Saturday, January 9, 2016

Amazon - the tampon of online retail

In South Carolina at least, Amazon's status went from tax-free to taxed on the 1st of January. This means all of Amazon's prices are about 10% higher than anywhere else. This is because Amazon came to South Carolina, opened a warehouse promising thousands of jobs then employed donkey labor from South Carolina and imported all the staff for the worthwhile jobs from elsewhere. It was a typically exploitative move - get somebody else to build the factory, employ a few minimum wage serfs on short term contracts and then after the tax break ends, go someplace else.

The writing is on the wall for Amazon's presence in South Carolina. Now that the residents of South Carolina have to pay an extra 10% basically because they live in the same state that Amazon has a warehouse then I can't imagine many people in South Carolina continuing to purchase their goods - photographic or otherwise from Amazon.

As I said - Amazon is like a tampon - they go in, create a bloody mess and then they're out, never to return. No commercial entity can survive being taxed when none of their competitors are. I don't think, if South Carolinians have any sense at all, that they'll be buying much from Amazon now.

As far as Amazon went anyway, they were pretty darned expensive. They buy cheap stuff from China and hike the prices terribly. A while ago I needed a battery-powered shower head for my photo trips. I saw it on Amazon and on eBay - same exact unit. Amazon was $10 more expensive. There was a time when Amazon was actually cheaper. That vanished as soon as Jeff Bezos decided he wanted to use Amazon to fund his own private space program. 

My experience of Amazon has been extremely variable. I only buy things I cannot obtain elsewhere cheaper via Amazon. Even so, I've had allegedly new books arrive as really dog-eared, old books. I've ordered things that never ever shipped nor arrived. On the other hand I've had some things arrive swiftly. In terms of selling, selling stuff via Amazon is much more expensive than selling via eBay - which was already such a rip-off that it frequently works out better just to throw the damn thing in the trash than attempt to sell it. That had a knock on for me - I now don't buy ANYTHING unless it's absolutely unavoidable. Case in point - the fast lens, new camera or new camera system I'd like in order to take decent night sky photos. I simply refuse to blow yet more money on a hobby that doesn't stand a chance of making a profit. 

I look at photography like this - the lowest amount spent on gear that will produce an acceptible inage is money well spent. Money spent that will not show an improvement or which will result in the aquisition of an item that will be seldome used is money shamelessly wasted and more than that, represents an item that's going to take up valuable space that could be used to house something that's actually worth having.

Back in the dim and distant past, I allowed somebody to over-ride my native caution and fill my head with baloney about actually making money from photography. Let's just say that in the years before I arrived in the USA, photography had earned me just about $300 in total. Since I arrived in the US, it earned me $225 in total. Now when I lived elsewhere, photography was purely a hobby that occasionally made money. That's the way it should have stayed but I allowed myself to be convinced by somebody that I later decided was probably a sociopath to follow photography professionally. Needless to say, that didn't work out and I ended up spending an extraordinary amount on camera gear that rapidly plummeted in value. Some equipment was never even used when I eventually managed to sell it (for far less than I paid - probably only 20% of the purchase price).That has made me extremely cautious about expenditure on camera gear in general.

In terms of camera expenditure, if I was to get a wide lens then I'd have nothing to sell to fund or part fund it because everything unwanted has already been sold. If I sold everything, changed systems and wasn't as impressed, that would be a downer. On the other hand I'm also asking myself whether since my phone has such a darned good camera, I really need or want a stand-alone camera that only works as a camera. Indeed, look at most of the recent news stories and they're almost all photographed with cellphones.

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