Amazon is trying to get you to buy less during the coronavirus pandemic

16 Apr 2020

Image: © MaciejBledowski/

Struggling to meet demand during the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon is reportedly trying to find ways for you to buy less from the e-commerce giant.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon has taken a number of measures to do the opposite of what it has been doing for years by discouraging customers from ordering lots of goods through its platform.

The e-commerce giant has seen an unprecedented surge in order volumes since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, putting greater pressure on its warehouses and staff processing these orders.

Many of its biggest sale events of the year – such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – have not been advertised online. Meanwhile, its July event known as Prime Day is set to be postponed. It is also removing the widgets showing recommendations based on what other shoppers are buying.

In a letter to shareholders today (16 April), Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said staff are “working around the clock to get necessary supplies delivered”.

“The demand we are seeing for essential products has been and remains high. But unlike a predictable holiday surge, this spike occurred with little warning, creating major challenges for our suppliers and delivery network,” he said.

‘We don’t have the capacity’

An Amazon employee involved in the scale-back told The Wall Street Journal: “We typically want to sell as much as we can, but our entire network is so full right now with just hand sanitisers and toilet paper that we don’t have the capacity to serve other demand.”

A number of weeks ago, one-day delivery using the company’s Prime service in Europe was postponed, while at one point it put a temporary hold on the intake of goods deemed unessential during a pandemic, prioritising household staples and medical products instead.

To keep up with demand, Amazon said that it hired 100,000 additional workers last month and plans to hire a further 75,000. This included customer service roles in Ireland, with staff working remotely.

Last month, Amazon advised staff globally to work from home, where possible, while offering extended sick pay to those who test positive for Covid-19.

Despite efforts to try and limit the amount of goods it’s selling, The Guardian reported that Amazon customers are still spending $11,000 every second during the crisis. Bezos’ personal wealth grew by $6.4bn on Tuesday (14 April), bringing his total to approximately $138bn.

However, a French court ruled this week that Amazon must stop selling ‘non-essential’ items until it can come up with a safety plan to protect the health of its employees.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic