Amazon has stopped accepting new online grocery customers and curtailed hours at some Whole Foods stores – amid surging demand during lockdown
The Jeff Bezos owned online retail giant said Sunday it will begin to put new food delivery customers on a wait list to prioritize orders from existing customers during the coronavirus lockdown.
Amazon also plans to shorten some Whole Foods stores’ hours for the public so its employees can more quickly fulfill online grocery orders, the company said. It will temporarily close at least one store in New York City from April 15.
Many shoppers recently seeking to purchase groceries from the Seattle-based e-commerce company found they could not place orders due to a lack of available delivery slots.
Amazon said it would have to relegate all new online grocery customers to a wait list starting Monday while working on adding capacity each week.
In recent weeks, it increased the number of Whole Foods stores offering grocery pickup to more than 150 locations, up from 80 previously.
The company also said Monday it would hire 75,000 more people for jobs ranging from warehouse staff to delivery drivers.
Harlem residents stand in line at Whole Foods during the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday
Amazon has stopped accepting new online grocery customers as it closes some Whole Foods stores and cuts hours at others amid a surge in demand
Amazon also plans to shorten some Whole Foods stores’ hours for the public so its employees can more quickly fulfill online grocery orders, the company said. It has closed at least one store in Manhattan as it deals with demand
With unemployment rates hitting record levels, Amazon is looking to fill the gap. To draw new employees, the company had said it would add $2 to its minimum $15 per hour to U.S. workers’ wages through April.
Amazon said on Monday it had filled all of the 100,000 positions it advertised earlier, and the new jobs are in addition to that.
The moves illustrates how the world’s largest online retailer, which showed its ambition to enter the grocery industry by acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in August 2017, is now leveraging its presence both online and in physical stores to handle high demand from consumers who are stuck eating at home.
As of Sunday night, as many as 22,129 Americans had died from coronavirus.
Amazon workers have become just as essential as first responders, providing food and other basics for millions of people who are isolating themselves under government stay-home directives.
Bezos on Wednesday thanked staff at the warehouse and a nearby Whole Foods in Dallas, Texas, after employees nationwide staged a spate of strikes and sick-outs over working conditions during the pandemic.
The world’s richest man was filmed taking a temperature check and wearing a mask on his surprise visit.
He was seen waving to staff and thanking them, telling one: ‘I can’t shake your hand. It’s a hard habit to break.’
The retail giant offers grocery delivery services Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now from its own warehouses and Whole Foods stores.
It typically touts ultra-fast delivery within hours, with shoppers able to choose a delivery window. Last month, Amazon temporarily suspended the Prime Pantry delivery service, which sells non-perishable groceries.
Amazon said its online grocery order capacity has increased by more than 60 per cent during the outbreak.
Some netizens who said they used Amazon Prime, its $119-a-year subscription service for U.S. shoppers, have nevertheless complained on social media about the scarcity of delivery windows.
The company said it is hiring more workers to expand capacity and that it plans to launch a new feature that will help customers secure a virtual ‘place in line’ to distribute the delivery windows on a first come, first served basis.
It also offered higher pay to encourage its warehouse workers to work for its grocery delivery service.
Currently, Amazon runs 487 Whole Foods stores in the United States. These stores have been limiting the number of customers allowed at once, and Amazon has said it conducts daily employee temperature checks and sends masks and gloves to protect workers.
The first store of Amazon’s much-anticipated new grocery chain, which is scheduled to open this year in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, has been temporarily transitioned into a warehouse for online orders, the company said.
A spokesman told DailyMail.com: ‘As we continue to face the challenges associated with COVID-19, we are constantly looking for new ways to meet the increased demand for online grocery shopping and serve more customers.
‘Beginning April 15, we will temporarily convert Bryant Park store into an online-only store, focused 100% on fulfilling grocery delivery.
‘During this time, customers who prefer to shop in-store can visit our Columbus Circle, Midtown East, Chelsea and Union Square stores in the NYC metro area’.
Still, some employees at Whole Foods and Amazon warehouses have protested the company is not doing enough to protect them, in demonstrations that gained attention from lawmakers and unions.
Over 50 Amazon fulfillment centers and several Whole Foods stores had confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to multiple reports.
‘We still expect the combination of restricted capacity due to social distancing and customer demand will continue to make finding available delivery windows challenging for customers,’ Stephenie Landry, vice president of Grocery at Amazon, wrote in a blogpost. ‘If you are able to do so safely, we kindly encourage our customers who can to shop in-person.’
WHAT WILL I GET AND HOW WILL I GET IT? YOUR GUIDE TO THE BAILOUT CASH
The stimulus bailout of up to $1,200 per person will go to everyone with income below $99,000 a year last year, or $198,000 for a married couple, and to some single parents earning up to $136,500. Parents who are eligible will get $500 for each of their children.
The source of your income is irrelevant, meaning social security recipients are eligible too.
How do I work out whether I am eligible?
First you need to find whether your adjusted gross income (AGI) was under the $99,000 adjusted gross income limit, or the $198,000 if you file as a married couple.
That is not the amount on your paycheck but your total income minus some permitted tax deductions including student loan interest payments – and your AGI can be found on your 2018 or 2019 tax return.
You also have to be a citizen or permanent resident, meaning workers on visas and undocumented – or illegal – aliens will not get cash despite having paid taxes.
How much will I get if I am a single filer?
If your adjusted gross income was under $75,000, you will get $1,200.
For every $100 of adjusted gross income over $75,000 you will lose $5 from the check or deposit. So if your AGI was $85,000, you will get a check of $700.
I’m a single parent – how am I affected?
If you file as head of household as many single parents do, the AGI limits are higher. You will get a $1,200 check if your AGI is under $112,500 and the upper limit for a payment is $136,500. All eligible parents receive $500 extra checks per child under 17.
What about married couples?
The limits for married couples to get payments is simply double that for single filers. So if your joint AGI is under $150,000 you get a full payment of $2,400. Payments taper down and no couple with an AGI above $198,000 get a payment. Parents get $500 per child.
How will I get paid – and when?
That depends on how you – or your tax filer – filed your tax return in 2019 or 2018. If you gave your bank account details for your refund to be directly deposited, your payment will come directly and could come as early as Wednesday.
The same applies if you receive Social Security retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits – your payment will go direct into your bank account. That also applies to people who receive payments from the Railroad Retirement and Survivor Benefits scheme.
But if you opted for a check from the IRS, you will get your bailout payment by check. It will take the IRS 20 weeks to print the full number of checks it is anticipating sending out.
The IRS says it is planning to produce a website tool to enter your bank information to cut the number of people who need checks – but that has still to go into action
I didn’t file a tax return and I’m not on Social Security. Will I miss out?
People with incomes below $12,200 – $24,400 for couples – do not have to file federal tax returns but they are eligible. However you need to sign up at the IRS website’s special section to get the payment.
What if I don’t have a bank?
The government has still to specify any help for people without banks to cash their checks without paying fees but there have been calls for it to ask big banks to do so.
I earned more than the limit in 2019 and 2018 but now I’ve lost my job. Will I get a payment?
No. The checks are based on what people earned in the last tax return which is on file. So many people who lost jobs paying above the limit will get no help from the scheme. It is possible that the IRS comes up with a way to issue payments to such people in the future.