- Amazon will begin accepting cash payments in its cashier-free Go stores, CNBC first reported. The retailer has not specified a timeline, nor has it determined precisely how it will accept cash payments for the stores. In a company meeting last month, senior vice president of physical stores Steve Kessel said Amazon plans to add "additional payment mechanisms" to the stores, CNBC reported.
- An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to Retail Dive in an email that the company is working on accepting cash at Go locations. "Paying cash at Amazon Go will work as you would expect: you’ll check out, pay with cash, and then get your change," the spokesperson said.
- The online retailer has faced criticism for its cash-free policy, with Philadelphia recently instituting a ban on cashless stores while others, including San Francisco and New York, weigh similar measures. Amazon has been working on adding additional payment methods across the company. It has piloted a new programs such as Amazon Cash, which allows shoppers to add cash to their digital account, and the ability to accept SNAP benefits online.
Amazon’s decision to eventually accept cash for its Go stores stems from displeased lawmakers and critics who accused the retailer and others like it of discriminating against consumers who don't have a bank account or credit card. These unbanked consumers represent 6.5% of the U.S. population, according to a 2017 FDIC survey.
In March, San Francisco lawmakers began considering a proposal to ban cashless stores, including Amazon Go, which operates two locations in the city. New Jersey and Philadelphia have passed cashless store bans, and Massachusetts has had a ban in place since 1978.
If cities and states continue to take action against cashless stores, it could hinder Amazon's goal to open 3,000 Go stores by 2021. Amazon has reportedly requested an exemption from Philadelphia's law, but continuing to fight legislation state by state, city by city, would likely be cumbersome for the company.
In addition to the recent efforts in New Jersey, Philadelphia and San Francisco, New York City and Chicago are considering a ban on cashless stores, and a Washington D.C. council member is floating a ban on cashless restaurants.
How exactly Amazon will integrate cash processing at stores designed to be friction-free remains to be seen. According to CNBC, the company is carefully weighing its options right now. In order for things to run smoothly, the retailer may need to have an employee on hand to provide change or replenish cash in self-checkout machines.
With just 10 Go stores currently in place, Amazon won't have to spend a lot to make updates. With its steep expansion plans, though, the company will want to make any changes thoughtfully, and in a manner that won't bog down its "just walk out" model.
To keep pace with Amazon Go, competing retailers have added mobile scanning technology to their stores. Competing tech firms, meanwhile, are replicating the e-tailer's technology and beginning to test it out in various locations.
Looking abroad, cashless stores are booming overseas in China as many retailers move towards adopting WeChat and AliPay. However, even they have faced criticism over accessibility as the elderly, tourists and rural citizens aren’t familiar with the technology. In February, Amazon announced plans to open its first Go store outside of the U.S. in London, but it is unclear if the retailer will be accepting cash at Go stores internationally and if it will continue to expand its cashless store overseas.