Alternatives to Amazon
April 22, 2013 7:35 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to avoid shopping at because of the company's predatory business model. What are the best online alternatives for each product category?

I shop locally when I can (e.g. the local independent book store). Beyond that where should I look online for good product selection, excellent shopping experience, good customer service, clean website, notable social and community record, good good business ethics, etc.

I'm particularly interested in new & used books, electronic gear, kitchen & household items, but I'm interested in all product categories.

Thank you.
posted by alms to Shopping (33 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Books (new and used) -
posted by Sara C. at 7:47 PM on April 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't know a single thing about their business model but you could look into for household items.
posted by greta simone at 7:56 PM on April 22, 2013

Small Dog Electronics for Macs and other computer stuff. They have a page just for the office dogs, too.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:59 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

computer stuff: newegg
ebay for everything.
posted by royalsong at 8:02 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like for used books. It's a site where small independant boookshops list books, though there are a lot of bigger sellers on there now a days it is still possible to find little indy and specialist bookstores on there. You buy through the website and it is shipped to you from the store.

Newegg is good for pretty much anything electric or electronic now a days, though I don't think it's a super small company anymore.
posted by wwax at 8:15 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify: big companies are okay, too. I want good selection, good shopping experience, good customer service, not Amazon. Where do you go?
posted by alms at 8:17 PM on April 22, 2013

I've used for secondhand books - I like their interface a lot. But primarily I get new books from - particularly because they don't charge for shipping (I live in Australia - buying books from Amazon frequently means you pay more for shipping than you do for the book). I like them though, they have neat bookmarks and lots of stock and are fast. The only other stuff I buy online tends to be CDs, for which I use - also very good, quick, never had problems.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:32 PM on April 22, 2013

Amazon owns Abebooks. Doesn't mean you can't use it to find the books you want at independent bookstores and order from them directly, though.
posted by thetortoise at 8:34 PM on April 22, 2013 [7 favorites]

Zappos & for shoes/clothes (6pm is the "discount" site). Good customer service from both.

I've mostly only bought shoes from both of them but I've never had a bad experience. I often check both for what I'm looking for and I'm always happy to give them my money.

(I do a majority of my non-food shopping online -- I just find it easier. I've also had decent experiences with some of the major department stores like Target, but the shipping is much slower.)
posted by darksong at 8:35 PM on April 22, 2013

Amazon owns zappos and 6pm, too.
posted by atomicstone at 8:37 PM on April 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

Also, I hate to bear more bad news, but Amazon owns Book Depository as well.
posted by thetortoise at 8:37 PM on April 22, 2013 [7 favorites]

Costco has a better reputation than most for treating its employees well. Here's a link to a story about what the company is doing for its part-time employee & Boston bombing hero, Jeff Bauman.
posted by invisible ink at 8:40 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

My mistake -- it seems Amazon does own most online retailers at this point. Target & Costco seem like the major players that are left.
posted by darksong at 8:44 PM on April 22, 2013

Though they don't own them, I think Amazon handles the site for them.
posted by slavlin at 9:07 PM on April 22, 2013

Seconding powells for books. They are indie, and sell both new and used books.
posted by tan_coul at 9:14 PM on April 22, 2013

It's "about us" makes no mention of the fact, but / was bought by Amazon in 2011: "Booksellers fear 'stranglehold' as Amazon snaps up British rival The Book Depository"
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:20 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Electronic gear such as computers, music players etc. but especially anything connected with photography, video or film - I never buy these items from Amazon. Vastly superior, and I've used both for many, many years with total satisfaction:

1) B&H Photo Video Pro Audio

2) Adorama

Excellent prices, excellent customer service, excellent selection, highly ethical (run by Orthodox Jews - closed for every Sabbath and all Jewish religious holidays, so plan accordingly).
posted by VikingSword at 10:39 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Damn. Screwed up the link despite doing a preview. Here, this one works: Booksellers fear 'stranglehold' as Amazon snaps up British rival The Book Depository
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:45 PM on April 22, 2013

Quidsi owns, (green products),, etc.. If you want cables, I think nobody beats the prices from Monoprice. Etc. (there are other examples). But couldn't you say that in a sense all these big retailers are "predatory" just by virtue of being big? At least in the sense that they put other companies (local retailers) out of business? Also note that on Amazon you can by from other sellers if you don't want to buy from Amazon (but of course Amazon takes a cut).
posted by Dansaman at 12:12 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Amazon owns Quidsi.
posted by backupjesus at 4:17 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, Abebooks is owned by Amazon? Boy do I feel like a chump.

For books, if you want to buy digital, you can get a Kobo and use their digital store or the website of your local indy bookstore.

