Amazon can't keep up with the deluge of Prime Pantry orders from coronavirus preppers

Amazon has temporarily stopped accepting new orders for Prime Pantry, which delivers non-perishable groceries like cereal and pasta.

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Amazon's signature is operational efficiency and doing everything it can to deliver orders to customers the same or next day, but its vast network is no match for COVID-19. The company has stopped accepting new orders to its Prime Pantry service, which delivers a range of non-perishable grocery items.

The website for Prime Pantry now includes a notice at the top in bold that reads, "Pantry is temporarily closed. We are busy restocking." Amazon told CNBC that the closure is due to high order volumes. Its other deliveries are also facing delays.

Unnecessary hoarding might be to blame — A rush by the public to stock up for the end-times combined with a moral obligation for businesses to send their employees home wherever possible is causing disruptions all along the supply chain. The fast-moving outbreak of novel coronavirus that has killed nearly 10,000 people was an exceptional circumstance that's pretty hard to predict. In response, Amazon has said it will hire 100,000 new workers to address the demand from consumers rushing to hoard toilet paper that's not at all facing a shortage. Amazon has also told third-party sellers that it will be "temporarily prioritizing" shipments of household goods stored in its warehouses.

Once this activity is addressed with more fulfillment resources it seems likely the Pantry closure will be ironed out. Amazon will have to offer assurances that it's protecting its warehouse workers from exposure, however. The company had to close one warehouse in New York after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

There are other ways — Amazon has various different services that deliver food so it's easy to choose another if needed. Besides Prime Pantry there's also Amazon Fresh, which is more comprehensive because unlike Pantry it does deliver perishable goods, and by the next day. That service is only available in a select few urban markets whereas Prime Pantry delivers across the United States, hence the limitation to only non-perishables that can survive shipment. There's also Prime Now, however, which like Amazon Fresh offers perishables — albeit a somewhat different selection — but in faster one or two-hour delivery windows. It's confusing, and there have been rumors that Fresh and Prime Now will someday merge since they're so similar.