The Seattle-based retailer announced on Sunday that it is temporarily asking new Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery consumers to sign up for an invitation to join. It will add new shoppers from the waiting list each week as it can increase capacity.
“With the new world of social distancing and stay-at-home orders in place for most of the country, customers have generated unprecedented demand for grocery delivery. Our Amazon associates, Whole Foods Market Team Members, and delivery partners are among the many retail heroes of this COVID-19 crisis,” a spokesperson for Amazon wrote on the company’s blog.
During the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon has increased order capacity by over 60% and says it’s planning to roll out a new feature with the aim of making it easier for customers to secure delivery times. Additionally, the company has adjusted hours at some of its Whole Foods outposts to allow staff more time to fulfill grocery orders. And it is working to expand grocery pickup to more Whole Foods stores; about 70 locations have added pickup services within the past few weeks.
Over the past few weeks, Amazon has also announced new measures to protect workers from contracting the novel coronavirus, including implementing “enhanced cleanliness and sanitization protocols.” The e-commerce giant said two weeks ago that it would begin to provide face masks to staff members in all of its warehouses in the United States and Europe, as well as to workers at its Whole Foods stores. It is also using no-contact forehead thermometers at facility entrances and said it would send home anyone who registers a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
With respect to Whole Foods operations, Amazon has begun putting plexiglass barriers between its cashiers and customers in checkout lanes, as well as restricting the number of customers and employees allowed in stores at one time. Whole Foods seating areas are temporarily closed, self-serve and sampling is suspended for now and customers are not able to bring in reusable containers from home for the time being.
Since March 16, Amazon has hired 100,000 new warehouse workers and delivery drivers in response to increased demand. On Monday, the e-tailer announced that it is seeking another 75,000 additional workers for full- and part-time positions. The company says it expects to spend more than $500 million to boost wages for employees during the pandemic, a revision from its previous estimate of $350 million.