Not Prime Time

Alternatively: Amazon Is Guilty Of Many Things, But Your Bad Shopping Habits Aren’t One Of Them.

However, I felt that was too long for the title box.

I recently purchased Amazon Prime, though for half of the discounted monthly price instead of the regular price. For whatever reason, they gave me an offer to extend the trial, so I’m currently getting two free months of Amazon Prime. The only benefits I really care for are the fast shipping and the discounts. Yes, I know you get free shipping if you spend over twenty-five dollars, but I said fast, not free. Not that I’d subscribe to Prime if I had to still pay for shipping.

Anyway, I searched for some reviews on Prime. The general opinion is it’s worth it if you shop on Amazon a lot, you live in a rural area, or you have a child. Of course, some people think Prime is trash, and that’s a valid opinion too. Online shopping is a luxury, after all.

But among the bad reviews, something I couldn’t help noticing is a lot of people claimed they saved more money after cancelling their Prime subscription because they didn’t shop as much for items they don’t need.

Amazon is no saint – big duh – but if you were needlessly buying items you didn’t need solely to make use of Prime, that’s not their fault.

Amazon does the same of any company that offers paid subscriptions. Yes, they make it easy to shop (ex: one-click button), but the same can be said about any store. I used to be a cashier, and I lost count of how many times a customer with an overloaded cart told me they came in for only one item. There’s no difference between doing that with Amazon and any other store, physical or virtual. We put extra stuff in the waiting aisle because we want you to buy more.

Yes, it makes it easier, but ultimately, it comes down to self-control and that’s never on the store. I’m not sitting on a high horse. I’m guilty of buying more than I came in for. I didn’t become a big shopper until I started working in retail, and I really just wanted to use my employee discount. But that’s still my fault, not my job’s. They’re not responsible for my shopping habits.

Now, yes, it makes sense to avoid something that makes you feel an unnecessary urgent need. I’d say cancelling Prime or avoiding a certain store is exercising self-control… if you can admit you were the cause. If someone blames their habits on Amazon, or any other store, they’ll merely take those habits elsewhere after cancelling Prime.

As for myself, I’ve had Prime for seven days and haven’t made a purchase since, despite wanting to. I haven’t seen anything I care to buy. I was interested in Amazon Fresh, but that’s an additional $14.99 per month, and shipping still costs a fee, so screw that. I doubt I’ll keep Prime for a year, but it’s going to prove useful for Halloween. Yes, I still wear costumes. No better candy than free candy!

Edit: Amazon Fresh is now free for Prime members and Prime Video has the entire Pokemon series, so I will be keeping that membership, and switching to a yearly subscription when I can afford to do so.

My Guilty Conscience

Recently, I used Amazon for a purchase.

I stopped using Amazon some years ago because they don’t accept PayPal and, much more serious and atrocious, they’re infamous for treating their warehouse workers like garbage.

Unfortunately, a desire to save some money on a graphics tablet and its unavailability for the same price elsewhere led me to their website. They lost my package, but they refunded the shipping cost, gave me a promotional credit, and resent the package (I only asked for the last option). Their customer service is wonderful, but that makes my conscience worse.

I do not want to support a company that treats its workers horrendously. At the same time, it doesn’t matter whether I use Amazon or not. They’re big enough, and successful enough, that most people don’t care about those workers, and I may as well be a speck of dirt in comparison to their customer base. Yet, my conscience still doesn’t let me off the hook.

Yes, I feel guilty about buying from Amazon. I desperately hope the customer service representatives are treated well, or using their services will be on my conscience as well. That said, all workers should be treated well without exception. Despite what I just said above about knowing lack of my business with them means nothing, I doubt I will use Amazon again after I receive the package they lost due to my conscience eating away at me.

I recently read an article where, in response to criticism of how their workers are treated, Amazon responded by saying they pay their workers more than most retailers. The problem has zero to do with money, and that combined with my conscience is more than enough for me to avoid Amazon after they deliver my package. I only wish I could make more of a difference than not giving them my business (which, again, makes no difference at all).

A Lesson In Scammers

Some time ago, the art bug bit me and I started being pulled toward wanting to draw again. I draw very, very scarcely because I don’t like most of my drawings, and drawing itself felt very tedious with what I had. So, I had the idea to get a graphics tablet, a kind of tablet specifically made for artwork. Only problem was my naïveté rose its gullible head.

At first, I was hooked on getting a tablet called a Wacom Cintiq 13HD because not only is it generally believed tablet artwork is always better than mouse-created artwork, but Wacom is akin to Apple when it comes to graphics tablets. A lot of artists insist nothing compares to Wacom, and the huge prices (the one I linked costs $800 from its retailer) are worth it. However, for $800, I could buy a desktop computer, so I didn’t exactly want to spend that amount of money on something I was only going to use for one purpose.

