Amazon Go Stores to Start Accepting Cash Following Discrimination Concerns
Amazon Go stores, which let customers buy items without waiting in checkout lines, will start accepting cash, amid intensifying criticism that the company is discriminating against the unbanked. 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. Philadelphia last month became the first major U.S. city to ban cashless stores despite Amazon’s reported attempt to block the law. The state of New Jersey followed a couple weeks later, and cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago are considering similar laws. Massachusetts has had a law in place for decades requiring stores to accept cash.
Total Retail's Take: Having to offer another payment option — in this case, cash — adds convenience to consumers, but a cost for Amazon. The retailer will likely have to hire cashiers for its Amazon Go stores now that customers will be able to pay for their purchases with cash. In addition to increased costs, the move to accept cash transactions could negatively impact the in-store experience for Amazon Go customers. The stores typically range in size from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, and the addition of checkout lanes combined with the heavy foot traffic the Amazon Go stores have seen to-date could create long lines and cramped shoppers. What Amazon gains by offering the ability to pay with cash at its Go stores is an expansion of its potential in-store customer base. According to a 2017 report from the FDIC, approximately 6.5 percent of U.S. households are "unbanked." Those consumers will soon have the ability to shop in Amazon Go stores, which they previously couldn't do.