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Amazon And Bitcoin Provide Americans With Opportunity To Go Cashless And Cashierless (#GotBitcoin?)

Amazon Go is a chain of grocery stores operated by the online retailer Amazon, with three locations in Seattle, Washington, three in Chicago, Illinois, and one in San Francisco, California. The stores are partially-automated, with customers able to purchase products without being checked out by a cashier or using a self-checkout station. The first store, located in the company’s Day 1 building, opened to employees on December 5, 2016, and to the public on January 22, 2018. The flagship store has prepared foods, meal kits, limited groceries, and liquor available for purchase.

Online giant tries to overcome challenges caused by retail spaces with higher ceilings, more products. Inc. is testing its cashierless checkout technology for bigger stores, according to people familiar with the matter. If successful, the strategy would further challenge brick-and-mortar retailers racing to make their businesses more convenient.

The online retail giant is experimenting with the technology in Seattle in a larger space formatted like a big store, the people said. The systems track what shoppers pick from shelves and charges them automatically when they leave a store. Although the technology functions well in its current small-store format, it is harder to use it in bigger spaces with higher ceilings and more products, one of the people said, meaning it could take time to roll out the systems at more larger stores.

It is unclear whether Amazon intends to use the technology for Whole Foods, although that is the most likely application if executives can make it work, according to the people. Amazon has previously said it has no plans to add the technology to Whole Foods.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation. Whole Foods declined to comment.

The cashierless system is already in use at seven Amazon Go convenience stores in Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco. The company plans to build more of these small stores, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Each is typically less than 2,500 square feet and sells a range of drinks, prepared foods and groceries.

Bigger Amazon Go stores would represent another threat to traditional grocers disrupted by the online retail giant’s rapid advance into food retail. Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired for roughly $13.5 billion in 2017, has since added grocery pickups and one-hour delivery. It also has lowered prices for Amazon’s Prime members.

Some Whole Foods customers say they don’t want to see the cashierless checkout system at a chain known for its high quality of customer service.

“They need to be careful not to break what has made that business successful in the first place,” said Dennis Keim, a 65-year-old retiree from Lincoln, Neb., who shops at Whole Foods at least once a week.

Amazon has moved deeper into physical retail over the past few years after more than two decades shaping how people shop online. The company has opened more than a dozen bookstores and pop-up shops across the country.

Amazon also has continued to improve the technology inside the Amazon Go stores that first opened to the public earlier this year.

“We’re new to physical space, but it’s important for us,” said Dilip Kumar, vice president of technology at Amazon Go, on a recent tour of the first of those stores in San Francisco. “It tends to build a lot of habit.”

To use Amazon Go, customers scan an app-generated code on their phones as they walk in, then pick up what they want and leave without stopping to check out. Video cameras and other devices track customers as a three-dimensional object throughout the store, charging them for what they take.

Deploying the technology in a Whole Foods store, typically 40,000 square feet and home to some 34,000 items, would be a bigger challenge. Whole Foods sales are driven by produce items, for instance, whose prices vary by weight. Tracking them would be more complicated than tracking packaged foods of uniform shapes and sizes.

Scott Cederberg, a 38-year-old software engineer who bought a yogurt at the Amazon Go store in San Francisco recently, said he would be willing to try a bigger grocery store using the cashierless format.

“It would be convenient not to wait in checkout lines,” he said.

Old Guard Fights Back Against Cashless

Legislation is being proposed to require eateries in New York City accept cash.

New York City Council member Ritchie Torres is introducing legislation to ban businesses from going cashless, arguing that the practice discriminates against poor communities. He has a point that some New Yorkers fortunate to have bank accounts or smartphone apps may fail to appreciate.

The handful of eateries that don’t take legal tender have their reasons, of course: hygiene, faster payments and deterring robberies. And it isn’t as if one doesn’t have thousands of options in the Big Apple , including ubiquitous street carts that don’t accept plastic, much less Apple Pay.

Wealthier New Yorkers sympathetic to Mr. Torres’s cause need not wait for legislation, though. They can vote with their wallets and avoid meals like the $12.50 Koginut Squash Bowl at Sweetgreen—spicy cashew dressing extra—grabbing some filling street meat for half the price.

Just don’t forget to bring cash.

Additional Resources:

Andreas Antonopoulos, World Renown Bitcoin Evangelist And Guru

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