What Is Amazon’s ‘Essential Goods Only’ Policy?

How the change will affect Amazon sellers and customers

Ingrid Burrington
Published in
4 min readMar 20, 2020


Photo: Ina Fassbender/Getty Images

OnOn March 17, Amazon announced that the company would temporarily disable shipments of certain “nonessential” products to its U.S. and European Union warehouses for third-party sellers who participate in the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program. Amazon says it took the step due to shoppers stocking up in response to Covid-19, and “as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock.” By prioritizing these products, Amazon hopes to restock and ship highly sought goods more quickly and make space for more of these products in its inventory. Amazon says it’s “taking a similar approach” with retail vendors. (In Amazon parlance, “sellers” refers to third-party businesses that list their products on Amazon, while “vendors” refers to companies that sell products to Amazon, which then deals with listing products.)

In a moment of intense panic buying and dwindling grocery store shelves, the biggest logistics company on the planet deciding what is and isn’t “essential” might admittedly cause some confusion and more panic. It might also be easy to miss the impact this has on sellers and consumers. Here’s a quick overview.

So, what’s essential?

In a post on the Amazon Seller Central Help section, Amazon offered the following list of categories that would cover “most” of the products its currently accepting:

  1. Baby Products
  2. Health & Household
  3. Beauty & Personal Care (including personal care appliances)
  4. Grocery
  5. Industrial & Scientific
  6. Pet Supplies

However, just because a product is in an approved category doesn’t mean the product is approved. As replies to the announcement in the Seller Central forum indicate, there’s a lot of confusion over what is and isn’t approved—and Amazon’s not providing a lot of guidance. A handmade-soap vendor complained on the forum that their products weren’t being approved, and several grocery vendors claimed they were unable to submit shipments. It’s unclear whether the trouble stems from Amazon’s new approval process or simply too many…



Ingrid Burrington

Precarious author (Networks of New York), educator, and artist (currently, Pioneer Works).