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Amazon Go stores are ‘working to’ start accepting cash

Amazon Go stores are ‘working to’ start accepting cash
A shopper leaves an Amazon Go store in Chicago with his purchases in September. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

Amazon Go stores, the app-enabled shops where customers can simply walk out with their purchases — no checkout clerk needed — plans to begin accepting cash amid growing criticism that the process discriminates against low-income shoppers.

The streamlined convenience stores, which launched last year, feature meals, snacks, grocery items and, at some locations, beer, wine and spirits. Customers grab what they want, and Amazon.com Inc.’s technology automatically detects which products are taken from the shelves, keeping track in a virtual cart. The purchases are billed to shoppers’ Amazon accounts.

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But such cashless stores are coming under increasing criticism for discriminating against the “unbanked” — primarily low-income people who do not have smartphones or access to credit lines.

“We are working to accept cash at Amazon Go,” an Amazon representative said in an email Wednesday.

In March, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to ban cashless retail stores, with the law set to take effect July 1. Days later, New Jersey’s new governor signed a similar ban into law.

The backlash comes as Amazon has started to aggressively roll out its futuristic convenience stores. Two of the company’s 10 Amazon Go stores are in San Francisco; Seattle and Chicago have four each.

A recent survey by the FDIC found that 6.5% of households in the United States were unbanked in 2017, meaning they had no checking or savings accounts. The unbanked rates were much higher among lower-income households.

The unbanked rate in the Los Angeles area was 9%, according to the survey.

Amazon is not the only company experimenting with cashless locations. Salad chains Sweetgreen and Tender Greens and hair salon chain Dry Bar are among others that have policies against accepting paper money.

Channick writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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