Online retailing giant Amazon is opening its first cashier-less supermarket, where shoppers can grab milk or eggs and walk out without waiting in line or ever opening their wallets. It’s the latest sign that Amazon is serious about shaking up the $800 billion grocery industry.
The new store opened Tuesday in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, shoppers scan a smartphone app to enter the store. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves. Items are charged to an Amazon account after leaving.
Called Amazon Go Grocery, the new store is an expansion of its 2-year-old chain of 25 Amazon Go convenience stores.
Hoping to catch up to Amazon, other retailers and startups are racing to bring similar cashier-less technology to stores. Earlier this month, 7-Eleven said it is testing a cashier-less store for employees inside its offices in Irving, Texas.
But cashier-less stores have come under scrutiny from lawmakers and advocates who say they discriminate against low-income people who may not have a credit card or bank account. Amazon has since let customers pay with cash at its convenience stores, and the company said shoppers can do the same at the grocery store by alerting a worker to let them in through the turnstile.
The stores also eliminate the job of cashiers. Janes declined to say exactly how many people the store employs, only saying it is “several dozen.” Workers greet customers and walk around aisles restocking shelves. One employee stands by the alcohol section, checking IDs of shoppers who want wine or beer.
While cashier-less stores remove the annoyance of waiting in line to pay, it also kills some joys of the supermarket. There’s no one to bag groceries. Instead, Amazon gives out reusable bags so shoppers can fill them as they shop. And there’s no deli counter, butcher or fishmonger. Instead, sliced ham, steaks and salmon fillets are already packaged and found in refrigerated shelves.