It's almost impossible these days to avoid shopping online, at least for some things. (Let me know if you've achieved this. I'm curious to know how you managed.) Somehow, through the magic of logistics, it's often cheaper and quicker to order your books, movies, clothes, even diapers from a website than to visit your local retailer. (Much to the chagrin of your friendly neighborhood "locavores" and small business owners.) A lot of people claim they'd prefer to buy locally, even at a slight markup, but a lot of times the overwhelming inventory and savings potentials are just too great online, and even your staunchest advocates of strong local economies have to cheat sometimes.
Have you ever wondered how, exactly, businesses like Amazon can keep their prices so low? One part of the answer, of course, is economies of scale: the bigger you are and the more of a product you can afford to buy at one time, the better a deal your suppliers are likely to cut you. It's a similar principle to when you pick up five pounds of pistachios from the bulk aisle at Trader Joe's.
But economies of scale aren't the only thing affecting the price of books online. I live near several major distribution centers, and I've had tons of friends who worked in the warehouses here -- some full-time, some to pay for school, and some to pick up a bit of extra cash around the holidays. Their reports are nearly unanimous: working in an online retailer's warehouse sucks. My friends cite low pay, long or bad hours, high stress, repetitive motion, tedium, and lack of personal fulfillment among the worst of the conditions they have to contend with. Many have hurt their backs, necks, or joints while struggling to keep up with the job's high volume quotas. Others have complained of noise, incompetence of some management and fellow employees, and the difficulty of landing a permanent position at the company among other frustrations.
This might sound like a lot of whining, but if it is, it's pretty universal. Apparently these complaints aren't unique to my friends, or even my neck of the woods. Here's an infographic from Business Insurance Quotes that describes what goes on at your favorite online stores' warehouses:
Brought to you by: Business Insurance Guide