In times of consumerism*, most people purchase at least one new item per day. So naturally, I was curious to learn more about the shopping behavior of Americans.
From my interview with the Morgans and my own experiences, I see a lot of changes happening in this area currently. The family I stayed with received at least one Amazon packet a day even though they complained about some of their favorite stores having to close down due to big online competitors like Amazon. My interview with the Morgans helped me to understand their reasons for buying online.
Lea: What are your average monthly purchases…?
Clara (14): We don’t shop for clothes that much. We only do like a big “back-to-school-shopping*" or when we need new clothes.
Julia (12): My mom, every Monday, goes out and runs errands*.
Clara: I’d say, probably Giant Eagle* and Target* are where we find everyday things. Well, obviously, food. But whenever we need mom’s make-up or batteries…
Bane (42): Amazon.
Sophie (41): I buy something from Amazon, every day. Literally*. I went up to the bathroom; Bane had left his gel out so I could see it was empty. I scanned the barcode, and it’s on its way. Because I don’t have to pay for shipping I can order without thinking about that. It’s just that it’s out of my mind then.
Bane: I think, Amazon, it’s also made it worse sustainability-wise because…
Sophie: They killed the planet.
Bane: Yeah. Because, now, we have a guy drive to our house for everything that we want, delivered in separate boxes. And we are not going one time to the grocery store.
»It's like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not?«
Sophie: And the packaging is one-time-use, and no one recycles it. They are trying to start an Amazon day. That was their way of saying, “Oh, we don’t ship every time to you. We only ship once a week.” But everyone wants it right now. I ordered something on Amazon, and it was at my house the next day. It’s like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not? For example, Clara and I, we went shopping to buy a homecoming dress – we actually went shopping. And we bought a dress, but it is cut down in a way that she needs to wear a special bra. I could go to seven stores trying to find that bra, or in thirty seconds it’s on its way to my house.
Bane: And most times I go to a store and they don’t have what I want. I think, “Why was I so dumb to even come here?” I could have ordered exactly what I wanted, and by the time I actually got there it would have been delivered to my house.
Sophie: Because of Amazon I go to Giant Eagle once a week, and I go to Target, once a week, sometimes twice a week. That’s it. If Giant Eagle and Target don’t sell it, and I can’t get it on Amazon, then we don’t own it. And only on special occasions*, like once a year, do I take the girls “back-to-school-clothes-shopping”. We actually go to the outlets, and they try on stuff. At Christmas time, back-to-school, and rare occasions like when she wanted a homecoming dress and we went homecoming-dress-shopping. But other than that, we don’t shop.
Bane: And you know, with Amazon Prime it’s 99 bucks* a year. So with that one-time price, they get to bring it to your house the next day. And I do that for the office. I bet I have a dozens of addresses that I ship stuff from our amazon account to. And they’ll deliver it anywhere. So, I can buy it right now, and I can send it to my office 50 miles from my house.
Sophie: And another thing is… I know, we are like cheerleading for Amazon right now, and it’s not the best thing, but it’s so convenient. I said: “Julia, the birthday party next weekend; what do you want to get her?” Twenty minutes later she goes,” Mom, it’s all in your Amazon cart, what I want. Look at it to make sure it’s okay.” So, I look, I saw what she put in. I was like “click” and all the stuff came. They had wrapped it all up.
Bane: I don’t have to carry it, I don’t have to put it together.
Lea: Do you go grocery shopping or do you get that delivered, too?
Sophie: I order it online, I drive up, and they put it in the back of my car. They pick the food for me. You can elect to have a delivery, but I don’t, I drive to pick it up.
Lea: And whenever you buy those things, do you look for organic food or fair trade or social labels?
Sophie: I don’t. The farm-shared produce are not necessarily organic either but they’re local.
Clara: I think just kind of what’s there.
A short explanation of the so-called curbside express at Giant Eagle. (Giant Eagle on YouTube)
consumerism: the buying and using of goods and services; the belief that it is good for a society or an individual person to buy and use a large quantity of goods and services
back-to-school-shopping: period in which students and their parents purchase school supplies and apparel for the upcoming school year
to run errands: a job that you do for somebody that involves going somewhere to take a message, to buy something, deliver goods, etc.
Giant Eagle: an American supermarket chain
Target: an American department store chain
literally: in a way that uses the ordinary or primary meaning of a term or expression; used to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description; precisely
occasion: a favorable opportunity or circumstance
Amazon Ruined Online Shopping https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/01/amazon-made-online-commerce-bewildering/580660/
Giant Eagle Grocery Delivery and Pickup https://www.gianteagle.com/in-store-services/curbside-express
Podcast with Livia Firth on Sustainable Fashion https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/deliciously-ella/id1428704212?i=1000438926755
Talk by Amazon on Packaging and Sustainability https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qus96HDBle0
- Sophie says, “It’s like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not?” What does she mean by that? Can you think of examples? Discuss.
- How often do you (or your family) shop online? What items do you typically buy online and why?
- Discuss with a partner or in a group the pros and cons of buying online or in person. Keep in mind that to go shopping in America almost always involves driving at least 20 minutes by car.
Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green
In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series.The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.
Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.