At Bookshop, customers can choose from a library of books (sourced through Ingram’s content library) as well as a large selection of e-books for tablet-lovers who want their book immediately.
The Bookshop experience is actually better than Amazon’s. The layout is more beautiful, the reviews are more poignant, and best of all: a percentage of your order will go toward a local independent bookstore so long as they are a partner of Bookshop. If you don’t have a local bookshop to support (check out the map to find ones near you), your order counts toward a pool of earnings that is later divided amongst independent bookstores across the country.
Though the company is still relatively new, launching in January of this year―which was timely, the pandemic had forced thousands of bookstores, some of which did not have an e-commerce platform, to close temporarily or otherwise― the company has made some serious headway. So far, sales through Bookshop has raised more than $3 million for local bookstores in need.
“We’re still a relatively new company, so we definitely have plans for growth,” says Bookshop representative, Mario Saladrigas. “Due to the pandemic, we’ve gotten a lot more traffic than we expected to have by this time, so as of right now we’re trying to roll out features that we thought we might’ve had more time to roll out before. This includes things like gifting functionalities, a more advanced search tool, updating user guides for people trying to set up their affiliate accounts, and more.”
The company has also increased the commission percentage for book stores who are partners by 10 percent to help out even more because, at the end of the day, Hunter just wants to see independent bookstores free from the grasp of Amazon. “If Amazon really wipes out independent bookstores, the end result isn’t just going to be that they get all the book sales in the world,” says Hunter in a Time magazine interview. “It’s going to be that people read fewer books.”
Other ways to shop local
Plant-lovers everywhere have also embraced Amazon to order unique, hard-to-find plants for delivery. Since it can be hard to ship plants across the country, ordering via Amazon was a great way to ensure your plants arrived healthy.
But there’s something even better. Local nursery, Cactus & Tropicals is one of the best places around for plant delivery. Order online or over the phone and have your new houseplants delivered to your doorstep for free, based on the delivery date of your choosing. You can even schedule a Zoom consultation with a garden expert if one of your houseplants is sick and you can’t figure out why.
And since personal care goods are also important, there’s a local Salt Lake shop, Animalia to order from instead of Prime. Animalia offers a collection of zero-waste, independently-sourced cleaning products, shampoo and conditioners, as well as toothpaste, handsoap, and even laundry detergent. Animalia offers curbside pickup and they ship nationwide.
By canceling your Prime membership (or, at least using it a little less―I know how hard it can be to pull that plug) and making more of an effort to support the small businesses around you, you can pour money directly back into your local economy, which is especially crucial in a time like this.
After all, wouldn’t we rather keep our local businesses alive instead of further padding the pockets of Bezos?