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Amazon Puts New Grocery-Delivery Customers On Hold As Demand Explodes

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Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, says it will devote some of the grocery chain's hours to online deliveries only.
Jeff Chiu, AP

Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, says it will devote some of the grocery chain's hours to online deliveries only.

Amazon is putting new grocery-delivery customers on a waitlist — among several new measures the retailer is trying to keep up with a crush of demand for food deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company also announced plans to expand its hiring by 75,000 full- and part-time jobs. That's in addition to the 100,000 workers Amazon added in recent weeks.

"We are temporarily asking new Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery and pickup customers to sign up for an invitation to use online grocery delivery and pickup," the company said in a blog post on Sunday. "We're increasing capacity each week and will invite new customers to shop every week."

The last few weeks have been a trying time for Amazon as it's been pushing to hire tens of thousands of new employees, acquire face masks and gloves for its current workforce, all the while facing protests and criticism from some workers who say they don't feel safe working at its warehouses.

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Amazon has started checking workers' temperature and says it's "distributing masks and gloves across our Amazon and Whole Foods Markets stores." The company is also cutting back shopping hours at some Whole Foods stores so that workers can prioritize online orders.

The retailer says it has increased order capacity by more than 60%, but subscribers to the $119-a-year Prime program have recently complained about a shortage of available grocery-delivery slots. Amazon now plans to create virtual queues to "distribute the delivery windows on a first come, first served basis."

Amazon made an unusual request at a time when most health officials urge shoppers to avoid going to the store as much as possible: "If you are able to do so safely, we kindly encourage our customers who can to shop in-person."

Editor's note: Amazon is among NPR's sponsors.

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