After a Bronx cheer, Amazon will offer same-day delivery

May 2, 2016 11:21 AM

(Bloomberg)— Inc. will bring free same-day delivery to the Bronx and Chicago’s South Side following criticism from elected representatives that the company’s data-driven service boundaries unfairly left out some minority communities.

The Bronx is at least the second area the online retailer pledged to serve following an analysis of Amazon same-day delivery areas by Bloomberg Businessweek that highlighted racial disparities where the service was available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Washington. Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, pledged to serve the predominantly black Boston neighborhood of Roxbury on Tuesday following criticism of its exclusion. Then the company pledged to bring the service to the Bronx, the only New York City borough excluded, and Chicago’s South Side, in letters dated April 29 to elected officials representing those areas.

“I am pleased to see that and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, are doing the right thing and serving all residents of the City of Chicago,” said U.S. Representative Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat whose district includes Chicago. “As I said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last week, ‘Black Americans’ dollars are just as green as any other Americans’ dollars,’ and I am glad that recognizes that.”

Amazon started its free same-day service last year as a perk of Amazon Prime membership, which costs $99 a year. It’s now available in 27 metropolitan areas. Service boundaries were determined by the concentration of Prime members in each area, proximity to warehouses where goods are stored and the company’s ability to find delivery partners to serve an area.

Rush last week urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon’s same-day delivery boundaries to determine if they are unfair or if the company is engaged in deceptive business practices that violate federal laws.

Amazon pledged to bring the service to the Bronx and Chicago’s South Side “in coming weeks,” in similar letters sent by the company’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, to politicians in those districts.

In New York, the letter was sent to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and New York State Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, whose district includes the Bronx, both of whom complained about the borough’s exclusion from the service. Dinowitz called for investigations of how the delivery boundaries were determined.

Race played no role in the process, Amazon said. In many cities, including Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco, Amazon provided the service throughout the area and there were no disparities.

Amazon has emphasized it is a new and growing service with boundaries that are expanding over time.

The Bloomberg Businessweek analysis highlighted how some decisions based on data can have racially disparate outcomes. Data scientists are studying this more closely to try to avoid such unintended bias.

Diaz and Dinowitz said they were pleased Amazon is expanding the service to the Bronx.

"The over 1.4 million residents of The Bronx deserve the same level of service and amenities as their neighbors," Diaz said. "I will continue to hold businesses and entities of all kinds accountable when they slight my constituents."

Dinowitz said, "I am hopeful that this decision means Amazon will take a second look at the several other cities with excluded neighborhoods.”




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