Happy New Year! (Any New Year’s resolutions anybody?)

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Every year around the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year the same topics pop up. Some I love to take up on, others I try to avoid. However, similar to the taboo topics I wrote about in my last post, those I try to avoid most have the tendency to hop up and down in my mind, forcing me to at least mention them in a class. It’s a little like the things we try hard to forget: the harder the attempt the more likely unpleasant moments are to sneak back into our memories.

One of these topics are New Year’s resolutions. My experience has been that many – if not most – either can’t be bothered or deliberately don’t make any. Which is wise: it spares you a lot of predictable frustration. I must admit, though, that I have one for the year 2014. It has a little to do with one of the last recurring topics of the year 2013: Amazon and online shopping (need I say more?).

During the other recurring end-of-the-year topic – Christmas – we often chat a little about how far we have come in our preparations, what Christmas customs each of us cherishes, the food we will eat, or even cook ourselves, where we will spend Christmas and with whom, have we already bought all our presents, and so on.

Especially the latter question has led to extended discussions on shopping habits this year e.g. where do we shop and – specifically – how much do we shop online. As Amazon was in focus during the last months of the year, we discussed related issues like: the problems workers face at Amazon and of low-wage jobs in general, the (actually quite fascinating) organizational system of Amazon (chaos logistics), the pros and cons of online shopping (a topic on its own that can fill a whole lesson), but especially the ethics of consumption and our own social responsibility.

The latter issue is one that recurs frequently in some (more advanced) groups. It is quite complex and difficult, but always leads to interesting exchanges. (From a language teaching perspective the topic of shopping  offers loads of basic vocabulary practice. One tip I sometimes give my students is to go to Amazon.com or co.uk: they are great picture dictionaries!)

But back to my New Year’s resolution. I intend to shop less online. I have been an extensive buyer with Amazon. The concept of frictionless shopping totally works with me: click and buy. I have to stop. It clashes with my other permanent all years’ resolution of DECLUTTERING!

When Amazon started years ago, I was one of its first most adamant customers. For me, Amazon was the place to get any English book I wanted rather effortlessly. German book shops were limited in this respect and always afforded a trip to the city center (I live a little outside in a village). Amazon was just another online seller and a nice alternative to ebay, especially after the marketplace developed. Over the years, I hardly realized how big Amazon was getting and how it was gradually assuming a monopolistic position. Be it as it may, the topic is fruitful and expandable for almost all language levels.

‘Decluttering’ is another wonderful topic I will devote a longer post to another time and that links up to various follow-up discussions like basic needs, ‘basket of goods’, ‘Big Mäc index’  or CPI (Consumer Price Index); sometimes we even get philosophical (and often political) and touch upon topics that definitely meet my paradigm of being meaningful, like our roles in the wider scheme of economics and wastefulness, and the concepts of economic growth and prosperity.

So how do I intend to fulfill my resolution? I will record my purchases and try to keep the list as short as possible (food shopping is excluded).

I will report the result same time next year.


History of Amazon

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