Amazon is set to launch its same-day delivery service in the Bronx and the South Side of Chicago after critics alleged that the company unfairly discriminates against poor and minatory communities. An analysis of the availability of Amazon Prime's 24-hour delivery service by Bloomberg News released this week found that the online retailer neglects areas with high concentrations of African-Americans and other non-white demographics.
Since unrolling its Prime same-day delivery service for an annual fee in 2005, Amazon has enlisted about tens of millions of Americans to its rapid-delivery service, which now costs just $99 per year to provide same-day and two-day delivery on many products in the "everything" store that Amazon.com has become.
According to Bloomberg News, Amazon Prime discriminates against buyers in predominantly minority areas in Boston, Dallas, New York, Chicago and Washington D.C.
Following the release of Bloomberg's analysis and ensuing criticism from representatives in Congress and social justice advocates, Amazon announced last week that it would start offering Prime service to residents of the Roxbury neighborhood in Boston, an area that is more than 50% non-white as of 2010, according to Boston.com.
In response to Bloomberg's findings, Congression Robby Rush (D-IL) said that black Americans' dollars are just are as green as any other, and that Amazon should stop its preferential treatment of predominantly white neighborhoods in America's cities.
Residents in areas like Congress Heights of Chicago live in a virtual shopping no-man's-land. The availability of Amazon Prime is a necessity to many in America's so-called food deserts.
While nearly 80 million Americans live within areas serviced by Amazon Prime, the company's data-driven approach is coming under fire from news outlets like Bloomberg and legislators around the country with constituencies the zones by Amazon's data-driven approach to super-quick delivery.
While Amazon's top PR man, Craig Berman, vice president of global communications, boasts that the company is extremely proud that it offers all customers the same price regardless of where they live, the fact is that where customers live definitely matters when it comes to the availability of Amazon Prime's same-day and two-day delivery service.
After Bloomberg released its analysis of Amazon Prime's practices, the Mayor of Boston Martin Walsh and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) called on Amazon to provide residents of all Boston's neighborhoods with Prime 24-hour delivery service, despite the data.
It's not all Amazon's fault. The online retailer relies on agreements with local shipping carriers to deliver goods to consumers quickly, and a long history of economic disenfranchisement and marginalization is working against the company as it tries to comply with legislators' demands for equality.
Data-driven services often leave groups with less of a digital footprint or less economic weight out in the cold. As Bloomberg's analysis shows, Amazon's same-day delivery service is a prime example of digitized racism, a service based purely on big data without any regard for the social impact of decision-making based purely on numbers. Thanks to the outrage of consumers and legislators, Amazon Prime could become a force for social change.
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