The “Amazon-ification” of Retail

A while back I was talking to a friend of mine and he said

A package from Amazon shows up at my doorstep every day of the week

At the time I thought my friend was exaggerating, or perhaps a little bit crazy. But now it has moved to the point where I usually receive 1-2 packages each week from Amazon and now the yellow “minion” boxes abound in my condo.

What happened? I started to realize that with free shipping and the fact that my iPhone is usually nearby, whenever I am “out” of something around the house or need something that is unavailable, I just pick up my phone, type in a description in the App, and buy it immediately. Then I typically forget about whatever it is that I bought until I open up one of the regularly arriving Amazon boxes and go

Oh, that’s what I needed

You can buy pretty much everything that isn’t immediately perishable on Amazon, except for a few things like liquor. Thankfully I live near an enormous liquor store (but unfortunately not a high end grocery store, River North lacks a Whole Foods or Mariano’s) so that’s covered.

For a brief moment I periodically feel bad for local merchants; why can’t I just go to the store and buy some deodorant like I used to rather than ordering it from Amazon and having someone put it in a box and ship it to me from who-knows-where? The answer is that local retailers aren’t usually a great bargain; the prices are better on Amazon, and it is a pain to go somewhere and take a half hour to walk there and back just to pick up a random item you need.

One thing that I needed to learn was to give everything a few days; you can’t wait until you are totally out of something when you order more. As you start to run down just pop open the app, order it, and give it a while to get there. It usually arrives before you need it.

The scale of what is sold on Amazon is amazing, so that you normally can find anything you need. Local retailers, by contrast, only have a few items on the shelf and they need to make a bigger profit to make up for the high costs of doing business in Chicago. There are items that you probably don’t want to buy on Amazon, such as higher end clothes or items that you need to see in order to buy properly, but even for those items you can buy the “second” one if you like the first one on Amazon. After a while you, too, will start to get a box or two every week from Amazon.

One minor nit is that I classify all of my credit card transactions but Amazon comes through as a “bookseller”. Obviously I am buying everything from groceries to household goods to odds and ends of all sorts, but hardly ever books, through Amazon. They do make it easy to review all of your recent purchases on their web site so I can do that from time to time if I want to understand where my money is going.

For the title in the post – I didn’t know that there is a “real” word called “Amazon-ification” but apparently it is out there all over the internet. And I thought I was being clever…

Cross posted at LITGM

17 thoughts on “The “Amazon-ification” of Retail”

  1. I haven’t tried Amazon’s Prime Pantry service yet, mostly because of a fair number of reviews I’ve read involving foodstuffs talk about the items being stale or being on or near the expiration date.

  2. We have the same experience, although trending more toward books, DVDs, and certain things that I receive as a Vine reviewer. If it is an oddball item, and not readily locatable in the usual retail outlets near our house, then Amazon it is. The UPS/FedEx drivers know our house very well, I’m afraid. Although for some things, local retail prices are better, assuming they can be found readily.

  3. I get Amazon packages as thought they were Christmas presents. I have to curb my tendency to just buy things that look interesting. Today the Kindle Fire HD I got for my wife arrived. She has an iPad but hasn’t much used it so I’m trying again to introduce her to the world of technology.

  4. My problem with Amazon is too many times we sign up for a ‘Subscribe & Save’ item and then the price goes up abruptly with no warning or it goes out of stock with no indication of when it will be back. Too inconsistent.

    I’ve been waiting for Amazon Fresh to come to town, but saw awhile back that they raised the membership costs to $300/yr. We already have a Costco and Sam’s Club membership, so I don’t see myself paying twice as much to replace them with something that may be inferior. Grocery options in Chicago have gotten much better and grown much more diverse just in the last few years now that the oligopoly has been broken up. I’m not sure if online options can replace it.

  5. Although, I just remembered what it’s like in the city.
    Out in the Burbs no one gives a second thought to driving 5 – 10 miles to pick up groceries
    But you don’t want to have fight through city traffic, red light cameras, and crazed CTA buses to get to Lincoln Park or even the West Loop.

  6. Our UPS man is a gem, much like an old time mailman. Always a pleasure to hear him pull up. Fed-Ex seems to recruit their staff from another source. This means of course, that our house is also filled with empty Amazon boxes, and those air pillows are piling up in the garage. My wife does all the ordering. When we lived in NYC we used Fresh Direct for a while, it was pricey, but the produce was pretty good. The delivery men of course, were always ex-cons. I love driving to Publix and Kroger, now, no greasing palms, just courtesy and smiles.

