Weeks after Philadelphia and New Jersey passed laws banning cashless stores, Amazon said Wednesday that its cashierless retail locations will start accepting cash.
Amazon plans “additional payment mechanisms” at its so-called Go stores, which allow consumers to grab items they need and leave without checking out, a company executive told employees last month, CNBC reported. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that the company plans to take cash at its Go stores, but provided no other details.
“We are working to accept cash at Amazon Go," the spokesperson said in an email.
Amazon had warned Philadelphia officials that a ban on cashless stores would affect its plans to consider Philadelphia for an Amazon Go store. Emails obtained by The Inquirer showed that the web giant also lobbied city officials to try to carve itself out of the cash requirement.
As technology gives consumers more ways to pay, including with their smartphones, some stores have gone cashless to improve efficiency, reduce the risk of robbery, and avoid the hassle of handling cash. In Philadelphia, that includes the salad chain Sweetgreen, the coffee shop Bluestone Lane, and several locations at the University of Pennsylvania food hall, Franklin’s Table.
But lawmakers said cashless stores effectively discriminate against poor consumers who do not have access to credit or bank accounts. Nearly 6 percent of residents in the Philadelphia region were unbanked in 2017 and roughly 22 percent were considered “underbanked,” according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D., Gloucester), who sponsored the New Jersey law requiring retailers to take cash, said legislative efforts to ban cashless stores may have motivated Amazon. Similar legislation has been introduced in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s a wise business move by Amazon and it acknowledges the fact that many people don’t have access to credit or simply don’t choose to always use it,” Moriarty said.
City Councilman Bill Greenlee, an at-large Democrat who sponsored the cashless ban in Philadelphia, said he is "happy to see that Amazon Go will start accepting cash so that all potential customers can shop at their establishments.”
Amazon Go stores are currently located in Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago. Amazon plans to open up to 3,000 Amazon Go cashierless stores across the country over the next few years. The convenience stores allow consumers with a mobile app to grab items and walk out, eliminating the need for a traditional checkout process. After the customer leaves, Amazon charges the user’s online account.