Thursday, November 3, 2011


Amazon knows its customers. Trained by parents, television, the internet, and schools to be model consumers, aware of the price of everything (but not the value, as my cranky old man used to say), determined that nothing shall come between them and their instant self-gratification, its customers behave like vacuum cleaners with credit cards, sucking up every piece of shit that comes their way as long as it brings a respite from their boredom, even if only for a few moments, like the first bite of a double mocha chocolate mousse or a twenty dollar hand job in a Bronx alley. Amazon knows that life without buying is boring.

It knows that its customers shop price and convenience, and couldn't care less about any other attribute of the shopping experience. Ambience, human interaction, merchandising, civic responsibility, community, status, ideology -- all of it pales beside low prices and one-click convenience. 'Cheap and easy' rules the retail marketplace. Why not? All the shite Amazon sells will turn to dust anyway. Drive around the suburbs on Sunday afternoons and see the crap that people are trying get rid of at their so-called lawn sales. All those bought items, spread out on old blankets like the rejected remnants of an alien culture, not even worth the pennies being asked for them, lie there untouched, unloved, ready for the landfill.

It used to be that lack of storage space limited the amount of shite people could buy but Amazon figured that one out. It stores the shite for them on its servers then sells them a device so they can access it. In the cloud, thousands and thousands of items, many more than these consumers could ever usefully read or listen to or learn from or be entertained by. But who cares as long as they can buy them?

Pity poor Jeff Bezos, all that brainpower and metabolic energy tethered to the soul of a hondler. Who remembers the merchant princes of yesteryear, other than their heirs? Who remembers the carny barker, the revival-tent preacher, the driven executive after they die? And what of the empires they built? Where is Woolworth's now? Where is Sears & Roebuck? Or the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company? Life is unfair (just as big, fierce animals are rare): an impoverished neurotic like Herman Melville who wrote a big queer book about a whale is more famous than ever while somebody like Bezos who merely sells that book is doomed to an afterlife of ashen anonymity. Upon his passing consumers will say, "his prices were low" and "one-click was so convenient." Then they'll fall silent and return to their shopping.

1 comment: