Are Amazon’s at-cost face shields an act of goodwill or predatory behavior?
Engineers at Amazon.com’s Prime Air unit have developed face shields that will soon be made available at a very low cost to frontline healthcare workers on the e-tailing and tech giant’s site.
Amazon, which began the process of designing and manufacturing the shields in March, gave the first 10,000 it produced away for free. The company is looking to bring another 20,000 to market within a few weeks with prices about a third of the cost of those currently sold on the site, which range from $12 to $35. Amazon’s plan is to begin selling shields solely to medical professionals before eventually making them available to the general public.
“We have decided to start mass-producing these face shields and aim to make hundreds of thousands available over the next few weeks, at-cost,” wrote Brad Porter, a vice president and distinguished engineer leading Amazon’s drone and robotic initiatives, on the company’s “Day One” blog.
While healthcare professionals and organizations are undoubtedly pleased to gain access to personal protective equipment at a reasonable price, there is also a concern in some quarters that Amazon is looking to buy a significant share of the market with its shield pricing strategy.
Even so, Michael Kades, director of markets and competition at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told BBC News, that while some may worry about “Amazon’s predatory behavior,” many more will be pleased that it is making lower-cost shields “at a time of crisis.”
Amazon has faced criticism from within and outside its organization related to worker safety issues, and the company has had its vaunted supply chain severely tested by increased demand for groceries and other products as most of America has been largely locked down to stay-at-home orders and calls for social distancing. The company has also had to respond to third-party sellers that have attempted to take advantage of the public’s fears by price gouging customers on items in high demand.
The company has taken public steps to address its various critics, including recently announcing it would spend $4 billion or more in the current quarter on COVID-related expenses.
- Using Prime Air’s innovation and scale to help protect medical professionals – Amazon.com
- Coronavirus: Amazon to make face shields and sell at cost – BBC News
- There go the profits. Amazon to spend $4B on coronavirus response. – RetailWire
- Can Amazon weed out marketplace fraudsters via video chat? – RetailWire
- Amazon puts new online grocery customers on hold, reconfigures Whole Foods – RetailWire
- Is Amazon facing a crossroads with the coronavirus pandemic – RetailWire
- The coronavirus outbreak has shifted the online competitive landscape – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are concerns about Amazon’s motivation for developing face shields at-cost for frontline healthcare workers valid or overblown? Do you think that other large retailers are likely to follow Amazon’s lead in developing their own private label personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and/or the general public?