Amazon's grocery service is now waitlisting new customers

The company is struggling against its own dedicated user base. Now might be a good time to shop local.


Amazon is pressing pause on new signups for its grocery delivery service as an attempt to prioritize existing customers buying food online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced yesterday. New customers will now be put on a waitlist. Amazon is also looking to reduce the hours of its Whole Foods stores.

As much of the world turns to online shopping to fulfill basic needs during self-isolation, Amazon has been hit hard with skyrocketing demand for its quick shipping services. Last month the company announced an initiative to hire 100,000 workers to keep up with this increased demand. Now the company is looking to hire 75,000 more people, especially in its warehouse and delivery departments.

It’s obvious that Amazon is still struggling to keep up, despite its greatly expanded workforce. Given the course of COVID-19 thus far, the company isn’t likely to catch up any time soon. Maybe it’s time to cut Amazon some slack and to find other places to shop for groceries.

Plus: increased precautions — Amazon has caught a fair amount of criticism for its lack of precautions against the spread of COVID-19 in the last month or so. That’s led the company to implement new measures across its businesses to compensate. In its announcement, Amazon continued to press its message that its top priority is “the healthy and safety of customers and employees.”

Amazon’s latest round of precautions include plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers at Whole Foods locations, “enhanced cleanliness and sanitation protocols” across all Amazon and Whole Foods stores, and daily employee temperature checks. Whole Foods is also prohibiting the use of personal, reusable containers and closing its self-serve stations.

It will never be enough — Amazon is finagling its network of resources in an effort to better assist its customers in this strange time. Besides its expanded hiring efforts, Amazon is investing $500 million in supporting its employees and partners; it’s reducing store hours to increase its capacity for grocery delivery; it’s even getting ready to launch a new feature that will allow customers to secure a “virtual place in line” for grocery shopping.

But Amazon is fighting a losing battle. Despite its massive hiring spree, the company is still struggling to meet customer needs. Amazon has increased its order capacity by more than 60 percent, and still it’s being forced to move new customers to a wait list. There’s only so much one company — even an enormous one like Amazon — can do.

Shop local! — Amazon’s fight with its own size is also a reminder that the company does not need your business right now — it has plenty, maybe even too much. Shop local if at all possible. Many smaller grocery stores across the U.S. are staying open and need the profits much, much more than Amazon. Your groceries will likely arrive more quickly this way, too, and without the added stress of waiting on a list.

This is not to say Amazon should give up; quite the opposite, in fact. The company is proving invaluable during the pandemic, more an essential service now than ever before. Instead it’s up to customers to be more understanding of Amazon’s evolution during this time — to think of Amazon less as a luxury of same-day shipping and more as an essential service that, like the rest of the world, is running into delays and other troubles because of the pandemic.

Despite its struggles, Amazon is doing very important work in keeping U.S. residents supplied with essentials. But the company has its limits. Now might be the time to check out that tiny market on your corner.