Inside the pages of Consumer Equality, we paint a picture of the contemporary American marketplace in which consumer discrimination remains an unresolved, pressing, and complex issue. We aim to provide clear direction about how to address the problem of marketplace discrimination and understand its significance in the face of increasingly diverse consumer demographics, tastes, and behavior. Policy makers and corporate executives will find our proposed solutions both viable and practical for identifying, analyzing, and ultimately eliminating marketplace discrimination. The main argument is that everyone should receive equal access and equal treatment in businesses open to the public. It is presented in three parts.

Part One | A History and Contextualization of Consumer Inequality

Equality is one of the indicia of freedom in an open society. We will show how the current reality challenges the notion that the law has completely eliminated the humiliating vestiges of Jim Crow segregation. We will demonstrate how the ability of marginalized groups to participate equally in the economic life of the country was one of the major motivators for the civil rights movement – and how those rights remain unfulfilled.

Part Two | Consumer Strategy in the Courts

The courts have become the strategy of choice for many marginalized groups to “voice” their discontent over the disparate treatment they have received in the marketplace. Our book will feature cases in which people of color began to file lawsuits alleging discrimination in the marketplace against companies like Eddie Bauer, Conoco, Shell Oil, Macy’s and restaurants like Cracker Barrel and Denny’s. It will document hundreds of marketplace discrimination cases that have been filed in federal and state courts and provide detailed narratives of many of these cases, including interviews with many of the plaintiffs, defendants, and attorneys in these cases. While the plaintiffs have not always won these cases, the increased numbers of lawsuits filed over the last two decades should serve notice to marketers that discrimination, particularly when it is based on a customer’s race, no longer will be tolerated in the marketplace.

Part Three | The Profitability of Consumer Equality

There is a strong representation of African-American and other marginalized populations in the consumer sector. Given this overall buying power, it would appear that appealing to African Americans and other marginalized consumers should have a strategic importance for corporate marketers. The ability of these segments to leverage economic power and to influence changes in the practices affecting the retail sector (advertising, store policies, marketing decisions, etc.) may be significant and should not be overlooked. However, despite the demographics, a lack of diversity in marketing and advertising seems to persist. Since the sit-ins and economic boycotts of the 1950s and ‘60s, African Americans and other marginalized consumers have seldom employed their market power to bring about change in the marketplace.

‘Consumer Equality is the first book to elucidate the inequalities plaguing the American marketplace.’