Is Amazon’s same-day delivery racist? That’s the question on shoppers’ minds this Tuesday as a report revealed that the service is offered in mostly predominately white cities.
Amazon has been working hard to offer its Prime same-day delivery across the nation, but it’s only available in 27 metropolitan areas so far. A report by Bloomberg found that some of the cities where the service is available, it hardly offers services in those that are predominately black.
The report, published on Thursday, April 21, found that the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, and Washington D.C. are less likely to offer same-day service for its Amazon Prime members. All of these cities are known to have predominately black communities.
One Prime member who lives in Washington, D.C., tells Bloomberg that they have to opt for the free two-day shipping service instead.
“I still get two-day shipping, but none of the superfast, convenient delivery services come here. If you bring that service to the city, you should offer it to the whole city. They [Amazon] are offering different services to other people who don’t look like you but live in the same city.”
Some have wondered if Amazon’s same-day delivery service is indirectly racist. Meanwhile, Amazon argues that they treat their customers and Prime members same across the board.
“We don’t know what you look like when you come into our store, which is vastly different than physical retail,” Amazon spokesperson Greg Berman told Bloomberg.
Amazon also explained to USA Today that its geographical algorithm is based on the location of the fulfillment centers and their target Prime members.
Other factors “include distance to the nearest fulfillment center, local demand in an area, numbers of Prime members in an area, as well as the ability of our various carrier partners to deliver up to 9:00pm every single day, even Sunday,” Amazon’s other spokesperson Scott Stanzel said in a statement. “We will continue expanding our delivery capabilities and adding more zip codes rapidly.”
The lack of access to same-day delivery still raises the question of whether Amazon should factor race so it doesn’t discriminate certain groups. Keith Hollingsworth, chair of the department of business administration at Morehouse College in Atlanta, doesn’t think that the company is being outwardly racist.
But while Amazon is not trying to make itself racist “that doesn’t mean that the systemic racism doesn’t affect the outcomes,” he concluded.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wouldn’t say if he believes Amazon’s same-day service is racist, but he surely doesn’t agree with it. In a written statement to WCVB-5 on Tuesday, he announced that he and other members of his administration spoke with Amazon officials about the policy.
“After speaking with the executives at Amazon, the company informed me today that they will now be offering same day service to every neighborhood in Boston. I thank Amazon for this decision, and look forward to its implementation.”
There is no word yet on when the service will begin in Roxbury. Amazon previously told Bloomberg that their original plan was to “start out small” in areas where there is a high percentage of Prime members. They then plan to expand the service as it continues to grow. Still, the service is being offered in the “wealthiest” and “whitest” areas, as Consumerist described it.
Amazon did not exactly reveal what algorithm it uses to determine which areas get access to same-day delivery. But they are reportedly taking the steps to make sure that discrimination isn’t involved in the process. Hollingsworth says the only way for Amazon to correct this problem is to hire more people of color on their teams.
“They might have pointed out these patterns, ones white workers might not have seen,” he added.
Amazon isn’t the only company that’s been accused of discriminating communities, claims Hollingsworth. He’s from Atlanta where he says that there are no Starbucks “south of I-20.”
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]