In brief: Amazon is making some significant changes to the way it handles its business during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will begin to prioritize high-demand items like medical supplies and household staples by temporarily suspending the shipment of many other non-essential products sold through the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program.

The FBA program, for the unaware, allows third-party sellers to take advantage of Amazon's pre-existing shipping and logistics network to get products in the hands of customers. It allows for a more hands-off approach to deliveries, which can be a godsend for smaller sellers that might not have the resources of a bigger corporation.

At any rate, the suspension will block sellers from sending anything other than the absolute essentials through the FBA program. Items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, hand soap, and other similar products will all be "prioritized," which will enable Amazon to more quickly receive, restock, and ship them out to customers.

The full list of prioritized categories is as follows:

  • Baby Products

  • Health & Household

  • Beauty & Personal Care (including personal care appliances)

  • Grocery

  • Industrial & Scientific

  • Pet Supplies

Amazon warns that mis-categorizing products is a violation of its listing policies, and could lead to account suspension. Additionally, even if you have a correctly labeled product that should theoretically be prioritized, Amazon may decide, at its own discretion, to exclude the item anyway.

These changes could negatively impact the livelihoods of hundreds (if not thousands) of sellers, but Amazon feels that this policy is worth the cost. Hopefully, things can return back to normal soon; perhaps after Amazon makes some progress with its ramped-up hiring efforts. The retail giant hopes to put an end to these restrictions on April 5, but that could very well change if the COVID-19 dilemma gets much worse.

We should point out that, despite these limitations, nothing is stopping third-party sellers from arranging their own deliveries. While FBA is the more convenient option for many, they can always ship and handle their products directly through a company like UPS or FedEx.