- Question: [Thursday, 12th Teves 5781]
Is it permitted for me to make an order from Amazon if the arrival date is Shabbos? Also, on Amazon prime we are guaranteed the product within a certain time [i.e. two days,48 hours]. Am I allowed to order an Amazon prime product within 48 hours before Shabbos [i.e. after Wednesday night], or must I make sure to order it prior to 48 hours before Shabbos [i.e. before Wednesday night]?
It is permitted for you to make an order of a product even if it is possible that it may arrive on Shabbos, so long as you do not explicitly instruct the company to deliver it on Shabbos, and so long as you do not instruct or force the company to process your order over Shabbos in order so it arrive by a certain desired date. Thus, practically there is no problem to make an order on Amazon even if it is possible that the order will be processed, fulfilled, or delivered over Shabbos, as there is no explicit instruction from the buyer to Amazon for them to do so, and Amazon is also not obligated to do any work for you over Shabbos on behalf of fulfilling your order. This allowance applies even regarding Amazon prime shipping options. However, this only applies if you are not given the choice of choosing a delivery date for Saturday. If, however, Amazon does give you a choice of choosing a delivery option for Saturday, as is available by select products and select ZIP Codes, then you may not select the Saturday delivery option.
Explanation: It is forbidden to hire a Gentile to perform a delivery on one’s behalf on Shabbos if doing so involves a Shabbos prohibition [i.e. Techum Shabbos, carrying, driving car], even if the work arrangement was discussed before Shabbos. However, if one does not ask or expect the hired Gentile to specifically work on Shabbos on behalf of the delivery, and it is the gentile’s prerogative of when to do the delivery, then it is permitted for the Jew to hire such a Gentile for the delivery even though he may indeed choose to do the delivery on Shabbos. This applies so long as the Gentile receives payment for his work, which is always the case with a company who delivers your purchased product.
Based on this it is clear that it is forbidden to ask a Gentile to deliver something on one’s behalf on Friday night through Saturday. This prohibition likewise applies even if the delivery will not occur on Saturday, but one asks the gentile to deliver it by a certain date which automatically forces him to also work on Saturday on behalf of the delivery. Thus, when one makes an order, it is forbidden for one to choose a Saturday delivery option, being that by doing so one forces the Gentile to drive his truck [and perhaps carry one’s package in an area without an Eiruv and past Techum Shabbos] on Saturday. However, on most Amazon orders this option of choosing a Saturday delivery time is not even available, and in the select orders that it is available one is to simply avoid choosing this option.
Now, regarding the restriction that one may not choose a delivery date that will force the delivery company to work over Shabbos, in general, by all Amazon orders there is enough time span for Amazon to fulfill the delivery without working on Shabbos. Even by the 48-hour delivery option, Amazon usually has the ability to fulfill this order right away even within hours, and they simply choose to push it off for their own convenience in accordance to what’s most economically beneficial for them. Accordingly, making an order that will be delivered within 48 hours does not force Amazon to work on Shabbos to fulfill their promises, as if they wanted to they could deliver it before Shabbos. Furthermore, Amazon explicitly states on its website [in its customer service section regarding shipping and delivery dates] that the delivery time is based on business days which does not usually include Saturday and Sunday. In their words, Transit time is based on your chosen shipping speed. We calculate transit time using business days. Saturday and Sunday don’t usually count toward the transit time. Accordingly, Amazon is not obligated to process your order over the weekend and therefore certainly there is no binding instruction from the buyer to Amazon to do any work over Shabbos on behalf of his order, as Amazon expressly states that they are at luxury to not process delivery over the weekend. Hence there is never any halachic issue with making an Amazon order that may arrive on Shabbos, or may be processed over Shabbos, unless one explicitly chooses a Saturday delivery option which is available on only select orders.
Sources: Admur 247:1-6; Michaber 247:1; Shabbos 19a; Piskeiy Teshuvos 247:1; See regarding the prohibition to ever instruct the gentile to do the work on Shabbos, or give him a due date for the work which will force him to do it on Shabbos: Admur 244:1 and 9-10; 247:1; 252:4; Michaber 247:1; M”A 244:1; M”B 244:2 and 24 in name of Taz; Kaf Hachaim 244:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 244:4; See regarding Amazon’s delivery options and their policy: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=GV8H5D3MMAR7JBLF https://querysprout.com/how-does-amazon-ship-so-fast/