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Kozmo Sued For Discrimination

By evro in News
Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 07:22:17 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

ZDNet has a story about Kozmo being sued for discrimination. Apparently, in the Washington, D.C. area, Kozmo delivers "primarily to white neighborhoods." Kozmo says it bases its practices on Internet usage statistics and not race.

I'm not really too familiar with how Kozmo works, but it seems to me that you enter your zip code and they tell you whether or not they deliver in your area. While Kozmo claims to base their plans solely on internet usage, I doubt that -- though I don't think they are discriminating against black people either.

The last time I heard (which, admittedly, was long ago), Washington was the homicide capital of the United States. Isn't it possible that Kozmo simply does not offer service in the more "dangerous" parts of town -- where crimes are committed frequently -- and that the high-crime areas and those that are predominantly black overlap?

I know nothing about D.C. geography, so I may be completely off-base here, and probably come off as a bigot for assuming the high-crime areas are predominantly black, and if so I apologize. Perhaps someone living in the D.C. area would care to enlighten me as to where the "high-crime" areas are, and if they are, indeed, predominantly black.

I personally think that these days any corporation, especially a startup like Kozmo, does not care about the race of the customer, just his or her money. It would make no sense for Kozmo to turn down money simply because it came from black people. However, if they were sending their delivery people into a hail of gunfire, nobody would work for them and their entire business model would flop.

Also, Kozmo most likely cannot deliver to every corner of the city, and so must decide to which areas it will deliver. It seems logical to me that they would choose the most affluent regions so that they can make the most money. I think that if these regions are predominantly white it's not relevant as far as Kozmo is concerned. If they can only serve some people, why shouldn't they serve the people who will give them the most money?

In any case, I think this is definintely an example of the clash between technology and culture, and should be discussed.


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Kozmo Sued For Discrimination | 20 comments (20 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
sad ... (the suite that is) ... ... (none / 0) (#5)
by djzoot on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:29:27 PM EST

djzoot voted 1 on this story.

sad ... (the suite that is) ...

it is a bit odd that kozmo would actually deny delivery to some areas instead of just charging extra for delivery based on distance, but its their business and really can do whatever the hell they want. *shrug*

this is just a case of kozmo wanting to be a little more efficient (read profitable) by only offering service to where they _think_ more money can be made with less effort ...

the hail-of-bullets notion is kinda silly ... pizza hut prolly has no problems with sending their delivery agents anywhere if they can get cash for it ...

hoping my food-coma grammer isn't too offensive, -rob

ps: news like this reminds me of when snapple was accused of being in league with the KKK due to their "kosher" symbol (k in a circle) on many of their products ... *sigh*
There is no K5.

Re: sad ... (the suite that is) ...... (none / 0) (#8)
by Pike on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 07:46:17 PM EST

I don't know what their financial situation is, but it costs money to hire drivers and have them stand by for deliveries to areas that, statistically, will be comprising a very small percentage of orders. It doesn't make economic sense in most cases. It's not really odd, and the company is not "denying" something when they probably don't have the resources to offer it in the first place.

-JD, Certified Geek

[ Parent ]

Maybe it should be discussed. But ... (none / 0) (#4)
by marlowe on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:35:04 PM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

Maybe it should be discussed. But is it even possible to discuss such a topic intelligently? What I need now is a pulldown option for "I'm conflicted".
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

Re: Maybe it should be discussed. But ... (none / 0) (#22)
by TomG on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 06:02:06 AM EST

What I need now is a pulldown option for "I'm conflicted".

Can I use that? :-)

[ Parent ]
Being a resident here in DC, I thin... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:41:02 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Being a resident here in DC, I think I'm qualified to address this. Yes, Kozmo delivers to the more affluent sections of DC. That includes my neighborhood (Dupont), Adams-Morgan, and I think Capitol Hill. I'm not sure where else they deliver, but mostly Northwest.

NW DC is the more affluent chunk of town, and likely the more internet-using part of town as well. I think the claims of racism are basically just knee-jerk politics. Adams-Morgan, for example, is heavily hispanic. And no matter where you are in DC (even the "Great White Northwest"), if you're white, you're a minority.

With regard to the "murder capital of the world" image that DC has-- that's a holdover from ten or fifteen years ago. No part of DC is that dangerous anymore, even the dangerous parts. I seriously don't believe that their limited delivery area policy is due to fears of violence, but, as evro states, due to economics. Now they might refuse to deliver to Prince George's county (the maryland suburbs). Many taxi companies won't drive there either. That is the dangerous area, these days.

About the concept in general-- what if I ran a local restaurant, and had a limited delivery area based on my location? Would that be racism if my restaurant was in a white neighborhood? I think this suit is basically frivoulous race-mongering.

Not the real rusty

Re: Being a resident here in DC, I thin... (none / 0) (#10)
by evro on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 08:10:06 PM EST

I think this suit is basically frivoulous race-mongering.

