Thomas Gallatin / January 23, 2023

Amazon Frowns on AmazonSmile

The Big Tech online retailer is ending its customer-directed charitable giving program after a decade.

On February 20, AmazonSmile, the charity donation program launched by the online retail giant Amazon in 2013, will end. Last week, Amazon sent an email to customers who use AmazonSmile informing them that the company will shutter the program because it hadn’t “grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped.” The email added, “With so many eligible organizations — more than 1 million globally — our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.”

The email further noted that all the charities that had been a part of AmazonSmile will continue to receive donations until the program’s end date, after which time they would receive one last donation “equivalent to three months of what they earned in 2022 through the program.”

Apparently, in an effort to stave off criticism for ending the decade-long program, Amazon noted that it would still direct resources toward “a wide range of other programs,” including the House Equity Fund, Amazon Future Engineer, Community Delivery Program, Amazon Disaster Relief, and Community Giving.

Did ideologically based objections inform this decision? It’s certainly tempting to think that the brass simply didn’t like the charities customers were choosing (like The Patriot Foundation Trust). After all, with a leftist organization like the race-baiting Southern Poverty Law Center being one of the entities influencing Amazon’s rules about acceptable charities, it’s not much of a stretch to presume that the SPLC may have had a hand in this change.

However, as tempting as that assumption might be for conservatives who are rightly suspicious of Big Tech malfeasance, the largest factor influencing this decision is more likely the state of the economy.

Last November, Amazon laid off 10,000 employees, and early this month CEO Andy Jassy stated that the company planned to let go of an additional 18,000 workers this year. But it’s just not just Big Tech giant Amazon that has been struggling, as last year alone more than 154,000 employees were laid off from more than 1,000 tech companies. Not even a month into 2023, another 26,000 tech workers have been given their walking papers.

By allowing customers to direct a portion of their purchases toward almost any charity they chose, Amazon donated roughly $450 million through its AmazonSmile program to more than a million different charities since the program launched. Obviously, the portion of revenue donated is a tiny fraction of Amazon’s overall income, but it isn’t nothing. So, with the company seeing revenue slumping, it evidently wants to focus its dollars on charities of its own choosing.

Amazon is a private company that has every right to direct its revenue whichever direction it desires. While this change will certainly be felt by many different charitable organizations, according to Amazon the total average amount these groups received was less than $230.

Finally, while it may be frustrating that AmazonSmile is coming to an end, remember it was Amazon’s money. It’s always easy to donate someone else’s money, but giving one’s own hard-earned dollars expresses a greater commitment and connection to those charitable causes one believes in.

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