Inside Amazon - March 2nd, 2020

Inside Amazon (Mar 2nd, 2020)

Amazon and the coronavirus / Warehouse shut downs / Books on virus in stock on Amazon

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1. Current stock performance

$AMZN (At close February 28 4:00PM EST): $1,883.75-0.55 (-0.03%) // More info and updates

2. Inside.com has learned from anonymous sources inside the Amazon community that at least two of the company's warehouses in California are closed due to concerns over the coronavirus and employees who work in warehouses in Texas are awaiting word of possible closures there. Conjecture has been fueled by some warehouse locations suddenly giving employees extra time off last week, while others were working overtime - presumably to pick up the slack from closed warehouses. A warehouse in Moreno Valley, Calif., was said to have closed last week for maintenance, sparking speculation among employees that the closure may be tied to coronavirus precautions.

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3. Two Amazon employees in Milan, Italy, are under quarantine with the coronavirus, according to a late Sunday announcement from company headquarters. Amazon spokesperson Dan Perlet told Reuters that the company is not aware of any employees in the U.S. affected by the virus. The company has added to its travel advisory that employees do not travel to Vento or Lombardy regions of Italy. Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region. -- REUTERS

4. In related news, Amazon sent word to 789,000 employees on Saturday to halt non-essential travel both in the U.S. and abroad to protect against the coronavirus. According to the New York Times, Amazon's senior VP for worldwide operations. Dave Clark, emailed the operations team to delay meetings that require travel until April or after. New York Times columnist Mike Isaac said in his article that he was trying to find some coronavirus story angles "rather than forecasting the apocalypse." He's wondering if traffic on streaming services like Prime will increase, and whether delivery companies will see more business from customers who want to avoid leaving their homes. -- NEW YORK TIMES

5. Interviews for some positions at Amazon will now be held via video rather than on-site to avoid possible coronavirus contamination, according to a spokesperson speaking to Business Insider Friday. Amazon recruiters sent emails last week "requesting additional information from all candidates," including asking if they have traveled or been in contact with anyone who has traveled to China recently. Since then, interviews have been conducted using Chime, Amazon's internal meeting and video chat software. As Inside Amazon reported last week, the company currently is filling 37,000 jobs advertised on its website. -- BUSINESS INSIDER

6. Some Amazon sellers are taking advantage of coronavirus worries to sell products, especially books. Jesus vs Satan: The origins of Coronavirus and Military Virus Apocalypse: Biological Warfare, Bioweapons and China Coronavirus Pandemic are two of the books Forbes reported finding on the site, along with others that hypothesize the pandemic's origins. Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is not planning to remove any of these books since they do not violate Amazon policies and the company aims to provide its customers with a variety of viewpoints. Vox reported that in scanning Amazon's best-selling products Friday afternoon, it found many items that are "best sellers" are in the cleaning and disinfecting line. In the Home and Kitchen category, products including anti-dust disposable masks topped the sales list. The masks had only a 2.3-star rating. Disinfecting wipes, immune support supplements bottled water and instant ramen were the biggest sellers in the grocery category. -- FORBES

7. According to data from Marketplace Pulse, a company that tracks e-commerce movement, 49 percent of Amazon's top sellers are based in China and many sellers not in China source goods from there. Adweek reports that these sellers are already facing product shortages and fear they may sell out of popular items before Prime Day on July 6. Although tens of thousands of sellers are based in the epicenter of the virus, only 1.8 percent of products sold on Amazon are manufactured there. Manufacturing in China has slowed, first impacted by holiday shutdowns for the Lunar New Year. Many sellers stock up on goods before the shutdown each year, but China has extended some factory closings as the virus continues to spread. -- ADWEEK

8. Grand Forks, N.D., is wondering where its Amazon workers are. Two years ago, Amazon in Grand Forks vacated its offices and told approximately 200 employees to work from home. A Job Services of North Dakota spokesperson says that he knows that a few of those employees are still in the area, but is not sure if others have moved out of Grand Forks or on to other companies. The city's concern has grown as they have seen other areas announcing plans to hire thousands of employees. The March 1 article explains why this has come to light. "The question is relevant as a means of testing Grand Forks' ability to hold on to its workers, in this case, workers who aren't financially dependent on a brick-and-mortar office and, as a result, appear to have a great degree of latitude in deciding where to call home." A flood in 1997 and the 2008 financial crisis, along with other factors, have slowed Grand Forks' economy and shrunk its workforce over the last two decades. Amazon did not return a call made by the Grand Forks Herald to ask for comments. -- GRAND FORKS HERALD

9. Day 1 Academies, the tuition-free school initiative in Seattle that Jeff Bezos began plans for in 2018, has begun hiring. Montessori education specialist, head of school, and lead teacher were just three of 11 positions advertised on the Bezos Day One Fund website. According to the website, the Day One Fund's mandate is to "create and operate a network of full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities." -- GEEKWIRE

10. The Amazon Echo Studio smart speaker has finally gone on sale for $30 off its regular price. The star of the Echo brand, the Amazon Echo Studio smart speaker, held its original retail price of $200 even throughout this past holiday season; it's now available on Amazon for $169.99. The speaker features immersive sound with Dolby Atmos technology. -- CNET

Written and curated by Kathleen Walder, writer and humorist who began her journalism career using  a typewriter.  She co-hosts KatSoup, a weekly program on Ohio’s Radio Reading Service for the visually impaired and print disabled. Her blog, Date-a-palooza, takes a jaundiced look at the world of online dating. Follow her on Twitter @KatWalder.

Edited by Beth Duckett, staff writer at Inside.

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