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How Amazon Is Using and Selling Its Supply of Masks

By Daniel B. Kline – Apr 6, 2020 at 7:50AM

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The retail giant has faced some very tough decisions.

Amazon.com (AMZN -1.57%) has faced a number of tough choices since demand surged due to the coronavirus. It was forced to slow shipments for many items deemed non-essential -- a move that angered some Prime members, who pay for two-day delivery -- and it has had to decide how to prioritize the sale of essential medical supplies like N-95 face masks while also keeping its own workers safe.

What is Amazon doing?

Amazon ordered millions of non-medical grade masks "weeks ago," according to a blog post by the company. The retailer has been shipping those around the company for use by workers in its warehouses and distribution centers.

An Amazon warehouse worker.

Amazon is providing masks to its warehouse workers. Image source: Amazon.

These are not the masks needed by healthcare workers. Amazon has some of those -- certainly not enough to meet demand -- and has a plan for them as well.

"Any N-95 masks we receive we are either donating to healthcare workers on the front lines or making them available through Amazon Business to healthcare and government organizations at cost," the company wrote.

Difficult decisions

Amazon has also been forced to reserve certain items, like hand sanitizer, for healthcare workers. Those products appear on its site but are only available for order by organizations and institutions that qualify.

The retailer has made tough choices that may anger some of its most loyal customers. Amazon has temporarily limited the perks of Prime membership so it can make sure more people get the essentials they need. That's the right thing to do, but it wasn't necessarily an easy thing to do.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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