Amazon is facing a backlash for shutting down the charity Smile

For nearly 10 years, Amazon Smile has enabled customers to donate to charity while shopping on Amazon. The service has benefited many organizations, but this week Amazon announced that Smile will be discontinued in February. The reasons for this are already being criticized on the internet.

According to Amazon, “the program has not grown to have the impact we originally hoped for.” Noting that more than 1 million organizations have participated in Smile, Amazon said that “our ability to influence to take, was often spread too thin”.

When people shop through Smile, Amazon automatically donates 0.5% of the price to the charity of the customer’s choice. However, Amazon said it wasn’t happy with the results and will now focus on its own company’s philanthropy projects, including disaster relief and affordable housing.

Once the service is discontinued, Amazon will give Smile charities “a one-time donation equal to three months of their earnings in 2022.” Then the charities will have to figure out how to bridge the gap, with Amazon proposing to set up Amazon Wishlists instead. Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t gone over well with Amazon Smile users.

People question the notion that Smile had a disappointing “impact” because materially, that’s just not true. Over the past decade, the platform has reportedly processed more than $400 million in donations.

Like Amazon’s main retail service, Smile is popular for its efficiency and ease of use. It’s not entirely scandal-free — for example, some anti-vax organizations have reportedly raised money through Smile — but overall it’s a good system for a “every little helps” attitude toward donations. It’s completely different from traditional corporate philanthropy, where companies create and/or collaborate with large-scale projects without input from clients.

Judging from today’s criticism on Twitter, people are particularly concerned about how Smile’s demise could harm smaller organizations like local schools and animal shelters. There’s also a lot of opposition to the idea that Smile didn’t have an appropriate impact, building on long-standing criticism of corporate charity work.

Amazon obviously struggles with negative press, and many large companies use charity work to improve their public image. So it’s possible that Smile’s disappointing “impact” has less to do with how much it’s helped charities and more to do with how much it’s helped Amazon itself.

Incremental donations to small organizations get less headlines than, say, Amazon, which spearheads a $2 billion affordable housing initiative under its own public brand.


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*Initial publication: January 19, 2023 9:24 am CST

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in science fiction films and superheroes, she also appears as a film and television critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she is the co-host of the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw Amazon is facing a backlash for shutting down the charity Smile

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