If you happened to be one of the apparently million-plus people trying to buy toilet paper in the past week, there's a good chance that after driving to several grocery stores, you gave up and went where you always go--Amazon. Except, Amazon also doesn't have any toilet paper right now. Or hand sanitizer. Apparently you have to visit a storage unit in Kentucky to find the last 17,000 bottles of that particular commodity.
With more states encouraging people to avoid going out unless they have to in order to slow the spread of coronavirus, shopping online is about to become more popular than ever--and it was already pretty popular. As a result, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon is planning to hire an additional 100,000 employees to staff its warehouses and delivery network. It also plans to give its employees a $2-per-hour raise through April.
Both moves are meant to help the massive online retailer keep up with the extraordinary demand it expects as people make plans to hunker down for a few weeks. And while I'm all in favor of doing everything we can to support our local small businesses, it's worth mentioning that roughly half of everything sold on Amazon's website is from a third-party seller. Most of those are small businesses.
Amazon's move is in direct contrast to other retailers who have taken steps to simply weather the storm. Apple, which operates the most profitable retail stores anywhere, just closed every single one worldwide, with the exception of ones in mainland China. Those locations are reopening after previously closing as the country and company dealt with the original outbreak.
Amazon also made changes to its sick-leave policy, expanding it to include part-time workers, and has also put $25 million towards a fund to help its drivers and other employees who require assistance.
The company has also had its own problems. For example, some third-party sellers have engaged in price-gouging and others promoted fraudulent products that claim to cure Covid-19. In response, Amazon has shut down some seller accounts and warned others that it will take action against sellers who attempt to charge exorbitant prices during a public health crisis.
Still, with the ability to avoid crowded stores and have essentials delivered to customers' door, it makes sense that Amazon would benefit.
By the way, there's also a lesson here for every company. While it absolutely makes sense to protect both your employees and your customers, it's worth considering how you might be able to get creative about serving the needs of those customers while keeping employees paid.
For example, at the same time that Amazon is expanding its fulfillment workforce, it also asked all of its headquarters and office staff to work remotely for the near-term future. Discerning what type of work can be done remotely, and what the best way is to continue to meet your business needs is more important than ever.
While it's not likely that your company will be adding 100,000 new employees, if your business is affected because you can no longer serve customers the way you always have, ask yourself whether there's room for a new way of meeting those needs. Yes, everything has changed--seemingly overnight--but that just means it's time to get creative.
After all, the best way through a crisis is to keep moving. Well, figuratively anyway. You still have to stay home for now.