In cities across the United States, Amazon offers same day delivery to its customers who have enrolled in its Amazon Prime program. This includes Washington D.C., Chicago, New York, and Boston. In the cities where this perk is offered, however, not every zip code is eligible. A report in Bloomberg highlights how certain neighborhoods are left out, while a short walk away residents can receive same day delivery. Though these neighborhoods may be areas in which a smaller number of Amazon Prime members live, they also tend to be home to minority residents. Prime members in those places pay the same amount but do not get the same services. Many times, these residents have less access to brick and mortar retail opportunities. By denying them same day delivery, retail inequality persists through Amazon’s digital revolution.
In Chicago, the south side of the city is not eligible for this service. Likewise, the south side of Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington D.C. are not offered this benefit. In New York City, most boroughs are covered while the Bronx is not. But the most notable case is in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. The entirety of Boston can have their Amazon purchases delivered on the same day, with Roxbury being the only exception. Unlike in the other cities, where perhaps the ineligible neighborhoods are farther from distribution centers, Roxbury is encompassed on all sides by areas where it is offered. In all of the cities mentioned here, a greater percentage of white residents have access to this same day delivery than black or Hispanic residents. Washington D.C. is an exception, where a greater percentage of Hispanic residents have access than white residents (though Hispanics make up only about ten percent of the city’s population).
In response to this report, and statements by Boston Mayor Martin J Walsh and Senator Ed Markey, Amazon has announced that Roxbury residents can now get the same day delivery service. Elsewhere, this may follow. In time, Amazon may expand this benefit to residents in other cities or all neighborhoods in the cities where it currently exists; eventually, both of these goals will likely be fulfilled. Though Amazon insists that demographics play no role in determining where it is offered, it may be telling to those who point out the racial factors involved which of these goals is fulfilled first and the priority and urgency of bringing same day delivery to minority neighborhoods.
The Bloomberg report offers more information, data, and graphic: Amazon Doesn’t Consider the Race of Its Customers. Should It? (April 21, 2016)