What’s the Deal With Amazon’s ‘Nonessential’ Items Policy Now?

Where the online delivery giant currently stands on sales of nonessentials

Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog
2 min readMay 14, 2020

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On March 17, Amazon announced its plan to temporarily suspend shipments of “nonessential” products in some countries so it could quickly restock and ship more crucial goods in its warehouses. While this meant that essentials like groceries, pet food, and toiletries remained (somewhat) available, it also made it frustratingly slow to get anything else, and it hurt the businesses of millions of third-party sellers who rely on Amazon to sell their goods.

Amazon has officially ended this policy, but it’d be understandable if you didn’t realize it. As the Wall Street Journal first reported on April 13, while third-party sellers are now allowed to ship their goods to Amazon warehouses this week, “there are limits on how much they can ship to ensure there is warehouse space for essential goods.” Sellers now face backlogs of orders stuck in “pending” from before the pandemic, strict limits on the numbers of items they can send to Amazon warehouses, and a frustratingly opaque algorithm that decides those limits, reported the Financial Times the week after Amazon ended the policy.

What this means for people who just want to buy stuff on Amazon is that the selection of available items may be smaller than normal, and delivery may still take much longer than the usual one or two days. But the company is stocking and shipping nonessential items again, at least in theory.

It remains to be seen when shopping on Amazon, if ever, will resume normalcy. In a May 13 update to its daily blog, Amazon said it was “focusing on high-priority items to ensure the fastest delivery of household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products coming into our fulfillment centers.”

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Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.