One-Way Love Affair

I have a one-way love affair with Amazon, and this worries me a little. Okay, maybe a lot.

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It started out small back in “the old days”. Amazon sold mostly books, and when I wanted an author’s back list and couldn’t get it at Barnes and Noble, this is where I’d go.

Then, they started selling more stuff. I was skeptical at first, but the free shipping for a $25 purchase at the time really helped me get over my skepticism. I was working full time, newly married, and going to grad school at night. Time was a premium.

Best thing was Amazon’s prices at the time weren’t any higher for the things I was buying at brick and mortar stores. Sometimes, they were even a lot lower.

Another few years rolled past, and we were expecting our first child. I’d been buying a lot from Amazon at that point, but they hadn’t lured me into their Prime club yet. I actually thought it was pretty ridiculous to give $89 a year to get stuff a few days sooner.

But, they knew exactly how to get me.

They gave a free one year subscription to Prime to all new moms who enrolled in their mom’s reward club (the club has since been discontinued). Along with the Prime membership came a sizable discount on diapers and wipes, things I was about to need a lot of, and they promised to deliver in two days. I figured it was free, so I had nothing to lose.

Yeah, they had me after the first few months.

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Like there’s any better transformer to be!

More years later, and I’m still a Prime member. A paying Prime member. Not only that, but we now get monthly Amazon shipments. We tune in to their Prime streaming service, and our kids have loved several Amazon-created children’s shows. Once Netflix lost Sesame Street, we turned to Prime.

I even got my kids a Kindle and was super impressed with the yearly subscription that lets them play a slew of the most popular kids apps, and with the subscription, all the in-app purchases are included. Want another life? Click the button, no fee required.

Amazon was luring me deeper and deeper into the Amazon morass.

Then, this year at Christmas, I was shocked at the deals Amazon was running on popular kid toys. They were running 20-40% toys that my kids wanted. Even if other stores had the items on sale, most of the toys were still cheaper at Amazon.

I look at all of the plastic stuff invading my house, and a lot of it came from Amazon.

I do my Christmas shopping early, so the two day shipping was nice but not necessary. Then Amazon started running specials where if you were willing to wait five days to get your packages, they’d give you $2 or more towards a digital purchase. Hello more Kindle books!

Now I’ve been reading about the struggles of so many bricks and mortar stores to stay open.

I squirmed a little.

That’s somewhat my fault, right? I would way rather pop onto Amazon and have something magically appear at my door two days (sometimes in less than twenty-four hours) later than actually drive to the store, wade through the merchandise, hopefully find what I want, then wait in line to pay for it. About the only thing we get at the store anymore is toilet paper and paper towels because Amazon can’t touch Target’s pricing.

Yet.

My first thought was that Amazon was servicing a time-strapped American population. Sure, a lot their products don’t go on sale like they do at Target, Aldi’s, or wherever you shop, but I don’t usually bother with sales. Sounds stupid, I know, but if I need paper towels, I’m not driving 20 minutes out of my way to get them a dollar cheaper. My lack of frugality on this drives my poor mother insane, but I’m willing to pay $1 to keep 40 minutes of my time.

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Or a good idea to drive two towns over to buy it.

 

I am careful on Amazon lately as there have been instances where Amazon (no, not a third party seller, but Amazon), is quite a bit more expensive than other stores. Last year, when DD1 wanted a pony castle for her birthday, Amazon was $20 more expensive than Target or Toys R Us. Yeah, $20. They came in line a few weeks later, but I’d already bought it from Target by then.

Once you start talking third party sellers, all bets are off. Might as well be eBay.

So, I always check an Amazon purchase with other stores’ online offerings.

But what happens if those stores go out of business? Does that mean Amazon can get away with charging me $20 more than I would’ve paid at Target or Toys R Us?

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I don’t know.

But it worries me.

I’d love to say anti-trust laws would come into play to prevent a monopoly like that, but I have no faith or trust in our government to enforce such rulings. Especially not recently.

Will this concern change my behavior? Yes. I have been regularly checking Target.com for things and ordering if I can wait the few extra days for them to arrive. I love Amazon, but I’m not sure I’m ready to pay the price of assimilation just yet.

 

How about you? Have you been lured into the Amazon morass? Are you a Prime member? Are you worried about them becoming a monopoly and crushing their competition to the point they can charge us whatever they wish?

Black Friday 2016 – Not According to Plan

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday. While many Americans are out starting their Christmas shopping, I’m not because I’m almost done.  All eight of my nieces and nephews are bought for and wrapped. My children are done, and we have them half wrapped. The family gift exchanges are purchased. We’ve bought the gifts for our extended family.

I have one gift left to get for my ninety-year-old grandmother. Yeah, she’s hard to shop for.

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Can’t even imagine the stress…

So, yes, I’m one of those people. I plan ahead. I like things to be organized and predictable. When you combine this  with my crazy work schedule from mid-November until the end of the year, I want my shopping done so I’m able to enjoy the holidays as much as I can. And, I like to have the best possible selection of gifts available so what I’ve planned to buy isn’t back-ordered.

I do, indeed, make an Excel spreadsheet of everyone I have to buy for what, I plan to get them, and whether it’s been purchased and wrapped yet. Making a list, checking it twice…

While Christmas shopping has followed my plans, the rest of the year hasn’t. From my daughter having some medical issues we’re still working through, to a more recent job loss and the potential loss of medical benefits, stress has been a constant companion.

My muse doesn’t much care for stress, and she takes a vacation to a tropical island at the first hint of trouble.

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If you look closely, you can see her in the water.

 

Of course, my response is pretty predictable. I keep looking for her, trying to get her to come and play, before the realization sinks in. She’s left me, and she’s not coming back.

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Muse?!?  Don’t leave me!

No, she’s not terribly reliable, especially when you need her. I guess I don’t blame her. When I’m that tired and anxious, I’m not much fun to be around.

But I’ve still been writing and reading. Maybe less of both than I should.Especially reading. I can be a critical reader, and have been trying to train my brain to do a better job of dissecting why a book is good or why it isn’t.

When I’m stressed, however, my ability to handle stupid characters drops to almost zero. If the characters are too stupid to breathe, I’m done with them. I don’t care if they get their happily-ever-after. I was 30% of the way through a book last week, and I just put it aside. I didn’t need to add to my stress or frustration with fictional characters.

Despite all of this, I’ve managed to finish two novels this year, and I’m working on revising them for publication. Then comes the really awful part of querying them, but that’s still a ways away.

My work isn’t as inspired as it would be if my muse would hang around more, but I am pushing through. I need to prove to myself that this endeavor is worth the time commitment, even when things aren’t going as planned.