On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it would be temporarily disabling shipments from sellers, other than "high-priority" products during the coronavirus pandemic. The news shocked vendors using the Fulfillment by Amazon service, and sent a fresh wave of fear through consumers as well. Many online business owners are now wondering how they will stay afloat amid this new policy.
Amazon sent a memo to Fulfillment by Amazon sellers in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, informing them that they could no longer create shipments of "non-essential" products. The temporary policy is expected to remain in effect until April 5, and vendors say that even this period of about three weeks will devastate their businesses.
"We are seeing increased online shopping, and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock. With this in mind, we are temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers so that we can more quickly receive, restock and deliver these products to customers," the memo read.
"For products other than these, we have temporarily disabled shipment creation," it went on. "We are taking a similar approach with retail vendors."
The list of accepted products — according to Business Insider — includes six categories: baby products, health and household products, beauty and personal care products, groceries, industrial and scientific products and pet supplies.
"We understand this is a change to your business, and we did not take this decision lightly," the memo said. "We appreciate your understanding as we prioritize the above products for our customers. Thank you for your patience, and for participating in FBA."
The news was sent in an email to FBA users, and also posted on an Amazon forum for sellers. It was there that sellers left public comments about this news, and they were not pretty. Here is a look at how Amazon sellers are reacting to this surprising new policy.
'Expect Major Lawsuits'
Some vendors were incredulous that Amazon was instituting this new policy, and did not think the company would get away with it. They promised to sue the corporation for failing to deliver on its promises, saying that it was effecting the livelihood of thousands of people.
"Amazon just put tons of businesses out of business. Destroyed thousands of jobs amidst a crisis. Horrible joke. Absolute joke. No warning," one person wrote. "Expect major lawsuits coming from sellers who now will go bankrupt."
Other sellers felt that this was indicative of larger issues with Fulfillment by Amazon in general. They made the case for using Amazon's website, but not its warehouses and supply chains — instead fulfilling their own orders.
"Well —this is just another reason to self fulfill orders... good luck all you FBA people," one person commented.
"This is just one example of why FBA is such a BAD idea - you have NO control over your own business," added another.
Still, some vendors were quick to point out that their businesses could not exist on the same scale without Fulfillment by Amazon, even if they were not happy about how the service was working.
"Good luck selling 10% of FBA orders," wrote one user.
A few users left hopeful messages on the forum, asking about workarounds for the new policy or other ways to keep their businesses afloat. Many found it hard to believe that Amazon would announce the shipping suspension with no notice, assuming they would have the day to send out some more products to the warehouse.
"Before today means already or does it mean in 23 hours from now?" one person asked.
In fact, Amazon had already disabled shipments of non-essential products when the announcement went up.
With Amazon's website already pushed to its breaking point by the surge in new orders, many vendors reported bugs in the Fulfillment by Amazon services as well. They were furious, feeling that their businesses had been "quarantined" without their knowledge.
"Manage Inventory and Manage FBA Inventory pages are down. WE HAVE BEEN QUARANTINED!!!" one user raged.
Many sellers took issue with the timing of the announcement of the shipping suspension. They noted that the forum post had gone up at 12:52 a.m. ET, and they only happened to see it hours later or in the morning. Given that the new policy only affects U.S. vendors, they thought this was suspicious.
"Why is this snuck into the forums at 2:45am but not posted on the main seller central page and mass emailed to all sellers?" one person asked. "Image how many are going to put in [big] orders tomorrow to try and help keep in stock then see this. You didn't think you have to check for sneaky announcements."
"We just completed a big restock shipment yesterday, but would have sent much more knowing they were gonna stop incoming shipments," added another, "so I imagine they snuck this in overnight as to not create a 'couple of weeks before the black Friday rush' situation."
'You Have Your Boot on our Neck'
Meanwhile, some business owners felt that the shipping suspension exemplified a contempt for small business owners from Amazon. They complained that they could not operate outside of the corporation's structure, and are now beholden to its whims.
"You declare that you care about FBA businesses, Do you understand how this impacts the businesses?" one person wrote. "Taking into consideration that you have your boot on our neck with the IPI score so Amazon can lower the logistic costs and deliver more profits?"
'Failure on Their Part'0comments
Finally, the sellers commenting on the forum seemed mostly in agreement that this shipping suspension was a failure by Amazon. They argued that the company should have had the foresight to see this shipping rush coming as news of the coronavirus pandemic picked up, and it should have prepared accordingly. Now, they felt that they would suffer the consequences.
"For a company that has such solid Q4 experience dealing with insane temporary spikes in order and fulfillment volumes, not anticipating the recent rush is definitely a proactive vs. reactive logistics failure on their part," one vendor wrote. "We've known the crazy rush to buy staples would be coming for weeks, it was just a question of when it would happen. I had assumed Amazon would to see it coming too and be ready for it."