With many cities passing shelter-in-place orders and most regions encouraging people to practice social distancing due to the global pandemic of coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, grocery delivery services have exploded in popularity as people seek to avoid going to busy supermarkets. But services are struggling to keep up with demand. Now, even the massive Amazon delivery service is no longer accepting new customers for the time being.
As reported by Reuters, new customers who want to sign up for grocery deliveries from Amazon through its Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now services will be placed on a wait list, starting today. Shoppers have reported problems getting delivery slots over the last few weeks, and now Amazon is formalizing its approach to the issue by limiting new customers. It says it is working on making more slots available by increasing its capacity, and it will also introduce a queue system to allow customers to reserve a delivery slot.
Amazon owns the Whole Foods supermarket chain, which offers both deliveries and pickup services. The company says it is increasing the number of Whole Foods stores which offer grocery pickup from 80 locations to 150 locations, which should help ease some demand while keeping contact between customers to a minimum. It will also reduce the opening hours at some stores, so staff can focus on fulfilling delivery orders rather than working in store.
Amazon has had issues fulfilling demand for non-grocery deliveries as well, with shipment delays on non-essential goods. The company said it has changed its logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third-party seller processes so it can focus on fulfilling the most high priority items like personal care, baby, pet, and grocery products. These delays are more apparent in some areas than others, with delivery times varying across the country.
The recent crisis has also focused attention on Amazon’s labor practices. After some employees tested positive for COVID-19 at its warehouses, workers complained that Amazon was not doing enough to protect them from infection, by requiring “stand-up meetings” in which workers had to stand closer to each other than the six feet recommended by medical experts, and by not allowing them enough time to properly wash their hands and maintain hygiene. U.S. senators including Bernie Sanders have called on Amazon to do more to protect its workers.
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