According to MSNBC, Kozmo delivers to predominantly white parts of town.
April 12, 2000 10:22 AM   Subscribe

According to MSNBC, Kozmo delivers to predominantly white parts of town. This is a thorny issue all around. The company claims to target areas of high internet usage, but there's a whole host of factors that would lead to huge racial differences in those areas. I still believe one of the greatest things about the internet is that it's a place where race really doesn't matter, but unfortunately the barriers to entry aren't exactly colorblind. MSNBC went so far as to produce some interesting maps that support their claim pretty well though.
posted by mathowie (14 comments total)
I knew this would come up sooner or later. I don't really understand why it would be an issue for a company to select which areas it servers based on some very valid criteria (ie. internet access). The whole Dominoes issue was kinda sticky, but I think this one is pretty clear cut. However, I may be a lil' biased cause I live in SF and I love me some kozmo. I think this article is addressing a result of a higher problem that needs to be solved which is increasing the Internet penetration in these nighborhoods.
posted by bvanveen at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2000

In a fit of synergy, I was just having this conversation with a friend yesterday (strangely enough, before the news article came out) -- I live in a neighborhood in NYC that Kozmo and Urban Fetch deliver to, and she doesn't. And her neighborhood -- the same neighborhood as our school, Washington Heights, actually has a pretty high Internet usage, as does the area just north of it, Inwood. Neither service delivers there, though.

Note that this is the same neighborhood that Con Edison decided to "sacrifice" last summer during the heat wave -- they essentially shut off power to the neighborhood for three days. (This includes power to the hospital, one of the two largest hospitals in New York City, and the largest server of medical care to underprivileged minorities.) So there are real societal problems, and it seems that Kozmo just mirrors those.
posted by delfuego at 11:16 AM on April 12, 2000

Ouch. The map of DC paints a pretty stark picture. My girlfriend's sister and brother-in-law live in Takoma Park on the DC side (the tip top part of DC) and they are just the yuppie couple that Kozmo should want to sell to. You would think. There was an interesting discussion on Talk of the Nation about black middle class neighborhoods a few months back. I think it was the Feb. 4. Show.

posted by eckeric at 11:19 AM on April 12, 2000

They don't have an LA map, but I could probably draw it for them... I gots me some Kozmo where I live, but we'll hope they increase their penetration, and that someday soon, people from all races and classes will be able to order a box of jujubes and some condoms at 11 at night, just because they're drunk.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 11:28 AM on April 12, 2000

kozmo delivers to where i live in los angeles and i think i am the only "white" person that lives there.

i love and while on the subject of delivery, has any other la people noticed changed their website and it is now impossible to ask for no mayo or any other type of condiment to be left off a sandwich?
posted by sikk at 11:36 AM on April 12, 2000

My question would be: Has Microsoft bought out some company that competes with Kozmo? Is there anyone who thinks this is a non-issue, in light of the comments by a Disney exec [whose name I *knew* I shoulda wrote down :-) ] that he doesn't think ABC News ought to be covering Disney? Now does everyone understand the discontent over AOL buying Time Warner? Am I ranting? :-)

-- jra
posted by baylink at 12:59 PM on April 12, 2000

I have to agree with the implication that MSNBC is probably NOT an unbiased news source. I also have to wonder how they can report so critically, when they admit they didn't have ANY internet-usage-maps with which to compare. This almost seems like an IPO-sabotage kind of article...maybe the SEC should investigate MSNBC?

I am biased, becuase I LOVE kozmo, and living in Seattle, the 2nd city they provided service in, I can see quite obviously that the so called pattern doesn't apply.

posted by nomisxid at 1:06 PM on April 12, 2000

Pink Dot doesn't deliver where I live. It's some sort of Heterophobia, isn't it?       hmmm? It isnt'? Then why *Pink* Dot? oh. Nevermind.Joe - FOK (Friend of Kozmo)
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:21 PM on April 12, 2000

I've been a Kozmo employee for almost a year (corporate, not a bike messenger), and in that time I've seen that race is rarely if ever an issue in their hiring policies, customer service policies, advertising, or in virtually any other area. It doesn't make much sense that a company as racially diverse, from messengers to CEOs, as Kozmo would decide where or where not to deliver based on minority population. There are many factors that a delivery company like Kozmo has to consider, one of the most important being how far away from the warehouse we can reasonably send our messengers. I have my gripes with my employer (who doesn't?) but this is one issue on which Kozmo should be commended rather than attacked.
posted by mercuria at 2:05 PM on April 12, 2000

I just wish they would deliver here. I can't even get pizza delivered.
posted by corpse at 2:09 PM on April 12, 2000

jra, that "Disney exec" was Michael Eisner, as reported in Brill's Content.

As for Kozmo, I find it interesting that they "don't even consider" crime rate, which would have been an easy defense. And I was a bit disappointed they didn't map their Chicago service, but perhaps it's too new. Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country. When I look at the neighborhoods served, though, I see not only Lincoln Park and Bucktown, but Uptown (heavily black, but this is changing) and Logan Square (increasingly Hispanic). One critique of the critique I'd like to see would be a chart that differentiated the "0-24% black" areas a bit more.

Mainly, though, I think Kozmo is too darned new to be "Starbucked". They're barely in six cities. It wasn't until Starbucks was _everywhere_ that they began to get complaints about business locations, and it wasn't wholly justified then. This is mainly interesting as an example of the digital divide, something that isn't Kozmo's fault.
posted by dhartung at 2:10 PM on April 12, 2000

There is no way Kozmo would bring up crime rate even if it was something they considered, their PR people are much to smart for that. That is what Dominoes used and it got them in a lot of hot water.
posted by bvanveen at 3:12 PM on April 12, 2000

The maps on MSNBC, which as some have correctly pointed out is at least a POTENTIAL competitor of Microsoft, inlcude only two variables, percentage of blacks, and a comparison to average income. Interestingly, they do NOT show any measure of Internet connectivity (I'd like to see an overlay of DSL and cablemodem service!) and they completely ignore other minorities. Just because an area is less than 25% black doesn't mean a single white person lives there. I think some neighborhoods of LA and Chicago would support this. Also, are these the only markets Kozmo serves? If not, how do the same maps look in those other service areas that MSNBC excluded? I think MSNBC has made it all too easy to jump to a conclusion, and that makes me nervous.
posted by mikewas at 5:55 PM on April 12, 2000

Thanks, Dan, for that reference. And, Mike, you misunderstood me a bit: I was suggesting that MS was taking advantage of the expected journalistic integrity of MSNBC (expected, that is, only by people who don't think Bill Gates is the AntiChrist :-) to stomp a potential competitor -- now that we can all say "we know that they do this" with a straight face.

It has now escalated to a lawsuit; we'll see how this pans out.

You know? I like metafilter a lot better than Slashdot. Wonder how long *that* lasts. :-}

-- jra
posted by baylink at 8:56 AM on April 13, 2000

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