Amazon Go doesn’t want to leave cash on the table
In the face of growing criticism that cashless retail technology will leave a big portion of the consumer population in the U.S. behind, Amazon.com has revealed that it plans to allow customers who shop at its Amazon Go stores to pay with cash.
Steve Kessel, senior vice president of physical stores at Amazon, announced to employees in an all-hands meeting last month that the company is planning additional payment options at Amazon Go stores, according to CNBC. The announcement came in response to concerns that there is an element of “discrimination and elitism” to be found in Just Walk Out technology. The technology as it is currently deployed requires shoppers to have a smartphone associated with a credit card or bank account that can be automatically billed upon leaving the store. This prevents those without access to such financial products — a population made up disproportionately of immigrants, minorities and lower-income people — from shopping there.
The move appears to mark a turnaround in Amazon’s stance on compulsory cashlessness.
Earlier in the year, the tech giant went as far as to threaten to not bring Amazon Go to Philadelphia if the city went through with its plan to ban cash-free stores. Philadelphia’s ban on cashless stores passed in March, making it the first city to do so. (In Massachusetts, it is state law that businesses must accept cash.)
It’s not clear exactly how Amazon will facilitate cash payment in the fully-automated stores, although it has taken steps to let cash-only customers use its services before. Last year, the e-tailer launched Amazon Cash. The app allows users to visit participating physical retailers like Speedway and CVS and deposit cash into an Amazon account so that the funds may be used to shop on Amazon.com.
Being able to spend cash might appeal to more than those with special economic situations. In October 2017, Shake Shack piloted a Lower Manhattan location that did not accept cash. Customers complained of the lack of the human element and limitations to the automated ordering. Shake Shack discontinued the pilot less than a year later.
- Amazon exec tells employees that Go stores will start accepting cash to address ‘discrimination’ concerns – CNBC
- Will other cities follow Philly in banning cashless stores? – RetailWire
- Can Amazon Cash open e-commerce up to millions of underbanked consumers? – RetailWire
- Shake Shack ends cashless experiment – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think that Amazon will be able to facilitate cash payments in a way that makes Amazon Go appealing to unbanked and underbanked consumers? What lessons do you think other retailers experimenting with cashless concepts will learn from Amazon’s experience?