According to reports, Amazon Go stores, which allow customers to skip checkout lines, are to begin accepting cash payments following criticism that the current setup excludes people who can’t afford a phone to access the required app, or those who simply don’t have a bank or credit card. The plan to add cash payments was initially brought up in an internal meeting last month but an Amazon spokesperson has also confirmed that “you’ll check out, pay with cash, and then get your change. … We are working to accept cash at Amazon Go.”
At the internal meeting last month, Steve Kessel, Amazon’s senior vice president of physical stores, told employees that the company was investigating the addition of other payment mechanisms to make the store more accessible. Some recent methods that Amazon has added are a pilot scheme that accepts subsidized SNAP benefits, and an option called Amazon Cash where users can top up their digital accounts with cash at local stores such as 7-Eleven and CVS.
Right now, Amazon Go’s store footprint is very small with just 10 stores across the United States, however, this number could balloon to 3,000 by 2021, as Amazon is allegedly considering an expansion. If left unchecked the situation for the unbanked would become a lot more noticeable.
The pushback against Amazon in this situation could suggest that cash in the wider economy isn’t going anywhere very quickly. With developments such as contactless payments, mobile payments, and so on, it’s easy to think that the end of cash is something that will happen in the short term; this episode reminds us that there is still a need for cash in society.