Studio Zenkai

Bold and Clear, without excess • Kaizen 改善 • With Purpose

Studio Zenkai is dedicated to the craft of programming, hardware hacking, photography, machine learning and how to live sensibly.

Why I am cancelling Amazon Prime

I decided this morning to cancel my Amazon Prime membership. I used it for free prime delivery, and also for occasional prime videos, such as the excellent Elementary series. It is also amazing to say “Alexa, play french songs” and discover pieces from Amazon Music you knew nothing about.

I used to be a fan of the Amazon store. You could find rare items that were not sold anywhere else, at unbeatable prices. Reviews were genuine, and when an item had an average of 5-star, it only meant that it was an excellent product. I got items that allowed me to be more productive and more efficient, at lower prices. Physical stores such as Best Buy were only useful to help in the decision process.

In 2021, Amazon is unfortunately full of junk. The majority are cloned products of shoddy craftsmanship with little regard for durability, and boosted by 5 star reviews from users who got the product for free. Amazon Basics provide a standard of some sort but the line is comparable to IKEA products : they do the job but they are only meant to last for a year. When you do find interesting items, prices can be a multiple of what you find locally. Currently the only benefit is convenience : one click purchase with someone delivering boxes at your door step in a day or so.

I understand this kind of convenience is interesting for special cases. If you are a single parent or if you have special needs, nothing beats shopping from your bed and having someone package and deliver for you. You save time to focus on kids, and don’t have to deal with stairs, traffic or possibly rude service. You might even be claustrophobic or mall-phobic. In my case though, it falls in the definition of luxury.

Another issue is the environmental footprint. I wrote recently about the climate emergency. You cannot be environmentally conscious and at the same time, make someone drive a van and waste boxes and plastic just for one gadget.

stacks of wasteful amazon boxes

What are the alternatives?

Currently my biggest use for Amazon is for home renovation, as detailed in the Airbnb vacation home post. Whenever there was a problem, a quick search would find a solution on Amazon and get it delivered right away. I’ve now moved from Amazon to local retailers such as canac. It is local home renovation chain, but without the costs of Home Depot. Issues are compiled, filtered. If issues are still listed after a week, I do one single canac run. Total costs are 2 to 3 times less than Amazon, and I also get to test and touch products.

My second use for Amazon is for electronics, since I work in tech and also have projects such as autonomous robot cars. Like canac, you can always find local retailers that offer comparable products at lower prices. I get items in “bulk” so I don’t have to go buy it again later. I also get boards and chips that are general purpose, so they can be reused for multiple projects. For speciality items like Lidar or AI chips, if I cannot find a second hand one, I will of course have to order from the manufacturer.

Gadgets are a special case. This is for example the phone holder for your car or bike that is waterproof and also does wireless charging or whatnot. Or it can be a USBa to USB-C cable that does X and Y at the same time. Or another kitchen tool that looks amazing … at least on paper. I would encourage you to check if you cannot find it locally, better yet make it yourself. Or what about not having it all?

I had other use for Amazon Prime, such as clothing and others. For example, in November, I realize I am missing winter gear, so I would conveniently order a hat & a couple of gloves on Amazon. I am now looking into “buying for life” items. Patagonia or Arc’teryx provide durable products, with a lifetime guarantee. You can find similar brands for the kitchen, footwear and so on. Having lifetime products is certainly less sexy than having fashionable items every season, but I am afraid it is the way to lower our environmental footprint.

Lastly, I will miss Prime Videos for the occasional quirky or highbrow video. There is more than enough though on Netflix and I hope it will leave me more time for more productive endeavours, or why not, just enjoy outdoors 😁