The United States now has more Prime memberships than households, and the company has established such a dominant economic stronghold that it’s possible for families to purchase and consume things only from Amazon or one of its subsidiaries. It has rewired the way Americans think about what is possible to have, and how fast. But Prime’s free shipping comes at a high cost for workers, who face punishing productivity expectations, constant surveillance, high turnover, and serious injuries. “Prime is the financial engine keeping Amazon’s fulfillment-and-delivery machine running, and also the argument for its existence,” Cushing continues. “If consumers don’t expect packages in 24 hours, there’s no reason to require workers to scan a new one every 11 seconds until their discs bulge.”
For many Americans, Prime has made the lives we had a decade ago—of going to stores and standing in lines—unimaginable. And though it is true that canceling your Prime membership would be insignificant for Amazon itself, “the small businesses in your neighborhood will absolutely feel the addition of a new customer,” Danny Caine, the owner of Raven Book Store, in Lawrence, Kansas, and the author of “How to Resist Amazon and Why,” tells Cushing.