San Francisco Considers Ban on Cashless Stores

Retailers, meanwhile, forge ahead with self-checkout kiosks.

March 28, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Lawmakers in San Francisco are considering a ban on cashless stores — including Amazon Go — that would make it one of a growing list of cities forbidding cashless retailers, according to a report from CNBC.

Proponents say cashless stores can discriminate against low-income shoppers, who may not have a bank account or credit card. Opponents reply that going cashless is good for consumers and reduces the risk of robbery and the ability to evade taxes.

In February, San Francisco’s District Five Supervisor Vallie Brown introduced the bill that would prohibit cashless retailers. Recently, Brown expanded the proposal to include automated Amazon Go stores, which were originally excluded from the proposed ban since there are no employees on hand to deal with cash.

Amazon Go customers simply walk in, take what they want and leave without having to check out at a cashier station. The stores’ cameras track the items customers take and automatically charge their respective Amazon account when they exit. While there are just a few Amazon Go stores operating today, Bloomberg has reported that the company hopes to open as many as 3,000 locations by 2021.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the proposed legislation in San Francisco and how similar measures recently passed in Philadelphia and New Jersey will affect plans for Amazon Go growth.

Bans and threats of bans of no-cash stores aren’t stopping retailers from trying the no-cashier concept. In Charlotte, North Carolina, Harris Teeter is exchanging the traditional checkout lanes for self-checkout, but only at its uptown location on West Sixth Street, reports the Charlotte Observer.

The uptown store is 18,000 square feet, less than half the size of a traditional Harris Teeter, and it is often crowded with shoppers making small transactions. By moving to completely self-checkout, Harris Teeter expects to eliminate long lines at its registers and provide better customer service.

Like many cities, Charlotte is home to several retailers with self-checkout kiosks, including Target, CVS, Publix and Walmart. But the uptown Harris Teeter is the only known store in the region to transition to completely self-checkout.