My friends, we're living in the future.
Exhibit A: Amazon Go, the brand-new no-cash, no-credit-card, no-checkout convenience store in Seattle.
It's Amazon--only a brick-and-mortar edition.
So far, its customers have been limited to Amazon employees, but it's opening to the public this morning: 2131 7th Avenue in Seattle, if you happen to be in town.
Not too far from the Starbucks that just announced it won't accept cash anymore.
The concept is what Jeff Bezos calls "Just Walk Out."
Basically, you download an app, allow your every move to be tracked and analyzed in real time, pick up whatever you want from the inventory, and walk right out the door without anyone stopping you.
Then your Amazon account gets charged.
The company let reporters in to take a look before the official opening. One of them even tested the idea it might be shoplifter-proof. Here's what they found.
Gates at the front.
With no checkout, there has to be a way to at least track who is coming and going. The solution looks kind of like a subway turnstile. You download the Amazon Go app, tap it on your way in, and consider yourself tracked.
Literally hundreds of cameras.
The store uses artificial intelligence and hundreds of cameras (many of them in clusters in the ceiling) to track every person who steps inside. Then they track what items you pick, and charges you for them. Put something back, and it's removed from your bill.
Convenience store fare, plus Whole Foods stuff.
The store itself is about 1,800 square feet--not very big. It's heavy on convenience store fare with a dose of Whole Foods. This first "test store" isn't what scares other retailers, of course, it's the idea of Amazon rolling out the concept to entire Whole Foods stores, or even bigger retail concepts.
This is really the crux of the innovation. There is no checkout, no registers, no line, no swiping your card or coming up with change. You literally just walk out of the store with whatever you want. Minutes later, you get a receipt. If there's a mistake, Amazon says you can fix it easily.
A guard for the beer.
With no checkout, there would be nobody to stop an underage customer from walking out with alcoholic beverages. The store sells beer and wine, so there is an employee whose job is to sit in that section of the store and check IDs. Other employees stock shelves and help confused customers; there just isn't anyone working a register or checkout.
No shopping carts or baskets.
No checkout means no need to show anybody all the things you've bought. So, you just carry everything around in whatever bag you'd take it home in (or back to work in, since Amazon anticipates this store will be mostly used by office workers during the day).
No crime (maybe).
If there's no way to get into the store without using the app, that should make shoplifting a lot tougher. I suppose you could jump the turnstile, but you'd be on camera from hundreds of angles. A reporter for The New York Times said he tried to sneak a four-pack of soda out of the store (with Amazon's permission), but the system caught it and charged him for it.
Total impulse purchases.
A lot of the pre-launch reviews say that shopping at Amazon Go feels less like going to a store and more like just raiding your own pantry. That means people potentially pay less attention to the cost of what they're buying--and make more impulse purchases.
Total Big Brother.
I suppose we're past this now, but literally your every move is tracked and on camera. What could possibly go wrong?