Last month Amazon stopped letting new customers use its online grocery stores, Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods, as it struggled to keep up with the unprecedented demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders. Customers wanting to use the services had to join a waitlist, but now the company says it's letting newcomers place orders again.
According to CNET, customers in most states will no longer need an invite to use Amazon's pair of online grocery shopping services. This change comes amid the company's decision to accelerate delivery times, open more time slots, replenish its product inventories, and employ at least another 175,000 workers as millions of people seek to get provisions without leaving their homes.
"We've removed the invite list in most cities, and more than 80 percent of eligible Prime members are able to shop without requesting an invitation. We continue inviting new customers every week," Amazon says. The company has also been deprioritizing orders of goods deemed non-essential to help it manage the influx of orders it's been receiving.
Dealing with COVID-19 — While most people will welcome this online grocery option, Amazon's general response to the coronavirus has been met with vehement criticism from various quarters. Amazon workers have repeatedly complained about the lack of protection they're given against the virus in their workplaces. Earlier this month, an Amazon worker at a Staten Island warehouse died from COVID-19. This was shortly after the company's former vice president Tim Bray slammed the "chickenshit" enterprise for firing workers who had protested working conditions.
With this new move to open up online grocery to its users, Amazon could help limit in-person infections at grocery stores as the virus continues to debilitate the U.S. But it's also clearly looking to capitalize on the change in consumer behavior. There's money to be made, and Amazon's not going to leave it on the table if it can help it.
The company has also said that it was increasing delivery windows for vulnerable populations, including the elderly, and making sure people are able to see empty time slots as demand for deliveries continues to surge. If you're one of those who were previously waitlisted or who's been trying to order but consistently failed to secure a delivery window it looks like your luck might be about to change.