Amazon stops accepting new online grocery customers amid high demand

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(Reuters) – Amazon will start putting new grocery delivery customers on a wait list and reduce shopping hours at select Whole Foods stores to prioritize orders from existing customers buying food online during the Coronavirus epidemic, the company announced on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Worker wearing face mask walks in truck parked at Amazon facility as global coronavirus epidemic continues at Bethpage on Long Island in New York, United States, March 17, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly / File Photo

Many buyers recently looking to buy groceries from the Seattle-based e-commerce company have found that they cannot place orders due to a lack of available delivery slots. Amazon said it should relegate all new online grocery customers to a waiting list starting Monday while working on adding capacity every week.

In recent weeks, it has increased the number of Whole Foods stores offering grocery pickup at more than 150 locations, up from 80 previously.

Amazon also plans to shorten certain hours that Whole Foods stores are open to the public so employees can fill online grocery orders faster, the company said.

These measures illustrate how the world’s largest online retailer, which has shown its ambition to enter the grocery sector by acquiring Whole Foods for $ 13.7 billion in August 2017, is now leveraging its presence at both online and in physical stores to meet the high demand from stranded consumers. eat at home, with many dining rooms closed to the public.

Amazon offers Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now grocery delivery services from its own Whole Foods warehouses and stores. It generally touts super-fast delivery within hours, with buyers able to choose a delivery window. Last month, Amazon temporarily suspended Prime Pantry delivery service, which sells non-perishable groceries.

Amazon said its online grocery ordering capacity increased by more than 60% during the epidemic. Some netizens who said they used Amazon Prime, its subscription service of $ 119 per year for American buyers, nevertheless complained on social networks of the scarcity of delivery windows.

The company said it is hiring more workers to increase capacity and plans to launch a new feature that will help customers secure a virtual “go-live” to distribute delivery windows on a first-come, first-served basis , first served. She also offered higher compensation to encourage her warehouse workers to work for her grocery delivery service.

Amazon currently operates 487 Whole Foods stores in the United States. These stores have limited the number of customers allowed at a time, and Amazon said it performs daily employee temperature checks and sends masks and gloves to protect workers.

The first store in Amazon’s highly anticipated new grocery chain, which is slated to open this year in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, has been temporarily converted to a warehouse for online orders, the company said.

Yet workers at Whole Foods and Amazon warehouses protested that the company was not doing enough to protect them in protests that caught the attention of lawmakers and unions. More than 50 Amazon distribution centers and several Whole Foods stores have confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to several reports.

“We still anticipate that the combination of limited capacity due to social isolation and customer demand will continue to make it difficult to find available delivery windows for customers,” wrote Stephenie Landry, vice president of grocery store at Amazon, in a blog post. “If you are able to do so safely, we kindly encourage our customers who can to buy in person.” “

Reporting by Krystal Hu in New York and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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