The whole point of the Amazon Go store was to create a frictionless retail experience where you could walk in, grab what you want, and walk out, paying automatically with no checkout lines. But now Amazon is getting the point that it just can’t beat city hall, and as CNBC reports, the company is adding cash payment options to its Go stores.
Details are scarce, but CNBC writes:
In an internal all-hands meeting last month, Steve Kessel, Amazon’s senior vice president of physical stores, told employees that the company plans “additional payment mechanisms” at its Go stores. Kessel was responding to a question about how Amazon plans to address “discrimination and elitism” at the cashierless stores, which charge purchases using an app connected to a bank or credit card.
Amazon didn’t elaborate on exactly how it would integrate cash-payment systems in Go stores, or how such implementations would impact the overall store experience. Right now, all a shopper has to do is scan the Amazon Prime app on their phone going into the store, gather the items they want and walk out. Will Amazon need to add a human to accept the cash, or will it be another automated system that keeps track of shoppers in store?
The debate over cashless retail has been a hot-button topic we’ve followed over the past year. While there are many merits to a cashless approach (employee safety, accounting accuracy), going cashless excludes larges swaths of the population that are poor and/or underbanked.
City and state regulators looking out for these constituents (and perhaps wanting to stick it to a tech giant like Amazon a little in the process) have recently started enacting laws forbidding cashless retail stores like Amazon Go. Philadelphia, PA and the state of New Jersey recently passed such bans, and other major metropolises like New York City and San Francisco are considering them. The state of Massachusetts has banned cashless retail since the 1970s.
Amazon reportedly fought the Philadelphia ban to no avail, and perhaps sensing that it would lose further battles and more public sentiment, the company changed course.
While Amazon only has to retrofit the 10 stores it has open now, adding a cash option will no doubt alter the in-store experience and throw up a few roadblocks in the planning of future openings, slowing down Amazon’s march towards 3,000 locations within three years.
Any slowdown could provide an opening for the many cashierless checkout companies to get their technology in the hands of rival bodegas, convenience markets, and grocery stores. Grabango is one, in particular, that already features a checkout system that integrates with existing checkout systems, allowing people to pay any way they like (cash, credit card, etc.).
The point is, we may think of Amazon as an unstoppable tech juggernaut steamrolling over whatever it wants, but a few people in modest positions of power can make the company pay the piper.