Amazon as Your Pharmacy?
Let me state at the outset; I am an Amazon Prime customer. I am a guilty Amazon customer — I am sure that they have destroyed small and medium-sized businesses. I miss Toys ‘R Us, and I don’t have little ones anymore! The corner bookstore, the Mom and Pop grocer; I shopped with them after Amazon and I do miss them.
But I also have a chronic auto-immune disease, and I have Amazon subscriptions. They allow us to buy recurring non-food items between trips to the grocery store. Tea, toilet paper, paper towels, and dishwasher detergent come from Amazon. We’ve especially leaned on them in the last year, as I am writing this from bed with yet another problem that has kept me off my feet for two months. The convenience is worth it to us.
But I prefer to know my pharmacist. I have one medication that must come from a mail-order pharmacy. It is not a standard one, and it requires special handling. The pharmacy uses one of the express delivery services to get it to me, and I can speak to the pharmacist if I need to. I have been assigned to a particular technician who calls me once a quarter to get everything set up. I know her voice and she knows my history. I appreciate that.
My local big-chain pharmacy upset me in the last year because the staff started rotating around December of 2019. Where they knew me by name before, I rarely recognize anyone when I go in. Also, the quality of service went down. So we changed pharmacies last month. There is one within two miles of the old one — same chain.
We noticed in random shopping trips in that area that the staff was stable. I appreciate a quick smile and wave when we go there. Add to it that they have sufficient staff and you do not have to wait 30 minutes to pick things up AFTER they texted you, as we did at the old store.
I intend to establish a trusted relationship with this store like the one that I had previously. I had a young lady who used to be at my old pharmacy who not only called me by name when I came in, but she checked EVERYBODY’S prescription against their current prescriptions and medical problems. She caught bad decisions by different doctors for me twice. I really liked her.
Amazon, based on past experience, will not have a phone number. I don’t mind chatting online; I do it with my web hosting service and others, but they do not handle my medications, or foods, or other things I ingest. I only bought our mattress online after chatting with the seller online and interacting with other buyers in a chat room.
However, my biggest concerns are for the pharmacies and their ancillary suppliers. Amazon has destroyed large swaths of industry. I know personally; my e-commerce company is on pause while I rethink it all; Amazon has everything my target audience needs. Everything! Cheap!
You know it too. You do not buy puzzles at the local toy or book store. You do not buy sweatpants at the local chain department store that employs your neighbors. You probably do not buy risotto at the local grocery chain. Just like those chains replaced the local grocery store that replaced my Grandfather’s vegetable and fruit cart in Charleston, SC, Amazon is working on replacing — EVERYTHING!
While the previous evolutions of commerce allowed for layers of commerce to exist together, Amazon did not. If Grandaddy had wanted to, he could have continued his business, because there were tourists and traditionalists who would have continued buying from him, though possibly not at the numbers he needed. He had customers who, even in their 90’s today, say they miss the quality of his produce. In the past, people could still buy from the local deli after the supermarkets opened. There was room for the chain and the local merchant, and they existed together.
Not so with Amazon. At the writing of this article (November 18, 2020), Amazon is worth $1.56 Trillion (market cap). Think about that. $3,105.46 per share. Most of us cannot own one share. Not one. Mr. Jeff Bezos is today, worth $185.3 billion dollars. I actually do begrudge him the money. I gave him some of my money, and so have millions of us. But I feel that at some point, he and Amazon became too big.
What is too big? Too big is when your tank can rollover the other tanks on the battlefield, and the soldiers, and the NCO quarters and never notice the damage. That’s Amazon.
There are laws against monopolies. The proof of a monopoly was not the existence of smaller companies that do what a particular larger company did. A monopoly was declared when a company owned more than 60% of the market. In the US, there are three primary laws: The Sherman Act, put in place in 1890, the Federal Trade Commission Act, which created the FTC, and the Clayton Act, both of which were passed in 1914. Yep, over 100 years ago. Other acts have followed (see this Wikipedia article), but the primary concern is that enforcement weakened in the 1980s.
However, there is hope in the fact that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has gone after Google and Amazon, among other tech giants. But the areas that they have alleged misdeeds against them are Internet-based, not areas where small businesses will be helped. Those areas have been ceded. Perhaps they are never coming back.
Our little family team has started buying online from small, African American owned businesses wherever we can swap out items: printer inks from one, printer paper from another, direct shipping of hair products from the manufacturer. That last one actually costs more, but it is worth it. I like Prime and I will keep it. But I also like the hand-thrown plates on Capitol Hill, and the bookstore in Bowie, MD, and the earrings on Etsy. And I am becoming attached to the new local pharmacy. Please do your part.