When Boulder Creek’s Jim Balkanloo was growing up in Ohio, there was no question who the bad guy was in the world of big business. It was Walmart, the big box store eating up entire city blocks of retail. Walmart undercut the prices of local community stores, and underpaid its workers.
Balkanloo, 36, will be the first to admit that Walmart hasn’t changed, per se. He argues, though, that the world around it has. Balkanloo will go so far as to say that, in the year 2018, with the rise of Amazon.com, Walmart isn’t looking nearly as bad—at least locals have historically been able to secure steady jobs there that are down the street from their homes—with maybe even some healthcare in the deal.
When it comes to Amazon, those jobs aren’t available in most communities, Balkanloo says. The openings may be at a depot in Arizona, or somewhere in Washington state.
“It’s an odd world we live in, where shopping at Walmart is the morally and ethically superior choice to Amazon.com,” muses Balkanloo, who commutes to a job in Soquel. “It’s just where we’re at right now,” explains Balkanloo, who prioritizes shopping at businesses that are actually locally owned. He feels something must be done.
His big idea: What if everyone decided not to shop on Amazon for the month of August?
And that’s how Balkanloo came up with the slogan #NoAmazonAugust. But getting any momentum for it may be easier said than done. Balkanloo has begun to realize that his biggest challenge is that he isn’t on social media. He admits that he isn’t even sure how hashtags work, even though he jokingly throws them into text messages with his friends.
To get the word out about his new campaign, Balkanloo has emailed more than a hundred people in the past week—newspaper reporters, editors, podcasters, elected officials, social justice advocates, economic analysts. He even half-facetiously hand-wrote a letter to President Donald Trump and dropped it in the mail.
He figures that if he can just get one or two semi-big celebrities to join in the cause on Twitter or Facebook, that could start enough of a snowball effect to convince a few big-time investors to sell off a few Amazon shares, maybe enough so that their stocks take a dip on Wall Street. His dream scenario would be that the company, which is lead by the richest man in the modern era, would even see a net loss for the month of August.
That would be no small task, given that the company has recently reported profits 12 times greater than a year prior, according to the Seattle Times‘ Mike Rosenberg, and it’s now raking in $1.1 million per hour.
But Balkanloo is taking things one step at a time. “All you’ve got to do is just not buy from Amazon.com for a month. It’s really not that hard,” he says. Instead, make the effort to purchase the things you need in person, Balkanloo says, preferably at local stores.
It seems like every month for the past 10 years, someone in America someone has tried to mount a nationwide gas boycott, and it never goes anywhere. The problem with the approach—as any economic expert will readily point out—is that simply going one day without buying gas will never have any impact on big oil, because customers will no doubt end up buying their fuel from the same gas stations either before the protest or in the days after.
The point is that, in order to make a big difference and cause pain to a major industry, people have to actually change their buying habits. In the case of Amazon, that means shopping elsewhere.
Taking the month off online retailer may be one part of the equation, but shopping there less often would be the more important step. Balkanloo’s pitch is that when one of his soon-to-be fellow protesters gets an itching to buy something from Amazon, they can still check out the reviews and study item online, but, when they’re ready to purchase, they should buy the goods from a local vendor instead.
This article was first published by the Santa Cruz Good Times, San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley’s sister newspaper.
First of all, Mr. Balkanloo needs to get his head on straight and understand who is friends are.
It’s NOT “social media” which is just a collection of short-attention span losers who want to know minute-by-minute what other people are saying about them.
“He even half-facetiously hand-wrote a letter to President Donald Trump and dropped it in the mail.”
Balkanloo should wipe that smirk off his face and write a serious letter to President Trump documenting his complaints about Amazon. I think he will find an interested audience.
President Trump has signalled on many occasions his doubts about Amazon, and particularly it’s emperor, Jeff Bezos.
Trump likes America. He wants to make America great again. He also knows Wall Street and has butted heads with the Wall Street reptiles and robber barons.
Trump KNOWS that Amazon is getting UNFAIR advantages over Main Street and “brick and mortar” stores.
Trump allowed the court challenges over internet sales taxes to proceed to their logical conclusions, which resulted in Amazon and other internet companies having to collect local sales taxes — just like brick and mortar stores.
Trump has also called out Amazon for the “YUGE” subsidy Amazon is receiving from the U.S.Postal service for shipping Amazon products. If Trump succeeds in making Amazon pay the FULL cost delivering its products to customers, it will remove a huge advantage Amazon has over brick and mortar.
And, finally, Trump has hinted that Amazon may just be “too big” and subject to anti-trust prosecution. If Trump breaks up the Amazon “monopoly” it would be a huge benefit for consumers and brick and mortar stores.
Personally, I use Amazon a lot, but I recognize that they are screwing competitors and consumers. If Amazon were broken up, the free market would quickly adjust and I would be able to get everything I get from Amazon from a half dozen other places.
Mr. Balkanloo and others who have an axe to grind with Amazon are not alone, But if they really want to do something about Amazon’s dominance they need to recognize that they will be on the same side as President Trump. Are they up to the challenge?
President Trump chose the wrong party to complain about when attacking Amazon for getting breaks from the USPS. The culprit is not Amazon, but the USPS for granting those low prices. Every company tries to lower its costs. Amazon simply out-negotiated the USPS. President Trump and others should be investigating those in the USPS who granted what amounts to a subsidy to Amazon. Another USPS gaff is giving reduced postal rates for all those ads I get in my mailbox every week. They should be charged higher rates, which would hopefully lead them to stop filling my mailbox every week with endless ads for cheap pizza, grocery stores, etc. and it would reduce the amount of paper I just toss in the recycle bin every week.