Newegg is great.
posted by ropeladder at 5:22 AM on April 23, 2013

Oh I almost forgot: Better World Books is a great place to get books as well. They are a nonprofit that gets donated books and gives the profits to literacy and library programs. (though they also sell new and non-donated used books I think)
posted by ropeladder at 5:29 AM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another perspective you may not have considered, especially in light of the fact so many of the "alternatives" that have been listed are actually owned by Amazon: Amazon also helps small businesses, too.

I know where you're coming from and I understand it. I don't shop at Walmart, for example, I find their policies and the way they push their employees onto government assistance disgusting.

But as the owner of a small publishing company, Amazon has made it possible for us to bypass major distributors like Ingram and bring our product directly to consumers. We earn more on each sale made through Amazon (and therefore, so do our authors) than anywhere else other than direct sales from our own website.

For third party sellers and small businesspeople who don't have the resources to build an acceptable e-commerce presence, Amazon can be a godsend. Yes, they get a cut of the sales, but start looking at the pricing on some of the cart systems out there (Shopify, I'm looking at you) and Amazon practically looks CHARITABLE by comparison.

So perhaps it might help to know why you find Amazon's practices predatory, because in my case as a small business owner, they've actually been a really solid partner in reaching new customers.
posted by at 6:18 AM on April 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

Tanga for board games and jewelry and miscellany. Very small company with excellent customer service.
posted by jbickers at 6:21 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, jbickers. We have a local game store but it's also good to have a recommendation for an online option. Ditto for the camera sites recommended by VikingSword.
posted by alms at 7:11 AM on April 23, 2013

I have the same aversion.

I go to Alibris for audio, video, and books.

Music Stack is an interesting place to shop the world for rare and out of print sounds recorded on various types of plastic disks. I have purchased LPs from various European countries and Japan without incident.

Seconding Newegg for computer / electronics.

Seconding B&H for cameras and related.

Landsend and LLBean have more than you might expect (linens, luggage, furniture, yard and patio, etc.) have solid websites and are 101% on returns. (I have even returned shoes I've worn for two weeks.)

Drs. Foster and Smith have been good to me for pet supplies, especially custom seat covers and the like.

I have had reasonably good luck with Target, Penneys, Nordstroms, Saks, etc. online.

You might want to look into Slickdeals as well.

NB1: I buy almost nothing new.

NB2: Any of these sites will spam you and most of them will cheerfully sell you out to bottom-feeders and the near-criminal. To keep all that jive out of your personal inbox, I recommend you create an ecommerce-specific email account and change it from time to time. I usually just increment, like for 2013, dontspammebro02@sample for 2014.
posted by Herodios at 7:26 AM on April 23, 2013

You might look at Wayfair for household items. I haven't seen reports about their ethics, but supposedly it's a nice place to work.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:45 AM on April 23, 2013

Though they don't own them, I think Amazon handles the site for them.

Not anymore, remember all those stories about Target's website not being able to handle all the Missoni traffic? Yeah, that was because just before that Target broke with Amazon and decided to handle their own website.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:06 AM on April 23, 2013

Reading some of the posts it might be easier to list the sites Amazon doesn't own.

Thinking about it after my other post some other online stores I use a lot that might match your criteria.

I get a lot of seeds from Botanical Interests if you're interested in Gardening. They are non GMO and a small company, and they have the prettiest most informative seed packets I've ever seen.

I get a makeup from Coastal Scents, who do some good work in Africa and make pretty great makeup.

And as I've only now just found out Abebooks is owned by Amazon too and had my poor little book buying heart broken, I'll change my vote to bookstore to Powells and Alibris. Though Abebooks does give you the bookshops info, and any bookshop selling on there would be able to handle a direct email or phone order no worries if you want to just use them for research.
posted by wwax at 11:25 AM on April 23, 2013

Amazon lists the major online properties it owns at the bottom of their homepage. I admit to still being surprised by a couple of them.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:32 AM on April 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, ZeusHumms. To save other people clicking, here's the list of sites owned by Amazon:
  • 6pm
  • AbeBooks
  • AmazonFresh
  • AmazonLocal
  • AmazonSupply
  • AmazonWebServices
  • Askville
  • Audible
  • Book Depository
  • CreateSpace
  • DPReview
  • Fabric
  • IMDb
  • Kindle Direct Publishing
  • Shopbop
  • Warehouse Deals
  • Woot
  • Zappos
(Notice that it doesn't yet include GoodReads, which Amazon recently purchased but apparently haven't yet digested.)

Now, any other non-Amazon recommendations?
posted by alms at 12:20 PM on April 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

No idea about their business practices, but is pretty good. Their prices are hit and miss. for shoes.
posted by whoaali at 3:55 PM on April 23, 2013

I always forget that Book Depository got bought out, even though when the news broke I quickly went and blew $150 or so on books in case Amazon decided to start charging for shipping. Anyway, I also use for clothes but that is unlikely to help you since it is local (Australian). And have used to send stuff to peeps in the US (they don't ship to Oz).
posted by Athanassiel at 4:46 PM on April 23, 2013

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