Amazon plans to accept cash at cashierless ‘Go’ stores

Bowing to growing pressure from opponents who say that cashless stores leave out low-income Americans, Amazon plans to take cash at its 10 cashierless “Go” stores.

Amazon Go stores, located in San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle, use AI and cameras to check out customers. Amazon reportedly is considering opening up to to 3,000 by 2021.

“We are working to accept cash,” a spokesperson for Amazon said Wednesday. “Paying cash at Amazon Go will work as you would expect: you’ll check out, pay with cash, and then get your change.” Amazon did not say when Go stores will begin accepting cash. Amazon also said its bookstores will start taking cash, but did not share any details.

Steve Kessel, Amazon’s senior vice president of physical stores, told employees last month that Go stores would add “additional payment mechanisms,” CNBC reported earlier on Wednesday. Kessel was responding to a question about how Amazon plans to address “discrimination and elitism” at cashierless stores, according to the report.

Many retailers and restaurant, including Sweetgreen, Dig Inn and Dos Toros Taqueria, claim that eliminating cash at their stores makes them more efficient and safer. But opponents argue that cashless stores exclude millions of Americans without bank accounts.

Eliminating cash disproportionately hurts minorities, immigrants and senior citizens, critics say. Around 8.4 million US households, or 6.5% of the country, were “unbanked” in 2017 — meaning they did not have a checking or savings account– according to the most recent FDIC data. And close to 17% of black households and 14% of Hispanic households did not have a bank account in 2017.

In 2019, Philadelphia passed a ban on cashless stores. So did New Jersey. And lawmakers in New York City, San Francisco and Washington are all currently weighing bans to prevent retailers and restaurants in their cities from going cashless.

On Wednesday, Philadelphia councilman Bill Greenlee, who sponsored legislation banning cashless stores in the city, said he was “happy to see that Amazon Go will start accepting cash so that all potential customers can shop at their establishments.”

Amazon Go stores sell ready-to-eat lunches, dinners and snacks. Amazon uses cameras and sensors to detect which food customers take from a shelf, then automatically charges them on their phones when they leave.

–CNN Business’ Rachel Metz contributed to this article.