Amazon 'Bug' Was Hiding Products That Would Have Shipped Faster Amid Covid-19 Delays

Illustration for article titled Amazon Bug hid products that would have shipped faster amid delays from Covid-19

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Amazon is now delay shipping from non-essential items through Prime to a month as the company struggles to meet the high demand for orders it is under amid home shelter and self-isolation orders that have been put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the United States Reduce. But after this change, Amazon has clearly achieved results for non-essential items from competing sellers in its market that could have shipped items faster and even at lower prices.

The apparent Amazon surveillance was discovered by Rearrange, which reported Thursday that Amazon’s algorithm – which prioritizes its own products over competing offers from other vendors – hid these lists of nonessential items, allowing Prime users to get items earlier than the end of April. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the issue in a conversation with Gizmodo, saying that the company had implemented a solution late Thursday, although the company said it is currently evaluating or modifying the algorithm to fix a so-called ‘bug’ to resolve will affect other systems.

“To address the need for high-priority items and to ensure that customers receive deliveries as quickly as possible, we made some adjustments to how our store works,” said the spokesperson. “In this case, some of these changes resulted in an error that in some cases led to an unintended variation in the way we select which offers to display. We are working to correct this as soon as possible. ”

As Recode noted, it would have made sense to hide these items – intentionally or otherwise – and prioritize the sale of products stored by Amazon in its warehouses, if not for delays and their impact on sellers. Customers still have technical access to these items by selecting the “New and used from …” box under the Buy Now or Add to Cart selections on a product page. But customers can’t choose to check out these additional sellers for a number of reasons, including just getting used to using Amazon’s Buy Now feature without paying much attention to who ships the item – be it Amazon or a store or is another third party trader.

Sellers who spoke to Recode identified this issue as one of the problems that damaged their business. According to Recode, Amazon is also holding hostages that some vendors store in its warehouses, as workers in those facilities are preoccupied with priority orders and demand during the corona virus pandemic. This means that the sellers cannot ship those products themselves. This is a difficult place for non-essential items sellers to be in as they cannot directly generate revenue from those sales. But Amazon customers also rely on the company to deliver essentials at a time when leaving their home can be dangerous or even deadly.

In a statement, the Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company has “temporarily suspended the disposal operations in some of our distribution centers and will waive the long-term storage costs accordingly”.

“We know this is a change for our sales partners and we have not taken this decision lightly,” said the spokesman. “We are working to increase capacity and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritize high-demand products for customers.”

Amazon’s on-the-fly changes to its systems go beyond product sales. The company has seen numerous cases of Covid-19 in employees in its warehouses, and the company has failed to respond adequately to those cases. When an employee tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month at a facility in Queens – the first reported case in the warehouses in the United States – site workers said Amazon reopened the facility within hours of remediation. After one more recent covid-19 case at an Amazon facility in Kentucky, the company closed the warehouse for two days to allow for cleaning.

However, even a thorough deep clean would not be enough if the person had become infected and showed up before showing symptoms. A group of US senators are now calling on Amazon offer two weeks of paid leave and temporarily close facilities in the event that an Amazon worker tests positive for Covid-19 to allow other workers on site to isolate themselves – a measure Amazon should take to curb the spread of the disease, but it is not. Amazon has taken over instead referring to its employees as “heroes fighting for their community”.

The Amazon spokesperson who spoke to Gizmodo noted that changes in the company’s normal business operations are happening quickly and that there will certainly be some oversight during that process. But the problem with the seller is the latest in a series of failures on almost every level of Amazon’s business. And Amazon’s repeated oversight clearly does not only harm sellers, but also endangers workers’ health and safety even consumers also.

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