Amazon delays non-essential Prime deliveries
Amazon Prime deliveries could be delayed by as much as a month as the e-commerce giant prioritises the delivery of essential goods during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to media reports.
However, in a statement issued earlier this week the company did not specify how long orders would be held up. "To serve our customers while also helping to ensure the safety of our associates, we've changed our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third-party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering items that are a higher priority for our customers. This has resulted in some of our delivery promises being longer than usual,” it said.
The Straits Times newspaper noted that lengthening delivery times come on top of confusion over how the company identifies essential products, a task that appears to be performed by algorithms with little human oversight.
Online merchants became alarmed last weekend when they saw delivery dates pushed back to late next month, meaning many will lose over a month of sales in the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, it added.
Amazon is struggling to cope as the Covid-19 pandemic escalates in the US and in Europe, forcing factory shutdowns and disrupting supply chains.
An Amazon spokesman told The Straits Times newspaper: "Due to increase in demand, delivery times may be longer than usual. We are working around the clock to ensure availability of products and continuing to bring on additional capacity to deliver customer orders."
Some Amazon merchants derive 90% or more of their sales on the platform because it dominates online shopping in the US.
Bloomberg quoted Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of the New York research firm Marketplace Pulse that monitors the Amazon website in the US, who said tens of millions of products on Amazon sold by approximately 250,000 merchants will not be available to many Amazon shoppers until late next month at the earliest.
"This is the biggest disruption Amazon has ever seen, and it will see sales decrease as customers turn to shop elsewhere, looking for faster delivery," he said. "The impact on sellers is going to be heartbreaking."
Amazon is struggling to keep up with a surge in orders from customers buying groceries and other household necessities online.
Bloomberg added that the company has announced it would stop accepting shipments of non-essential goods to its network of warehouses where inventory belonging to independent merchants is stored, packed and shipped to Amazon customers.
The aim is to keep warehouses stocked with the items people are buying now such as toilet paper, bleach and sanitising wipes. That means the e-commerce giant is temporarily not accepting shipments of non-essentials like flat-screen television sets and toys.
Amazon is also under pressure to keep its warehouse workers and delivery drivers safe since they continue working while others remain at home. It announced plans to hire 100,000 workers and give temporary pay increases in order to meet demand.
Business Insider reported that Amazon warehouses are only accepting household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products - “a massive change that is resulting in an equally massive disruption to Amazon Prime.”
It quoted a memo sent to sellers and vendors last week, in which Amazon said it would halt all intake of non-essential items until at least April 5.
Instead, Amazon is focusing on the increased demand for products in the following categories: baby products, health and household (including personal-care appliances), beauty and personal care, grocery, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies.
Meanwhile, according to the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, the coronavirus outbreak has spread to at least six Amazon warehouses in the US. In some cases, Amazon has shut down facilities for cleaning, and co-workers who were in close contact with their infected colleagues have been quarantined, though some warehouse workers are still sounding the alarm about sanitary practices.
"We are supporting the individuals, following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites," an Amazon spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
Amazon warehouse staff in Spain and Italy are reported to have tested positive for the virus, while workers in New York and Chicago claim the company isn't taking enough precautions as orders mount. Some said workers were sent home only after they had coughs, and signs were posted advising workers to wash their hands.
Warehouse workers in the United States and Europe have expressed concern that their workplaces are not safe enough and could contribute to the spread of the virus. More than 1,500 workers from around the world have signed a petition calling on the company to take additional steps to ensure the safety in their workplace.
Amazon argues that it is taking appropriate precautions to protect workers. The company emphasises that it is following guidance from health officials regarding the operation of its facilities while providing workers the time to use the restrooms to wash their hands.
"We are going to great lengths to keep the buildings extremely clean and help employees practise important precautions such as social distancing and other measures. Those who don't want to come to work are welcome to use paid and unpaid time off options and we support them in doing so."
In a separate development, Amazon Care has teamed up with group of public health researchers in Seattle on a new coronavirus monitoring program. Amazon's medical unit is helping with the logistics and delivery of at-home testing kits.
The UK government is reported to have approached Amazon and other companies about using their services to increase urgently the delivery of coronavirus tests to frontline health and social care workers.