Amazon Has De-prioritized Cooking Utensils During the Covid-19 Pandemic

In the midst of a global pandemic, Amazon has been defiant (with me) about keeping cooking utensils on a low priority.  Here are a few screenshots to highlight the problem. This is a dangerous stance because food is a necessity and if you're diagnosed with Celiac now, you will have to go out to a real store to buy new utensils.  People with Celiac have to reorganize their kitchens and often need to buy many new things.  When I asked them about it, one agent actually dropped me without even making an answer, and another offered to make a special case for one item for me.  

Maybe it's my history of having lived through the rationing of a brutal Communist regime, but that offer bothered me more than the priority change.  This pandemic is creating some nasty side effects on the normal pace of life.  I didn't even know how to react to that request.  On the one hand it was someone trying to be nice (and I responded to that).  On the other hand, it's the camel's nose in the tent.  Pretty soon it's going to be all special cases and one on one favors.  That sort of thing makes me react with revulsion.

We should not allow special personal deal making to replace retail customer service, even in an emergency. 

I don't believe the customer service agents at Amazon when they say they've "lowered the priority" of some items though.  I think the truth is, they're having a staffing problem, and a capacity problem.  Also, I think that even under normal circumstances, they were pressing the boundaries of what's possible for a direct marketing company.  So I feel lied to on top of everything else.  In short, I'm having a very hard time feeling like Amazon is a positive influence right now.  Additionally, I don't like that many news outlets are heralding the victory of online shopping over local stores.  I think this pandemic is having the opposite effect.

Even before the pandemic, Amazon was trying to push the possibilities of online retailing.  I was starting to feel embarrassed by the sheer number of packages and the waste.  I tried the "no rush" and the "eco" options.  They just ignored it.  I think their workers are in such a one track mindset and there's so little time to think as they work, that such options were just an additional hassle for them.  And what kind of complaint could I make?  "You deliver too quickly and thus waste resources" is a valid complaint, but hardly weighty.

I've heard all sorts of rumors about Amazon, maybe some are true, maybe others aren't.  But I believe, that they did stop restocking some items.  And that the items they chose to de-prioritize are based on metrics that have nothing to do with the Covid-19 emergency.  If the emergency has food as a priority, then food prep can't be not a priority. That's just illogical.

Maybe people with food allergies and Celiac don't figure into their formula for what is a priority, but this situation highlights once again why we need a real medical option for Celiac and food allergy care. Controlling such things with food alone makes retail a supplier of medical devices (basically).  And they're not used to that.  This would be a great time to have a drug that temporarily suppresses the body's overreaction to gluten (or an allergy).

I never realized before how much a drug solution to Celiac would help us.  Even if it wasn't perfect, it would help in a crisis. 

 I have an old Living Without Magazine (now Gluten Free and More Magazine), which I kept because of the article about disaster planning.  In a pandemic when food shelves all over the country are even more hard pressed than ever, and shortages of everything can be random, it would be a great time to take a Celiac drug and for the next month not worry about cross contamination.  Or hypothetically, if someone was just diagnosed, they would have some time to reorganize their kitchen as budget allows.  Or if hypothetically in normal times, if someone travels, they can reduce the worry of what food they will be eating during travel.

This pandemic highlights once again the deficiencies of our day to day life before the pandemic.  We knew these things were missing, but this is the time when we really feel it.  If we're really headed for a more modern and better future, then we need to be planning for times of crisis better.  And not just in the obvious way.

Amazon's new policy of limitations exacerbates what is already a precarious situation for me.  I went out during a pandemic, with illnesses that can cause life threatening complications, starting with asthma, to buy things that were artificially removed from the online marketplace.  I was leaning so hard on the counter while the person at the checkout was helping me, that he noticed my discomfort.  I tire easily, very easily.  Needing to sit down just increases the things I need to touch.  When I got back to the car, I was gasping to catch my breath. I'd worn gloves and a mask, but I'm no sewing genius.

New Clues about Transmission of Covid-19

This video highlights the risk we're taking when we go out during a pandemic.  With Covid-19 in particular, the number of people who have no symptoms at all is a staggering 60% (of those who test positive).  The Coronavirus appears to be very good at delaying symptoms so it has a much better chance at being transmitted. This is why we're taking worldwide precautions.  We knew the number of carriers was high, but it's worse than we thought.

