Amazon Warns of Delivery Delays as Coronavirus Elevates Demand

Amazon driver wears a protective mask in New Rochelle, N.Y.
A driver wears a protective mask while traveling in an Inc. delivery van in New Rochelle, N.Y., March 12. (Angus Mordant/Bloomberg News)

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Online retail giant Inc. is warning its customers may see some delivery delays, and some items could be out of stock as the impact from the coronavirus spreads across the country. The company says the increase in people buying things online is having an effect on how it serves its customers.

“As COVID-19 has spread, we’ve recently seen an increase in people shopping online,” the company said on its website. “In the short term, this is having an impact on how we serve our customers. In particular, you will notice that we are currently out of stock on some popular brands and items, especially in household staples categories.”

The company says it is doing what it can to restock its warehouses and get items to customers on time.

“You will also notice that some of our delivery promises are longer than usual. We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders.”

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, e-commerce is rapidly expanding. Growth reached nearly $602 billion in sales in 2019, an increase of 14.9% from 2018. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with shopping online, especially for larger items such as furniture and durable goods, like refrigerators, washers and dryers. E-commerce in 2019 accounted for 11% of all sales, compared with 9.9% in 2018.

Amazon is also advising its customers “inventory and delivery may be temporarily unavailable due to increased demand. Confirm availability at checkout.”

Some items, including toilet paper, hand sanitizer and hand soap, were listed as out of stock on March 15. Bloomberg News reported that Amazon.also suffered a technical glitch March 15 affecting online grocery orders through its Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh delivery services.

The coronavirus has caused long lines at brick-and-mortar stores across the country and left shelves bare.

There also have been reports of some people price-gouging.

A Tennessee man has come under scrutiny after saying online he had more than 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and was selling them for an inflated price.

He has since donated two-thirds of the sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to a church that plans to get the items to the needy.

The other one-third was sent to officials in Kentucky, where some of the products were purchased.

“We’re also working to ensure that no one artificially raises prices on basic-need products during this pandemic and have blocked or removed tens of thousands of items, in line with our long-standing policy. We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policy,” Amazon said.

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