Should Amazon Give Discounts to EBT Recipients?

Should Amazon Give Discounts to EBT Recipients? June 8, 2017


There’s everyday run-of-the-mill envy.

And then there are people who think they’re being treated like “second-class citizens” if they don’t get a discount on their Amazon Prime membership.

I was just directed to this comment, which appeared on’s Facebook page and which as far as I know is not satire:

Screenshot (47)

Barbara writes:

I’m a member of Amazon Prime and I am a bit angry about being expected to pay more for my membership than those people who are government programs such as WIC or food stamps. I belong to many groups for which Amazon could offer me a discount (employed, home owner, AAA member, and I could go on). I called Amazon today and officially asked for a discount on my membership. I think I should only have to pay as much as anyone else.

If you too are concerned about the approach Amazon is taking for Prime membership I ask you to contact Amazon and make your voice heard.

To find out how to contact Amazon you’ll need to dig a little, but this will get you started. From Amazon home page, choose Help (top middle of page). Look for the Browse Help Topics section, choose Need More Help?, and Contact Us. You’ll see some tabs, I selected Prime or Something else. Then Tell us more about your issue, Prime Support and Other Prime Issue. From there you can chose to send an e-mail, chat or contact by phone.

I’m tired of being treated as a second class citizen, just because I’m middle class.

Oh, Barbara.

Barbara, Barbara, Barbara.

Barbara thinks it’s unfair that has instituted a new discount on their Amazon Prime account, for poor people receiving government aid such as EBT and WIC. Specifically, poor people on benefits may now subscribe to Amazon Prime for a monthly discount of about five dollars.

This small discount could make a big difference to a poor person, shaking out the couch cushions to make ends meet every month. It will be especially beneficial for poor people wanting to be wise and prudent with what little they have, who would love to receive a substantial discount by buying groceries in bulk– goodness, I myself am poor and wrote just last month about being chided for not buying my groceries in bulk to save money. But it’s very difficult to buy in bulk if you don’t have a car; you’re stuck taking the bus to places that don’t sell in bulk and not being able to carry bulk packages home anyway. So, a poor person may greatly benefit from being able to buy the groceries, toiletries and household goods they need in bulk on Amazon Grocery, which I know from experience is often the very cheapest way. But you’ve got to have cash on hand for the cost of shipping or for making such a big order at once that the shipping is discounted. And here, Amazon is offering an additional discount to poor people, so that they can afford to be shipped cheap groceries, toiletries and household goods even more often.

From a social justice standpoint, this is wonderful of Amazon and they should be commended for it. It’s a remarkably practical, concrete way to help the poor bear their crosses a little more easily. From a legal or ethical standpoint, they have a perfect right to give an Amazon Prime discount to any kind of patron they choose– they already have one for college students, after all, and you don’t see Barbara feeling put out over that. And from a purely practical standpoint, it’s brilliant. Because when the poor can save a little money, everyone benefits.

I have written before of times when an unexpected few extra dollars saved Michael and me from a world of suffering. And on months when we ran a few dollars short, we ended up paying more than a few dollars for things we needed– in late fees and re-connect fees and every other kind of fee you can imagine. When we couldn’t pay it ourselves, we’d end up downtown begging for help from the government and local charities. The local charities had a finite amount of money; what they spent on us they couldn’t spend on the next person. Every bit of help from the government cost tax money– not just money for what we needed in the first place, but money for every level of bureaucracy. Poverty is expensive.

Multiply our situation by every poor person in Steubenville, every poor person in the United States. When you haven’t got a single cent to spare, everything starts costing more, and the less you can pay, the higher the cost. That impacts communities and cities– that impacts you, no matter how wealthy you are. It means your charitable donations are less and less effective and your tax dollars are getting sucked down an endless hole; it means your community gets poorer and poorer. That’s everybody’s business. If every corporation as big as Amazon did savvy, practical things to help poor people save a little money, that would add up exponentially. Life would be easier for everyone except loan sharks.

But Barbara here didn’t see it this way. She saw that she wasn’t going to save those five dollars a month which she could afford to lose and somebody else couldn’t. And she envied her neighbor, and tried to influence others to harass Amazon to punish them for their clever new policy.

I’m often told that the poor are envious. I’m not going to claim I’m without sin, including the sin of envy. But I’ve seen again and again that middle-class and rich people can be breathtakingly envious of the poor without noticing what they’re doing. Not all middle-class and rich people are, of course, but it’s sadly common. Envious people hate the poor for every cent of help we receive, whether it costs them personally or not. It’s not that they themselves have been inconvenienced; they just hate it when less fortunate people’s burdens are lessened.  And that’s wrong.

I have a request for my readers. Contact Amazon and make your voice heard, using the steps that Barbara herself provided. But tell Amazon that you appreciate this clever idea to help ease the burdens of America’s poor. If you don’t have an Amazon Prime membership, consider subscribing for one at whatever price you qualify to pay. Vote with your voice and your dollar to show support for a practical and effective way to help the poor save a little money, which will benefit us all. Maybe other corporations will follow suit.

You don’t need to do what Barbara did. You never need to envy the poor.

(image via Pixabay)  



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