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Coronavirus panic-buying even hits Amazon hard, where many essentials are out of stock

Updated Mar 15th, 2020 11:18PM EDT
Coronavirus panic
Image: Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Shutterstock

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  • Coronavirus panic has sent consumers racing to find and stock up on household essentials to prepare for the virus, like Purell and toilet paper — items that have been all but stripped from the shelves of most major physical retail locations at the moment. 
  • Even Amazon, the so-called Everything Store, has not been immune to the effect of consumer panic-buying. Many items that consumers are currently desperate to find right now are listed as out-of-stock. 
  • The retailer penned a blog post on Sunday to address what it’s doing to meet this challenge, at a time when the US is continuing to ratchet up its response to the coronavirus that’s now a global pandemic.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

The COVID-19 coronavirus has, at least temporarily, succeeded in doing something unprecedented to one US company otherwise thought to be all but unstoppable: It’s turned Amazon from the so-called Everything Store into the Everything You’re Desperately Trying to Find Right Now is Out of Stock Store.

The Internet retail giant on Sunday acknowledged via a company blog post what many of you are no doubt discovering on your own right now, that products ranging from Purell hand sanitizer to digital thermometers are either scarce, on backorder, or listed as out of stock right now. At a time when panicked buyers have stripped essentials like those and others from brick-and-mortar retail store shelves, leading to widespread unavailability of household staples like toilet paper, hand soap, sanitizer, and other essentials — and causing many people to turn (unsuccessfully) to Amazon as a last-resort source for those goods.

“In the short term, this is having an impact on how we serve our customers,” Amazon’s post reads. “In particular, you will notice that we are currently out of stock on some popular brands and items, especially in household staples categories. You will also notice that some of our delivery promises are longer than usual. We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders.”

The acuteness of the shortage, of course, varies from product to product. Some things, like toilet paper and bottled water, were listed as out of stock at the time of this writing, while other products were shown to have delivery times longer than the one- and two-day delivery options that Amazon Prime customers usually enjoy.

Outside of Amazon, meanwhile, the problem has led to physical retailers taking a number of steps to combat this shortage of key products that they, too, are experiencing.

Image source: Ted S Warren/AP/Shutterstock

Some major retailers and grocers, including Kroger and Walmart, have begun adjusting store hours. If they’re not open to the public for the normal amount of time, the thinking goes, they’ll have more of a breather to catch up, clean, and restock the shelves. A note on Walmart’s website, for example, announces the following:

“Starting March 15, Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice. This will help ensure associates can clean and stock products. Stores operating under more reduced hours will keep current hours of operation.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.