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[Slashdot] - Amazon's Shifting Definition of What Is 'Essential'


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Maddy Varner, reporting for The Markup: On March 17, Amazon informed U.S. sellers that it would no longer accept nonessential products at its warehouses. To the casual shopper, it might have sounded similar to the pledges Amazon has made in Italy, France, and India to stop taking orders from customers entirely for nonessential goods. But examining the fine print reveals that it was nothing of the sort. The original pledge -- which was announced as policy for March 17 to April 5 -- allowed Amazon to ship nonessential items that were already stocked in its warehouse, and sellers could also stock nonessential items in their own warehouses and ship directly to customers. Amazon defined essential loosely, saying that "most of the products" it would accept were in the categories of "Baby Products," "Health & Household," "Beauty & Personal Care," "Grocery," "Industrial & Scientific," and "Pet Supplies." Since that mid-March announcement, Amazon has quietly relaxed even further its definition of what is essential, while also extending indefinitely the date by which "operations will be fully restored." On March 27, archived snapshots of the page indicated that Amazon would broaden the list of new shipments it would accept from sellers, on an unspecified "item-by-item" basis. As of April 6, in the United States, you could still order a bowling ball, a 10-pack of rubber chickens, and a prom dress and have them show up at your door within a week. All of the items are described on the website as either "Fulfilled by Amazon" or "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com," and none of the items are in the categories previously deemed essential.

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