We tried to pay $1 in cash for a soda at Amazon’s cashier-less convenience store of the future, and it took way longer than expected

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  • San Francisco’scashless” stores are cashless no more.
  • The city recently placed a ban on cashless businesses after it decided that only accepting electronic payment methods and not cash discriminates against customers, including lower-income residents, who do not have bank accounts or credit cards.
  • Now cashless stores, like Amazon’s high-tech Go stores, are required to accept payment in the form of cash in San Francisco.
  • Shopping at an Amazon Go promises a cash-free, in-and-out experience with minimal human interaction by entering and paying through an app on a smartphone.
  • You can still use the app to shop at an Amazon Go in San Francisco, but now the company has rolled out a way for customers to pay in cash, even though the stores aren’t outfitted with checkout counters or dedicated cashiers.
  • We visited an Amazon Go in San Francisco to see how smoothly the process would go and ended up spending 10 minutes trying to pay for a $1 can of Sprite with cash.
  • An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider in an email that “we’re new at accepting cash, and since our stores weren’t designed around this payment method, we’re learning and testing as we go.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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Amazon Go is the Seattle-based e-commerce giant’s futuristic convenience store concept that first launched in early 2018. There are currently locations in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Seattle.

Source: Business Insider

Here’s how the concept goes: a customer walks in and opens the Amazon Go app (which is synced to an Amazon account) and uses a barcode to scan through the turnstile into the store.

Read more: I shopped at Amazon’s cutting-edge convenience store without registers or lines, and now I’m convinced it’s the future of retail — for better or for worse

There’s no cashier in sight, meaning in order to shop at an Amazon Go, you used to need a smartphone, an Amazon account, and a bank account that connects to it.

You peruse the store’s aisles for what you want, with a number of cameras and sensors tracking your movements to later charge you with the items you pick up, and then you walk out with your items.

But the cashless concept has faced some backlash, with some arguing that going entirely cashless discriminates against lower-income residents, who may find it difficult to open a bank account or obtain a credit card and can only pay in cash.

Source: SF Curbed, Business Insider

So San Francisco passed a law in early 2019 barring brick-and-mortar stores from not allowing customers to pay in cash.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

Cashless businesses, like Amazon Go and salad chain Sweetgreen, were given a grace period of a few months in April to develop a way to meet the new requirements. As of August, the policy is strictly in place, with a fine of up to $100 for any establishment that doesn’t abide by it.

Source: SF Curbed

You can still shop cashless at the store with the Amazon Go app, but now you can pay in cash also if you’d like.

So how does this new cash payment process work in San Francisco? We visited an Amazon Go location at 575 Market Street to find out.

We walked in with a $20 bill, and since we weren’t using the Amazon Go app to enter the space, we had to ask a store associate to scan us in with a device. They were serving a customer, so we waited patiently for them to be free.

They eventually used their employee device to scan a barcode on the turnstile to let us into the store.

We kept it simple — just a $0.69 can of Sprite. With tax, it cost a little over $1. When we were ready, we alerted a store associate, who then wheeled a cart out from the back of the store.

He pulled out a device to process our payment and unlocked a cash register that was tucked inside a drawer. It took him a few minutes to get the device to cooperate, but it eventually scanned the barcode on the Sprite.

The store associate gave us our change, but the device used to print receipts was out of paper. we eventually decided we didn’t need a receipt and told him not to worry about trying to print one.

We left the store about ten minutes after walking in. Both store associates were helpful, but it was obvious that Amazon Go was not built to be like a conventional store with a cashier on-site. Its new cash payment option, while beneficial to cash-paying customers, took too long.

Many customers coming to shop at Amazon Go — and other stores like it that offer quick, electronic payment options — likely use the app to enter, shop, and pay in a timely fashion. We asked the sales associate how many cash-paying customers come through in a day, and he said not too many.

But a 2017 report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) estimates that 6.5% of households in the US do not have bank accounts and instead use cash as payment.

Source: SF Curbed and FDIC

So for those who do wish to pay with cash, including cash payment options ensures that these customers aren’t excluded, which is a step in the right direction. It just might take you a little longer to get your goods.

Source: The Associated Press