Amazon parcel carrier (in New York)Photo: SPENCER PLATT / AFP
Something quite embarrassing happened to me recently: I was delving deep into research on undeclared work in the Amazon environment and had lost track of time. I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to buy a present for my son. Without thinking, I opened the Amazon app, scrolled through the offers for 6-12 year olds and ordered a detective's case, which was available at noon the following day.
Later I wondered about myself. How can one behave so contradictingly? Why is that even possible? And what does that do to us and our society?
Apparently there are quite a few people who behave like me from time to time:
There are retailers who have multiplied their sales thanks to Amazon - and at the same time talk in the media about how much they feel squeezed out by the company.
There are customers who are outraged about the desolation of city centers or Amazon's questionable tax-saving methods - and then quickly order the new Scart cable from Amazon Prime.
And during the research mentioned at the beginning, I met a parcel carrier who was upset about dubious sub-companies from Amazon and at the same time took black money from them.
In such cases, psychologists speak of cognitive dissonance: an apparently insoluble contradiction that is usually associated with tormenting feelings, for example with shame or guilt. A popular psychological defense mechanism against such emotions is the so-called rationalization: One justifies one's own behavior, which is often perceived as immoral, with rational motives.
Some retailers say you have no choice; There is no getting around Amazon. Some customers say that their few orders hardly mattered, that political solutions are needed against employee exploitation or the desertification of the inner city. The parcel delivery man said he had worked hard for his black money.
All of this is partially true. The only problem is: we tend to use such partial truths to hide other, less flattering partial truths from ourselves and others. Motives such as the pursuit of profit, indolence or personal gain, for example.
This doesn't only work on Amazon. We also rationalize when flying, which is harmful to the climate, smoking, consuming meat or any other behavior that is harmful to oneself and / or the general public. Now we don't even have to invent our own excuses. There are machines that do this for us - for example Amazon's intelligent loudspeaker Alexa.
So rationalizations are well recognized by society. Nevertheless, they are not helpful. Because they prevent us from dealing with our feelings of shame and guilt. So that we investigate more precisely which behaviors contradict which personal values. And then decide in a differentiated manner at which points we refine our actions - and at which points we lower the demands on ourselves.
Personally, after my detective suitcase mishap, I decided to deal with Amazon as follows: I will only order out of print books and rare spare parts there. Nothing else anymore. Because the corporation seems to me to be a burden on society far more than it is enriching it. This is particularly evident in the delivery industry.
Ex-Ver.di boss Frank Bsirske once described the German logistics sector as partly "mafia" because companies regularly find illegal work and the exploitation of employees. Amazon may oppose such illegal practices. But as the world's largest logistics company, the group inevitably initiates processes that exacerbate the imbalance in the industry.
Amazon's high demands on customer service largely set the industry standard. And that says: Parcels have to get to the recipient faster and cheaper. This increases personnel expenses and cost pressure. In order to keep up with the competition, logisticians sometimes rely on dubious subcontractors.
It is up to the state to prevent this through laws, controls and penalties. At least as far as the law is concerned, the state has already enacted sensible rules. But the package boom that Amazon helped trigger is contributing to the fact that politicians reach their limits when it comes to enforcing these rules.
The rapidly growing network of tens of thousands of small companies can hardly be comprehensively controlled - even if the number of responsible customs officers increases significantly in the coming years, as planned. So it would be wrong to just rely on the state here.
Such uncontrolled growth can only be contained sustainably if society also becomes more active. If more customers saw it as a quality criterion to have parcels delivered by tax-paying, fair-paid couriers - and the delivery staff would otherwise sanction them.
So far, only a small part of society seems to be consuming in a socially responsible manner. Should a critical mass behave at some point, Amazon and its delivery partners would probably be forced into a more socially acceptable role. The US group would be disempowered to some extent.
For my part, I have decided to support that. If at some point I get the impression that Amazon enriches society more than it burdens it, I will be happy to shop there again.Icon: The mirror