San Francisco is the latest local government to put the kibosh on cashless retail operations. As the San Francisco Examiner wrote, yesterday the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation to ban cashless businesses, which will go into effect 90 days after its final approval.
The move follows similar legislation passed recently by both New Jersey and Philadelphia (and currently being contemplated by New York), all of which aim to help reduce income inequality and protect the rights of the non-banked and underbanked who don’t have access to a credit card. While businesses have argued that going cashless is more accurate, secure and efficient for consumers, ultimately, regulators see it as discriminatory.
There are some exceptions to San Francisco’s new law. As the AP reports: “Temporary pop-up stores and internet-only businesses such as ride-hailing companies would be exempt, as would food trucks, which say they lack the resources to handle cash.”
San Francisco had initially exempted Amazon Go from the ban, but then changed its mind in March. The city’s new rule also comes just days after Amazon launched its first cash-accepting Amazon Go store, which is also the first Go store in New York. The new location features a dedicated entrance for cash payers and a counter in the middle of the store where a person with a handheld scanner rings up shoppers and accepts payment. Amazon hasn’t indicated when it will add cash payments to its other stores, but the company basically has three months to get its three SF locations compliant with the new law.
There are actually a number of startups looking to retrofit existing supermarkets with Amazon Go-like cashierless checkout. But as these new cash-requiring rules pop up around the country, it will be table stakes for any such startup to tie in with a retailer’s POS system to enable both grab-and-go checkout as well as traditional payment checkout.