Amazon Wants You to Buy Fewer Things: Here’s Why

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Unhappy shopper
Antonio Guillem /

It’s rare for a retailer to encourage you to buy fewer items — but Amazon is doing just that.

As shoppers stuck in their homes make a virtual stampede to Amazon to buy things for delivery, the online retailer has “taken a number of steps to get customers to put fewer items in their carts,” according to a Dow Jones & Co. report published by Morningstar.

According to the report, which sources unnamed people familiar with the matter, Amazon has done the following to discourage buying:

  • Removed most of its popular recommendation widgets. These widgets usually tell a shopper about additional purchases made by others who had the item in their basket.
  • Reduced the number of coupons offered.
  • Canceled Mother’s Day and Father’s Day promotions. Amazon has not publicly announced this move yet, according to the report.
  • Postponed Prime Day.

Why is Amazon taking such unusual steps? It appears that a huge surge in orders tied to the coronavirus pandemic has overwhelmed the retailer.

In a letter to shareholders that was included in an April 16 corporate report, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, wrote that Amazon staffers were “working around the clock” to get ordered items delivered on time. He added:

“The demand we are seeing for essential products has been and remains high. But unlike a predictable holiday surge, this spike occurred with little warning, creating major challenges for our suppliers and delivery network. We quickly prioritized the stocking and delivery of essential household staples, medical supplies, and other critical products.”

For now, Amazon sources say the retailer wants customers to focus on purchasing essential items — such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper — rather than encouraging customers to make impulse or additional purchases.

It may be more than two months before Amazon is back to running at pre-pandemic capacity, according to the Dow Jones report.

Amazon’s unusual decision to discourage buying is just one of the many strange ways the coronavirus has changed our lives. For more, check out “9 Ways the Coronavirus Has Changed Daily Life as We Know It.”

While Amazon may be discouraging “retail therapy,” you can still get some great bargains right now — whether at Amazon or another store. To find out more about the sinking cost of some types of goods, read “11 Things That Are Cheaper Due to the Coronavirus.”

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