This is really what I thought. Especially considering this suit was brought after it was "discovered" that kozmo didn't serve black areas. As in, nobody seemed to be too offended until "investigative journalism" took over, "exposing" the evils of racism. Of course, the proper action in this case is to sue for $21 million (that's a made up number).

A guy I used to work with told me he tripped in a pothole while playing in the street one night (while drinking) and broke his leg and cut his face up. So he's suing the City of New York for I believe $10 million. He said his lawyer told him to sue for that ridiculous amount.

I honestly think the owner of a business should be allowed to decide who his customers are and should be allowed to not serve anybody for any reason. I realize that if this were the case we'd still have race relations like in the '50s, but it seems to me that if I'm paying the light bill, paying everyone who works there, etc, why don't I get to decide who comes through the door?

This is way off-topic, but it's sort of relevant to what I'm saying: In my hometown of Southampton, NY, either the town or the county passed a law that nobody is allowed to smoke in any restaurant, even in the bar. Either that or the restaurant must install a huge ventilation system to make sure the smoker-section air stays separate from the non-smoker-section air. Because it somehow violates non-smokers' rights. Putting aside the issue of smokers' rights, why isn't it up to the owner to decide these things? What if the owner wants the entire place to be one big smoking section? Why would it be legal to say "No Smoking," keeping out all smokers, but not "Smoking At All Times," keeping out all non-smokers? What if I want a restaurant for smokers only? It just seems like another case of the government passing retarded laws with no point.

They also passed a law that you can't smoke at the beach. So now it's illegal to smoke OUTSIDE and INSIDE. While I think smoking is disgusting, this seems like such a violation of smokers' rights, as well as those of the business owners.

I guess what's really irking me about this case is that Kozmo can't just come out and say "we don't offer service in those areas because they're poor," because that would be economic discrimination or some damn thing.
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
[ Parent ]

Re: Being a resident here in DC, I thin... (none / 0) (#17)
by lachoy on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 09:20:14 PM EST

(sorry for the heavy sarcasm here, but...)

I see. Let's say I own a business. It's my money, it's my business, I should be able to have final say on who does and does not work for me for whatever reason I want. If you're too old, tough shit. Too dark, don't talk right, have a vagina, like to sleep with the same sex -- can't work for me.

And what happens if my business is giving loans to people for homes, or to startup their own company? Or being the only drugstore within 30 miles? Or the only taxi company in the city?

Doesn't this bother you at all? Oh, that's right, we're all libertarians here. We don't want the government to do anything at all, for anyone, otherwise it's intruding in our lives and in the natural order of the market.
M-x auto-bs-mode
[ Parent ]

Re: Being a resident here in DC, I thin... (none / 0) (#18)
by evro on Fri Apr 14, 2000 at 12:06:33 AM EST

Well, you just showed the problem with my argument. While I realize these things have to be done in order to make things "more fair," where exactly the line is drawn is a very tricky subject. On one hand, I think the owner should be able to decide who comes and goes, on the other hand we have the example you put forth. I doubt a good compromise will really ever be reached.
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
[ Parent ]
Of course (none / 0) (#12)
by Inoshiro on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 08:17:09 PM EST

You all have to realise that Rusty's probably just lieing about the safety so that you will come along to the city. Then he can gun you down, and get more points in the D.C. drive-by shooting game. :-)

[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Re: Of course (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 08:00:09 PM EST

I've lived in Washington for close to ten years. I'm impressed by the changes having taking place in surviving the eras of Barry, Pratt-Dixon, Barry again, and now the William years. The new mayor Williams is doing a lot to improve the city. I was totally amazed when one Saturday, the traffic on New York Avenue was blocked for the Graffitti Buster trucks, to remove the horrid graffitti on abandoned buildings and warehouses.

I don't know about Kozmo. Nor would I use it. I live close to Catholic University, and the universities, whether their white or black like Howard and the U of DC, Kozmo would be crazy not to deliver to them. All they have to do is employ the students to do the deliveries, whether they're white, black, asian, or hispanic, the students need jobs.

Another area in which I'm seeing the District improve on is their crack down on nude bars and prostitution, including male prostitution in DC. If you've even seen a guy dressed up as a woman with a flaming purple wig on in broad day light, it makes you wonder how these guys even got into the business. But, it's the law of supply and demand. Personally, there ain't no way I'm going sell my body just to look like a woman and trick another guy into having sex with me.

[ Parent ]
Anything that has potential for dis... (none / 0) (#6)
by psicE on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 05:36:33 PM EST

psicE voted 1 on this story.

Anything that has potential for discussion, goes. Anything that has potential to be news, doesn't.

Hey, Rusty lives in DC, and he uses... (none / 0) (#2)
by fluffy grue on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 05:42:19 PM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

Hey, Rusty lives in DC, and he uses Kozmo! He can tell us! Oh, but he's not black... darn.