Amazon had a list of third-party sellers who I thought had it on offer for much less. Notice I said “thought”. I’ve had Amazon since 2008 and while I wasn’t exactly a regular buyer of theirs (mostly because I didn’t have my own bank card until 2012, when I was finally 18), I never had any trouble with them, so I thought nothing of it. I quickly learned there’s a different between buying from Amazon and buying through Amazon.

I bought from a seller who’d “just launched”. Turned out to be fraudulent.  Not only did the item never come, but it never even shipped. I’ve had orders where there was no shipping info and the item still arrived on time, but in this case, the seller couldn’t even be reached. Amazon cancelled my order and I got the money back. I thought maybe that was one bad seller, so I tried with another “just launched” seller who had the Wacom Cintiq tablet for even lower than the first did. This one got exposed even faster as a scam, as the seller’s profile vanished. Interestingly, it reappeared days later after I’d called customer service to have that order cancelled. I’m currently waiting for the pending transaction to clear, so the money is available to me again. I even went to my bank to be certain and they assured me since it’s pending, the money is still there, and the transaction will clear since Amazon cancelled the order and didn’t charge me, as charges, unlike refunds, are immediate.

You can imagine how much I kicked myself. I went on DeviantArt and asked for some alternatives. A very helpful user led me to a journal she made that detailed Wacom tablets, as well as alternatives to the expensive brand. She told me it’s likely those who insist Wacom is the absolute best say so because it’s the only one they’ve ever used. It’s no surprise I became so persistent in trying to get a Wacom tablet when it’s the one praised to high heaven, despite not having much more overall than the others. In the end, I settled on getting a tablet called an XP-Pen Artist 10S, which cost $300. Since it was eligible for free same-day shipping, I opted for that and, to my surprise, it worked! I ordered it at 11am and it was delivered to my door at 7:20pm that very day. It works wonderfully!

I wish I could say that’s where this story ends, but it’s not. To help with the cost of purchasing the graphics tablet, I tried to sell my iPad, since I no longer use it. Now, I’m not so naïve, I believe every buyer is genuine, but I still ended up almost falling for a scam because it was one I’d never heard of. Basically, if there’s any mention of shipping agents, cashier’s checks, wiring extra money back, or shipping to any place besides the buyer’s location (especially outside of the country), pass! I actually busted one scammer on my own, and he tried very hard to convince me he wasn’t a liar, giving every excuse in the book and changing his story a dozen times.

On to the scammer I was fooled by. This person wanted me to ship it to Texas as a gift for a family member of his, and since Texas isn’t international, I didn’t find it strange. He wanted to make the payment through Paypal, a service I’ve used for years and found trustworthy (though not so trustworthy, I’ll give it my social security number!), so I agreed. He even sent me what seemed like an official email from Paypal that the payment had been sent through, so I was ready to ship my iPad. I took it to the post office, boxed it up, and paid for it to be shipped. After I submitted a picture of the tracking number, as asked in the first email, I later got a confirmation one. I thought everything was fine.

It wasn’t until I was on my way back home I realized everything was not fine at all. I read over the emails and this time, I took notice of the email address. It was from Yahoo. That was weird to me. Why would Paypal use a Yahoo account? I searched for it myself and found something interesting on Paypal’s help page. Paypal always addresses customers in their emails by their names. The scammer’s emails addressed me by the name on my Google account, which is a nickname, but I use my real name on Paypal. On top of that, there was no pending transaction for the payment. I called their customer service and after I described the emails, the representative told me those emails were not from them and suggested I return to the post office. I couldn’t go back right then, so I called the post office and asked them to hold my package for two days, when I’d be able to come back for it. Thankfully, they did. In the end, all I lost was the $11.28 I paid for the shipping since that was non-refundable, but I didn’t care. That was a very small loss compared to losing my iPad. Just because I didn’t want it anymore didn’t mean I wanted to be scammed out of it.

When the scammer contacted me again, I furiously and unkindly told him to go away, explaining I caught him in his lie. He said it was a third-party Paypal service exclusive to Texas that people used because Paypal was too much of a pain to bother with. Even if that had a slight amount of plausibility, why wouldn’t the customer service representative have told me that? Paypal’s employees don’t know about another Paypal branch?

In the end, I learned two things. Only buy expensive items from Amazon, and buyers are terrible. Every buyer I had for my iPad was a scammer, and I tried on three sites: Craiglist, Facebook marketplace, and LetGo. I suppose I should consider myself fortunate in that I didn’t lose any money with the third-party sellers. I’ve heard Amazon, though they’re not perfect, has a reputation for not fooling around when it comes to scammers, and with how quickly they got those investigations done, I can believe it. But I can only imagine they think they have an idiot for a customer. I don’t blame them.