  7. “But you don’t want to have fight through city traffic”

    I made an incredibly stupid decision yesterday. I needed some stainless machine screws for my little boat, the only one I have left.

    So, I decided to drive 10 miles down the I 5 to Dana Point for a couple of machine screws. There’s a marine store there near the harbor.

    Boy was that a bad idea ! Everybody in southern California was getting out of town for the long weekend and leaving on Thursday afternoon. Heading South.

    The I 5 was jammed so, being a clever local, I got off the freeway and and diverted to a frontage road that runs parallel. I soon realized that half of southern California had the same idea, then I realized that there was some construction ahead and I had passed the last place to turn off. Three hours later, I got home with my machine screws.

    My son passed me as I was leaving and, when I got back I stopped at his house two blocks away. He had been to Newport Beach and back plus several other errands.


  8. The main delivery service we have used (except for books) is that of the British supermarket Tesco. The service is fine; the man will literally carry goods into our kitchen and bung them on the table. We would not, however, dream of buying fresh food that way. This decision was backed up by our overhearing a conversation in a Tesco store, between two young employees filling delivery trays. “Don’t they notice?” “No; or if they do they never complain.”

  9. There was just a loud knocking on the door – and my daughter feared that it was Crazy Neighbor with another bizarre errand for her. (Crazy Neighbor knows better than to ask me to cooperate in such errands as driving her down to the nearest Chinese take-out because she had medicine she has to take with food, and she didn’t have anything in the house, wanted Chinese food, wrecked her last car and can’t go anywhere unless she can guilt-trip people into taking her.) It was the UPS guy, actually – with replacement doors for the hallway closet which houses the washer and dryer, and a couple of boxes of books for my next event. (Next Sunday, Wonderland Mall – the SA Indy Author Festival – mark your calendars!)

    Yes, I love home delivery of stuff. When all goes sideways, I suspect that will be the thing I miss the most.

  10. *sob* My dad, who was an only child and luxuriantly spoiled on that account — had a marvelous Erector set from the 1930s, in the original box with a little electrical engine (which, when I remember it, had cloth/rubber cords to it which were rather battered and worn, when my brother and I played with it in the 1960s.) It was fun to play with it, all the little beams, and the tiny screws and nuts. We had the most fun with it, I think only equaled when I bought Lego sets for my daughter later on. (Except that the Lego sets didn’t come with that thrillingly rickety electrical motor!)

    That original vintage Erector set was in the garage of my parents’ house when it burned in the 2003 Paradise Hill fire, so … lost, alas.

  11. When I was little, a lot of the stuff we bought arrived from Sears, Roebuck, and Company or Montgomery Ward (and later, when “we” changed to “I”), added to the list were Heathkit, Allied Radio, World Radio, and Henry Radio.

  12. Living in a rural area with limited shopping options and long distances to various stores, Amazon is a tremendous benefit. I’m able to research and buy products with better quality and value than I could find locally, without the agonizing going-everywhere-looking for stuff the stores likely don’t have, and the store employees know little about in any case. Amazon is a huge contributor to a better quality of life. Now that they collect PA sales taxes, it even saves me the self-assessment of use tax on my state income tax return– that’s a big fat ZERO on use tax, suckers, because AMAZON!

  13. “That original vintage Erector set was in the garage of my parents’ house when it burned in the 2003 Paradise Hill fire, so … lost, alas.”

    They are available on line if you want one. The one I bought was new but there are vintage and collectible ones there with good prices.

  14. Mike K – If you live in an area with traffic jams (most of us), I’ve found Wayze to be absolutely invaluable. It identifies 3 routes generally and recalculates time estimates during your trip so you always have a good idea for how long it’s going to take you to get there and voice prompts on turns to make sure you don’t miss turn offs.

  15. I imagine an “erector set” must be your equivalent to our Meccano.

    When I went off to university my father, without a word to me, gathered up the Meccano, and the model train set, and the camping gear, and gave the lot to the Girl Guides (Girl Scouts to you?).

    A jolly generous gesture to feminism, obviously, but a bit harsh on me, I thought.

    Thank God the dinghy was sold before I left home.

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