(Sorry. I hate race-related crap of any sort. I try to treat people as people.)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

I think Rusty said he liked Kozmo, ... (none / 0) (#3)
by gnuchris on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 07:22:17 PM EST

gnuchris voted 1 on this story.

I think Rusty said he liked Kozmo, so lets post it.
"He had alot to say, He had alot of nothing to say" -TOOL-

my ot post for the day: (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 07:26:53 PM EST

That hat logo looks kinda like a urinal cake.

Re: my ot post for the day: (none / 0) (#11)
by Inoshiro on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 08:14:54 PM EST

Draw a better one, and watch it get posted :-)

[ イノシロ ]
[ Parent ]
Re: my ot post for the day: (none / 0) (#16)
by evro on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 09:19:38 PM EST

Nah, the culture logo (petri dish) looks like a urinal cake. But at least it's clever!
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
[ Parent ]
Stupid. (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 08:37:35 PM EST

Well, if this is true then there should be a large untapped market out there, right? If there is large demand from a market that Kosmo doesn't serve, then maybe it's time someone tries competiting with Kosmo. Instead of trying to sue them, why don't the plaintiffs start up their own delivery service? If Kosmo is as discriminatory as the plaintiffs claim, there is a huge untapped market just begging for service. In a city where the majority of the population is black and Kosmo refuses to deliver to predominately black neighborhoods, a firm should be able to compete with Kosmo successfully.

But does Kosmo really refuse to serve black neighborhoods? The article states between 65 and 70 percent of the residents that live within Kosmo's delivery area are white. If Kosmo is so racist, why would they want to deliver to the 25 to 35 percent of non-whites in their delivery area? Perhaps they are actively trying to find a way to completely shut-out the black residents of Washington and the other areas they serve. Will they require me to disclose my race before they accept my order?

Kosmo delivers by bicycle. In under an hour. I really can't tell you offhand how large Washington D.C. is, but I can only assume there are some places you simply cannot get to in one hour by bicycle. It doesn't matter how much money people have, or what race they are, if they are too far to deliver to.

Someone here said, basically, "Why not deliver everywhere and just charge more?". It doesn't work like that. Kosmo advertises "free delivery", which means they include the delivery cost in the price. If they were to demand a "delivery surcharge" for neighborhoods outside their regular delivery area, people would be crying foul. A "racial surcharge" they'd call it. So why not just raise the prices and deliver to the whole city, using cars for faster delivery or delivering in over an hour? Think about it. You raise the price, you sell less. You have long delivery times, you sell less. Kosmo is trying to keep their business model practical.

I think Kosmo should be able to deliver wherever they want. If they want to discriminate based on race, let them. It is their loss if they do. Let someone else do a better job and drive Kosmo out of business.

I think all people are equal and deserve equal rights. Kosmo has the right to be stupid, and people have the right to do a better job if a better job can be done.

If I thought Kosmo was truly being discriminatory here, I'd be against them. But I don't think they are. They're just a small company. Companies try to maximize profits. You don't do that by denying service to people who are willing to fork over cash.

Would I buy from Kosmo if their service was available to me? Sure. But it isn't. Perhaps they are discriminating against me? Afterall, they don't deliver to people AT ALL. Not a single one, those bastards. As a Canadian, I deserve to have the equal rights and opportunities of Americans. Kosmo is denying me the right to give them money. Sounds like lawsuit waiting to happen.

Re: Stupid. (none / 0) (#21)
by joeyo on Fri Apr 14, 2000 at 05:36:33 PM EST

Very solid points. I liked this one especially:

Will they require me to disclose my race before they accept my order?

I'm guessing, no. Now obviously you can have more subtle ways discrimating. For example, many apartment complexes, at least in my area, ask for a photocopy of your drivers licence when you submit a lease. (I think this is illegal, but I've never heard of anyone questioning it...)

Actually, this whole situation reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine couldn't get Chinese take-out delivered to her side of the street.

Elaine: But I'm on 42nd street!!!
Chinese Man: You on borderline. What's next? 41st street??, Mexico??, Wall street??


"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi
[ Parent ]

Re: Kozmo Sued For Discrimination (none / 0) (#24)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Apr 16, 2000 at 09:34:06 PM EST

I'm only suprised that it wasn't Webvan or Domino's. Whenever I go home to visit my mom I find much of the delivery world unavailable. Now if the firms in question would just say 'we don't deliver to black neighborhoods because we're scared' I might have more repsect for them. rlb

Re: Kozmo Sued For Discrimination (none / 0) (#25)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 08:30:02 PM EST

The earlier article mentioned goes into a lot more detail -- MSNBC actually investigated the locations of the distribution centers and found that distance isn't the criterion either. From that article, it seems like there's something to the case. I just wish they'd posted the maps online. *sigh* When will people learn to use hypertext?


Kozmo Sued For Discrimination | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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