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Amazon Go store opens in New York City — and it’s the first to accept cash

Amazon opened its first Go store in New York City this week, though this one is a little different from the others as it’s the first to accept cash.

The usual Amazon Go experience lets you “grab and go” without needing to wait in line to pay at checkout. It’s made possible by the store’s array of cameras and sensors that cleverly track what you put in your bag, with the cost of your shopping automatically charged to your Amazon account when you walk out of the store.

As far as shopping trips go, it’s about as simple as they come, but since the first store opened in early 2018, there’s been increasing criticism that the system — and others like it — discriminates against those without a bank account or smartphone, both of which are needed to shop at Amazon’s high-tech store. Indeed, a 2017 study categorized around 6.5 percent of U.S. households (about 8.4 million people) as unbanked.

In the new Manhattan location, which like the other Amazon Go outlets offers a variety of snacks, drinks, and local foods, those wishing to grab-and-go first need to scan their Amazon app on the turnstile as they enter the store.

However, the process is a little different if you want to pay by cash. For starters, you need to be swiped in by an employee before you can start your shop. Once you have what you need, an employee will scan your items with a mobile device and take your cash payment. The system means the store remains free of space-consuming payments terminals, and allows everyone to continue describing the store as “checkout free.”

In April, Amazon confirmed that it was planning to offer alternative payment options in all 12 of its Go stores, and in the coming months it’s expected to incorporate a similar cash payment process at its 11 other locations.

While the decision to accept cash payments may have irked some Amazon executives who were hoping to offer a truly seamless and super-smooth shopping experience for customers, on the plus side it gives Amazon the freedom to open its Go stores in places where cashless outlets have been banned, among them New Jersey and Philadelphia.

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