PC Brands Struggle With Shipping Delays as Amazon Prioritizes Essentials

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Right now, PC enthusiasts and consumers struggling to put together a home office are encountering a key obstacle when it comes to beefing up their domestic computing power: toilet paper (and other essentials). 

While some vendors, including PC makers, have products available for wanting customers, it's hard to make that happen with Amazon, a key online retailer, only shipping out products that are considered essential, like toilet paper. In the wake of the coronavirus (opens in new tab)outbreak, Amazon is currently on an essentials-first policy (opens in new tab), that puts delivery of products related to basic daily needs over the likes of consumer electronics. This presents a problem for the large section of the workforce currently forced to work from home (opens in new tab), as well as the brands looking to supply them with products. 

For instance, while Nvidia recently reported increased demand (opens in new tab) for laptops (opens in new tab), desktops (opens in new tab)and workstations, customers looking to purchase anything from Amazon that the site doesn't list as essential are seeing delivery dates of April 21.

Complicating matters is the fact that Amazon has yet to publicly list what it considers essential, leaving customers to resort to trial-and-error while browsing for potential purchases. For instance, as of this writing I was able to find laptops (opens in new tab) and even RTX GPUs (opens in new tab) that would allegedly arrive as early as April 4, but Amazon’s “best seller” (opens in new tab)for standing computer microphones (opens in new tab) wouldn’t get to me until April 22. 

Despite companies like Microsoft claiming that supply chains (opens in new tab)are “getting back on rails,” today we're still seeing high demand and possible supply but low shipping capacity. 

Even outside of Amazon, urgent medical equipment demand is sending the price for chartered aircraft skyrocketing, making any kind of shipment-by-air costly, as Bloomberg (opens in new tab) reported.

“Chartered prices have been pushed up from less than $300,000 four to six weeks back to $600,000 to $800,000 in the last few days,” chairman and founder of logistics company Pacific Air (HK) Ltd. Anthony Lau told the outlet Friday. “The price is changing by the hour. We have never, ever experienced this.”

Normally, PC parts manufacturers would simply book cargo space on passenger planes, but the collapse in passenger demand is now encouraging airlines to shift many passenger planes to chartered cargo flights, reducing availability for this less costly alternative. As companies like American Airlines and Korean Air Lines Co. make this transition, cargo rates have increase by over 10%, according to Bloomberg. 

Marine transportation, meanwhile, can extend shipments by 1-2 months, Digitimes (opens in new tab) said. 

To increase shipment of stock already sitting in its warehouses, Amazon recently announced plans to hire (opens in new tab) 100,000 new warehouse and delivery workers. However, Amazon fulfillment centers are particularly prone to COVID-19 spread due to their high volume of workers, as shown by a New York delivery station briefly shutting down (opens in new tab) last week after an employee tested positive for the virus. More workers could increase risk. 

Additionally, PC components like graphics cards (opens in new tab) and power supplies (opens in new tab) could soon see a shift to non-essential status as existing stock sells out, with The New York Times (opens in new tab) reporting that Amazon is no longer accepting certain items, including, consumer electronics in their warehouses.

While global shipping issues are due to impact the whole market, some stores have taken efforts to negate stock shortages. New Jersey-based vendor Maingear told Tom’s Hardware that “We anticipated the demand, so we have plenty of stock of all the components for our systems. So we have not had an impact on our supply chain or delivering systems quickly to our customers.” 

Enthusiast or not, alternatives to Amazon (opens in new tab), like Newegg and more boutique suppliers, might be the best bet for getting hardware for now. 

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.

  • Sedare
    Prices are going up though as well. Ryzen 1600AF went from 85 on amazon to 111. :(
  • digitalgriffin
    I think Amazon is shipping when they can and April 21st is a worst case scenario date.

    I wasn't supposed to get my drives till April 21st, and they are showing up today. However they will sit in the garage for another week. My backup can run powered down for another week.
  • cryoburner
    Sedare said:
    Prices are going up though as well. Ryzen 1600AF went from 85 on amazon to 111.
    That was likely just Amazon automatically raising the price of a product when stock gets low, as they tend to do. It's showing up as "unavailable" now, with only third-party sellers listing it, who may actually be selling the original 1600. The prices of their other Ryzen processors don't seem to have changed.
  • watzupken
    I don't think Amazon is wrong to prioritize delivery of essential goods considering there must be a significant surge in demand with people stuck at home. While I get it that people need to work from home and need the equipment to do so. But there are other channels to get it.
    They are not prioritizing delivery of their own products. If you want a non essential item that will ship quickly just filter the seller as "Amazon.com" Essential or not if it is "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. " it will arrive within two to three days.
    watzupken said:
    I don't think Amazon is wrong to prioritize delivery of essential goods considering there must be a significant surge in demand with people stuck at home. While I get it that people need to work from home and need the equipment to do so. But there are other channels to get it.
    Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. will arrive ASAP!
  • domih
    (1) Thousands of people dying every day vs. concerns about Amazon slowing delivery? Hmm...

    (2) Stop drinking the Amazon Kool Aid. You'll find equivalent prices at many alternatives sites, even local retailers. Just don't forget to take into account the Prime subscription...

    (3) Take a second look at why you want your items within 2 days. Do you really need them that fast... each time?

    (4) I closed all my Amazon accounts one year ago because:

    (a) I did not like the way they filtered my negative reviews which by extension led me to conclude that today the review process is skewed toward being a global happy jambalaya party pushing you into more consumerism.

    (b) Searching for items and filtering on NewEgg or eBay is better than Amazon. With the latter, a search result is probably 50% ads and "payola" and often has nothing to do with what you're looking for.

    (c) Why did "used" suddenly become "renewed"? I say BS.

    (5) Slow delivery and slow buying is good for you. Just try it.