Amazon responds to discrimination concerns with plans to accept cash

calendar iconApr 11, 2019

What a win for cash! E-commerce giant, Amazon, has just announced plans for their Amazon Go shops that will see their cashierless stores embracing cash payments.

There is a wave of concern sweeping over the United States of America, that cashless policies discriminate against a substantial portion of unbanked and underbanked consumers.

According to the Federal Reserve's Diary of Consumer Payments 2018 report, in-person transactions make up more than 75% of all transactions indicating that, despite the growth in opportunities to shop and pay online, most transactions still take place in-person.

In 2017, the war on cash reached new heights with card giant, Visa, launching a cashless campaign. The move was highly criticised and as more stores tried cashless policies, more and more people voiced their issues with them.

In Chicago, an esteemed alderman criticised shops banning cash, holding up American banknotes to a camera and reading out what it says, "This banknote is legal tender for all debts public and private."

“We’re in earlier days but it’s an important focus for us and we’ll continue to extend those methods with our stores,”
"Steven KesselAmazon’s senior vice president of physical storesAs quoted by CNBC (Apr 10, 2019)

Since 1965, Massachusetts was the only state in the US with a law against businesses refusing cash. That is, until March 2019, when New Jersey became the second state to do the same. Political representatives in San Fransisco, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. also introduced similar bills to ban discrimination against cash paying consumers.

The waves of support for the freedom to pay with cash received a lot of coverage, particularly when Amazon's objected to Philadelphia's cash-protecting law.

According to reports from Philadelphia's Enquirer, Amazon warned Philadelphia officials behind closed doors that a ban on cashless stores would force it to reconsider its potential plans for Amazon Go stores in Philadelphia.

“We are working to accept cash at Amazon’ll check out, pay with cash, and then get your change.”
"Amazon spokespersonAs quoted by CNBC (Apr 10, 2019)

Excerpt from CNBC

Accepting cash could help temper criticism that Amazon’s cashierless model fails to serve a sizable portion of U.S. households while also expanding Amazon Go’s customer base. More and more cities and states are enacting laws that require stores to accept cash to cater to the unbanked, who account for 6.5 percent (about 8.4 million) of U.S. households, according to a 2017 FDIC report.

RBC Capital Markets estimates that Amazon Go stores make a little less than $15 million a year in total, and would take two years to break even at the current pace.

Welcoming people from different income brackets could contribute to that growth, and accepting SNAP benefits would potentially provide Amazon access to another multimillion-dollar market.

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Last Updated: Apr 16, 2019