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  • Jan Flynn

Guilty Pleasures of the Amazon

Not that Amazon. Banish from your mind images of illicit riverside trysts, framed by lianas in a steaming jungle. You naughty thing.

I refer to the other Amazon, that vast amorphous engine of retail, the general store of colossal cyber-proportions, where nearly everything you can think of is available at the push of a “one-click” button. You can’t buy an actual military tank or a live camel, but that’s pretty much the limit, and I’m not 100% sure about the camel.

There was a time, decades back, when Amazon was little more than an online bookstore. Now it’s the closest thing we have to the replicators on Star Trek, where crew members in snug knitted tunics could push a button, ask for Earl Grey tea or a plasma blaster, and their desired product would materialize before their (and the TV audience’s) eyes. And yes, I realize I am hereby revealing myself to be a geek.

However I am a geek with a materialistic streak, one who is enchanted at the ability to almost instantly gratify my desire for ebooks or earrings or emu oil, especially with Amazon Prime and its preternaturally speedy shipping. Luckily I am also by nature thrifty, or I could dig myself into a mire of compulsive online shopping and burn up my credit limit in no time at all.

But here’s the other delight of online shopping, especially on Amazon. Just because you put something in your cart doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Once in your cart, whatever it is exists in a comfortable limbo, freeing you from making any final decision indefinitely.My cart — which is actually my husband’s cart, since he’s the one with the Prime account as why should we pay for Prime for both of us, which explains why he gets targeted by ads for makeup and platform sandals — is usually stuffed with items that I may or may not buy, now or ever. There are items in my “Saved For Later” compartment that have languished there for over a year, wondering if I will ever pull the trigger.

While I may not possess these things in three dimensions,  I’ve had the semi-mindless fun of rooting them out, of selecting and comparing them, and, here’s my very most favorite part, reading the reviews. Amazon shoppers are incredibly generous when it comes to supplying detailed reviews for just about every item in the uber-warehouse. Wondering if the LED party lights you’re considering will make the right impression at your event? Consult the reviews: out of the thousands of customers who have already purchased and used those exact same lights, several dozen have detailed their experiences in writing. Needing to compare lawn furniture or lawn supplements or lawn darts? A thousand generous souls have already leapt forward to assist you. And Amazon helps you further parse the opinions of your fellow consumers, with its declaration of the number of reviews, the average star rating, and right up front the top positive and critical reviews (“Five Stars: I’d give this tent 10 stars if I could, it’s that easy to put up and take down and so durable” shows up right next to “One Star: total cheap piece of crap, leaked rain on us all night long, SAVE YUR MONEY.”)

Most fun of all, as they are arguably the most frivolous and yet most helpful, are the reviews for women’s apparel, especially shoes. I would go so far as to proclaim Amazon shoe reviews as its own category of entertainment. If I truly want to avoid doing anything productive, I can lose myself  for long and happy hours in parsing opinions of footwear.

It’s nice enough that people take the time to write the reviews in the first place, so it would be ignoble to carp about things like spelling or clear writing (to tite, retruned for nest size, it was to lose)  To extract full delight from the exercise, I encourage readers to embrace the free-wheeling, untrammeled expressions of Amazon Verified Purchasers, be they delighted or disgruntled. My current favorite:

  1. these shows have lots of lawyers inside, so you can take some out and they will fit

I leave you to speculate on which lawyers to take out of which shows, and wish you joy in your own guilty, but harmless, perusing. Happy shopping.

How do you joyously waste time? Please share!

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