Additionally, MIT did a test of the sewage system in one section of Boston, and found that the rate of Coronavirus infection, already present in the population was much higher than we thought.  Actually this fact makes me realize that we need another precaution and I wish they'd already said it.  If you have municipal water (not a private well), boil your water, every day, then let it cool, and use that water for drinking.

To illustrate why, I used to live in a town whose water supply was overwhelmed every time it rained too hard.  I learned to sniff the water before I took a shower in the morning because if I got in the shower without thinking...  If I didn't notice that it was smelly, until I was touching the water, I'd get sick.  Every time.

If you have municipal water and an elder at home, you might want to boil your drinking water daily and keep it covered.  Municipal water treatment is not a perfect system. 

Viruses don't have a smell, there's no way to tell.  It's inconvenient, but I think during a lockdown it's not that much to ask that all drinking water should be boiled before use.  Put a large pot of water up to boil each morning, then let it cool and keep it covered when not in use. Additionally, you might want to:

  •  stay away from soda for a while, especially soda from a fountain in a cafeteria or fast food restaurant
  • use boiled water to rinse fresh vegetables that will be eaten raw or
  • eat only vegetables that have been "parboiled" quickly boiled before use (Macrobiotic dieters do this already all the time.)

At least, I wish these precautions would be taken in nursing homes or places where the elderly live, and eat in a cafeteria together, such as "life care" centers. 

Local Stores and Manufacturing will Survive - Here's Why

On the other hand, the trip to a local store, was worthwhile because many of the things I can't buy online, were there in the store.  Of particular interest to me was the Sudafed PE, I found an off brand "Up and Up" which was actually labeled gluten free!  This is not only useful to me for cold symptoms.  But this drug will narrow capillaries in the sinuses of the head, therefore it can stop certain kinds of headaches.  I find it useful for migraines.  And since migraine medicine is rationed (I can only buy up to 6 at a time) and extremely expensive (usually over $100 per pill), PE medication is a necessity for me.

Additionally, in an emergency, if everyone in the US tries to use online stores exclusively, they will be beyond capacity very quickly.  I think that's the real reason for some items being de-prioritized.  I hope that this pandemic will lead to a more sober look at business.  But I see too many articles lately that claim the exact opposite.  They claim that from now on local retail is "dead."  But the truth is, it's specialty and luxury stores that are dead, and it wasn't online shopping that killed them, it was the Walmarts Kohl's, Whole Foods, and similar stores.  Don't go blaming the death of Main Street USA on the pandemic.  It's a waste of mental effort.

I think the articles claiming that online will now completely destroy local shopping, due to the pandemic, are written by people desperate to prop up investing in online retail.  I don't like the distortion, and I won't sit silently while they misinform us.  The behavior of Amazon and other retailers during the Covid-19 pandemic shows the weaknesses, not the strength, of online retail. 

I'm also very glad that globalism got a kick in the teeth by this event.  I was never on board with that, and I don't blame people who are against it, who also blame President Clinton for it.  I'm a hyperlocal sympathizer.  I think we're stronger when we manufacture out own things.  There could be no better demonstration of the weaknesses of global manufacturing than this.

There could be no better demonstration of how globalization hurts us and them than the Smithfield Farms lawsuits about pig farming in North Carolina.  We don't like it when this is done to us (China is a major consumer of American pork), let's stop doing it to every other country who makes our goods.

I think global institutions are great when they are investing in development or protecting human rights, but to sell out our manufacturing to other countries is not a positive effect.  It drives the worst instincts in business.

And I think that the fact that China makes many of our drugs, and China has almost no awareness of Celiac, or protections for people who have it, that's the reason why we are having such a hard time getting gluten free drugs in the US. We can petition our government all we want (and we should), but until global manufacturing means I get to vote for a Chinese government official who has the power to make it a reality, I will have no say in how that drug is manufactured. I think that's the snag.

 I think our relations with China would be better if we traded luxuries, not daily necessities.  Since when are US business people so risk averse that they don't want to make things domestically?  Where's our independence now?

All pictured items need to be replaced when a person is diagnosed, but a toaster is the first thing a newly diagnosed person with Celiac Diseases is told to buy.

Crunchy granola types (like me) love to say we're all interdependent.  We are.  But when it comes to making things to support our daily life and maintain our quality of life, it's better to be as independent as possible.  We'll never be completely independent.  But we can take steps to be more secure, if we learn from this event.


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