While the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged millions of lives and livelihoods in 2020, it’s no secret that certain businesses and moguls have experienced huge gains in the same period. But perhaps nobody in the world has benefited more than Jeff Bezos and his expanding Amazon global complex, with 2020 poised to become the most profitable of the company’s 26 years.
As demand soared both for Amazon’s retail and cloud storage services due to more deliveries and remote work worldwide, the company’s income tripled to $6.3 billion in the third quarter of 2020 in comparison to 2019. To put things into context, Amazon’s estimated worth of around $1 trillion (in the same league as Apple, Google and Microsoft) exceeds the combined GDP of at least nine South American countries.
Bezos, already the world’s richest human before the pandemic hit, in 2020 became the first in the history of our species to be nominally worth $200 billion.
So any donation Bezos has made during the pandemic has been a proverbial drop in the bucket. And what’s more, employees claim that Amazon has failed to protect them in the workplace or pay them sick leave in a timely fashion. Unionized workers have continued to strike for better conditions and pay in Leipzig and elsewhere in Germany. Meanwhile, Amazon has made 175,000 new hires in 2020 and its increasing monopoly status has gone largely uncurbed despite investigations.
Surely, 2020 and Bezos have served to show us that the rich are still getting richer while the poor get poorer.
But we already knew that the “deal is rotten,” didn’t we? We already knew it and we have continued to buy from Amazon and line Bezos’s pockets. We have continued to contribute to the demise of small local businesses and to the godlike status of the tech giants, to the detriment of our own power of choice and right to privacy and to the further erosion of workers’ rights. We have been conditioned to behave like this. But we do still have a choice as consumers. It’s our biggest weapon and we need to learn to use it wisely, conscientiously.
Small local businesses need us now perhaps more than ever. We can avoid buying from Amazon and instead redistribute consumer euros locally by following any or all of these simple steps:
- scrolling down a little further in search results on our browser when looking to purchase just about anything;
- finding the same product at smaller online vendors by using alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo or Ecosia;
- typing “buy local” in the search bar and exploring those websites (also available in Germany);
- visiting the City of Leipzig-sponsored Local Heroes website, which lists local stores still delivering all kinds of food, drinks, products and creative fare, and offering all kinds of workshops and vouchers (your loved ones will appreciate the unique, thoughtful gifts you might come up with);
- asking your local store if they can order the product for you;
- purchasing a “solidarity ticket” online to keep Leipzig-based cultural institutions afloat.
With a little goodwill and luck, we can help make 2021 a little less profitable for Amazon and other giants of industry. And while we’re at it, we can give small entrepreneurs a hand in these dire times and buy better-quality stuff for ourselves and loved ones. We can even work that into a habit to carry with us past the pandemic. How’s that for a New Year’s resolution? I raise my glass virtually to it.