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Amazon ‘unintentionally’ buried competitors with faster delivery in search queries

If you have been frustrated at not being able to get some of your orders filled in a timely manner from Amazon, you may have better luck with other independent sellers on the marketplace. However, they are somewhat hard to find due to an oversight on Amazon’s part.
Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it would be prioritizing deliveries of essential items and delaying non-essential orders by up to a month. So while you can still get items like groceries or toilet paper (if you can find them in-stock) with speedy delivery, other things like electronic equipment and furnishings might not arrive until mid to late April.

However, delivering of non-essentials does not have to be slow. Several Amazon vendors still ship these items faster—that is as long as you can find their listings. According to Recode, the Amazon Marketplace has been hiding the more expeditious delivery options of competing independent shippers.

Many sellers of items ranging from sporting equipment to office supplies have been offing faster shipping times than Amazon, often at lower prices. Unfortunately, search queries for these products have been minimized by the website’s algorithms to favor offerings sold directly from Amazon warehouses rather than retailers that have the same item and ship them independently.

Recode informed Amazon of this seemingly anti-competitive practice, and the company claimed it was an oversight when adjusting its algorithms for the new prioritization. It claims the hidden listings were completely unintentional and that it is working to rectify the matter.

“To address the need for high-priority items and ensure customers are receiving deliveries as quickly as possible, we’ve made a number of adjustments to how our store works,” said a spokesperson. “In this case, some of these changes have resulted in an error which, in some cases, resulted in an unintended variation in how we select which offers to feature. We are working to correct it as quickly as possible.”

Its excuse is plausible. During regular business operations, Amazon can usually ship items faster from its warehouses than outside vendors. So algorithms were likely tuned in that manner before the slowdown. The company should adjust the search function to run checks on delivery times and prioritize those sellers whose shipping is faster, which should not be hard to do.

In the meantime, if you are looking for vendors who are offering quicker delivery, find the small text box that says “New & Used” (see example above). Clicking the on this will open a list of all sellers offering that product, as well as show shipping costs and delivery times.