From The Wall Street Journal:
It’s by now something like accepted wisdom that Amazon. com Inc. could be one of the few firms to come out ahead in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But all is far from well in the kingdom of Bezos. At a defining moment for the company, it is letting customers down.
True, all retailers are under enormous strain, and the Amazon boxes keep arriving. But the promise to ship anything to our doorstep in a day or two that has gained it the trust of an astonishing 112 million Prime members in the U.S. (a nation of 129 million households) has evaporated nearly overnight.
Weeks into America’s national experiment in only going to the store when absolutely necessary, it feels like Amazon is little better than any other retailer at getting us what we need, when we need it.
Every part of the company’s sprawling empire—from its eponymous e-commerce operation and its considerable physical retail to its market-dominating cloud services—is being tested. The fact that Amazon’s retail operations are functioning at all is a testament to the flexibility of the company’s infrastructure during a health crisis that few if any companies were prepared for.
But the crisis is laying bare the cracks in Amazon’s ability to be there for its customers when they need it most, much less to “delight” them, as Chief Executive Jeff Bezos once urged his employees to do. Those cracks include times when up to half the workers in some of the company’s facilities haven’t shown up, with some saying it was due to their fear they wouldn’t be adequately protected from coronavirus. It’s also due to Amazon’s just-in-time supply chain, reliance on third-party sellers and largely automated systems of buying and selling that were never designed to handle such a crisis.
. . . .
When parrying claims that it’s a monopolist, Amazon often cites the statistic that e-commerce is only 16% of all retail. With stores closed and delivery the only safe option for many vulnerable people, it’s clear that proportion will spike in the coming months. Reports from employees and analysts indicate volumes in Amazon’s warehouses are on par with seasonal surges around the holidays. Market-research firm CommerceIQ reported sales of toilet paper are up 186%, while cough and cold medicine sales are up 862%.
While demand for those products remains high, Amazon shoppers are unable to get many of the essential products the company says it’s prioritizing now. My search for toilet paper on Amazon yielded a jumbo 700-foot roll of commercial toilet paper in the first slot. In the second? A baffling block of text in lieu of a product image, stating that customers ordering this product after April 6 won’t receive it, so they shouldn’t bother. And everything considered nonessential takes more time than the two days Amazon conditioned us to expect.
“We continue to focus on receiving and shipping high priority products that customers need at this time,” said an Amazon spokeswoman. “Although we have more limited capacity due to the extensive health and safety measures we are taking across the network, we have begun selectively bringing more products from our selling partners into our fulfillment centers,” she added.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal
PG says some people are idiots.
Their faith in Amazon may be shattered by the company’s performance in the face of a huge world-wide pandemic that, at this writing, has infected a half-million Americans and killed over 20,000 and for which there is no proven cure. If that is the case, these individuals’ faith will be shattered with respect to almost everything else as well. PG predicts shattered faith therapy groups will pop up and participants will talk about their shattered faith in a long list of things.
As for the people who are not idiots, the fact that orders at Amazon have skyrocketed, that many of its suppliers have closed their doors per government decree and that each of its 800,000+ employees is subject to infection, sickness and death from the Coronavirus, will explain why Amazon’s delivery of some product offerings may be impacted.
PG suspects most Amazon customers are happy that Amazon is working as well as it is under these circumstances.
Is anything else working well in the US and elsewhere?
- Military? One of the largest aircraft carriers in the United State Navy (out of a total of 11 aircraft carriers) is out of action due to the virus
- US Supreme Court? Unable to hear arguments – 1/3 of docket in limbo
- State and local governments? Per The Hill, “Many states, cities and counties are about to, suddenly, run out of money. Wages won’t be paid. Services won’t be delivered. Institutions will shut down abruptly. Many state colleges may fold.”
- Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently per Politico