When Amazon began opening its Go stores, the company’s main point of differentiation was that they were a “cashless” convenience store. Customers entered Amazon Go stores by scanning the app, which is linked to a credit card or Amazon account. To check out, customers just rang up their own items.
The company had big plans to open up 3,000 locations by 2021, but recently faced complications. Earlier this year, major cities like Philadelphia and New York began banning cashless stores.
Although an Amazon spokesperson tried swaying Philadelphia’s decision by saying a Go store wouldn’t open there if the bill went through, Philadelphia passed it anyway. Now, Amazon has opened its first Go store in New York City — and they’re taking cash.
Customers using cash are swiped in by an Amazon employee, who scans items with a mobile device to check them out, Business Insider reported. However, there’s still no cash registers inside the store.
Bans over cashless stores may seem frivolous, but many supporters noted how a cashless business structure discriminates against lower-income people.
In 2017, a report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found 6.5 percent of American households are “unbanked,” meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account.
When Philadelphia originally began considering a cashless store ban, Councilman Bill Greenlee, “argued that cashless retail is unjust in a city with a 26 percent poverty rate, where many lower-income residents tend to use cash,” according to Philly Voice.
Councilman Ritchie Torres expressed a similar viewpoint when introducing his own bill in New York City. The New York Times reported Torres cited concerns for “New Yorkers who face historically rooted barriers to both credit and banking.”
Some people may be upset by cashless store bans, but it’s not as if they’re now requiring everyone to carry cash. After all, people are still able to use Amazon Go stores following its original cashless design. But now, people who lack a smartphone or bank account are able to shop too.