The New York Times Magazine had a long story over the weekend about how the pandemic briefly brought Amazon "to its knees — by prematurely bringing about a future it has long been planning for."
"… in a time of crisis, Amazon’s vaunted e-commerce machinery was failing, and at the very tasks for which its millions of customers flocked to it. All of a sudden, the Everything Store wasn’t even as well stocked as, say, an urban corner store, or a gas station, or a smaller online retailer. To customers trying to place orders, it didn’t just seem overwhelmed — the site seemed broken, more like a sprawling, malfunctioning machine than a retailer under unusual stress. More than just failing them, it seemed to be exposing them to scams and exploitation, a peculiar sort of store that seemed to have lost control of its own shelves. There were signs of distress in Amazon’s vast network of fulfillment centers, too. Employees were falling ill. Some workers were staying home out of fear for their own health; others staged walkouts."
In so many ways, this was the future Amazon had been planning for: Brick-and-mortar stores were closed, consumers were eager to order all manner of things online and the brand was all but synonymous, already, with e-commerce … To customers and investors alike, the company has long been the alternative to modes of shopping that may now be in accelerated and terminal decline. But for a few weeks, Amazon — the borderline-magic website that makes things appear on your doorstep — showed us what it was really made of, revealing something more complicated and delicate than its seamless surface usually lets on: machinery half-built and already straining under its own success, supported by an army of invisible middlemen and kept running by hundreds of thousands of workers."
You can read the entire piece here.