Amazon today opened its 12th Amazon Go store, and its first in New York City. But there’s something about this iteration of the cashier-less convenience concept that stands out from the rest: It takes cash.
The New York store is the first to accept paper money. Amazon last month confirmed it would begin accepting cash at Amazon Go stores as legislators across the country push for laws that ban cashless retail. New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia all have laws that require retailers to accept cash and other lawmakers are considering following suit.
Advocates for the poor say cashless retail is a discriminatory practice. The concern is for people without bank accounts — an estimated 6.5 percent of American households that don’t have access to financial services according to federal data.
“Adding more payment methods enables more customers to shop in the store. And that’s great for customers and great for us,” Cameron Janes, Amazon’s vice president for physical stores told Business Insider.
Accepting cash is an interesting hedge against Amazon Go’s signature “Just Walk Out” technology. It brings back the possibility of lines that come from employees ringing up items. But it also opens up the store to more potential customers, including those who don’t have smartphones that can power the Amazon Go app.
Customers scan a unique QR code within the app before passing through a set of glass doors, similar to the gates Amazon employees go through when entering their office buildings every morning. Once they’ve picked up their items, customers just leave the store and Amazon Go’s systems automatically debit their accounts for the items they take, sending the receipt to the app.
Business Insider shopped the New York store without the app. There was no signage or directions about paying with cash. The reporter had to flag down an employee to get through the gates. Then when he was done shopping, an employee was waiting to scan items with a Clover Flex device at the “cash cart.”
The 1,300-square-foot store in Lower Manhattan features the standard combination of items made by Amazon, including meal kits, and items from local providers. On its opening day the store appeared to be popular among the financial set that works nearby.