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Amazon to accept cash at cashless stores in SF

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Going, going, gone

Interior of the Amazon Go store in SF, with food cases visible nearby. Photo by MariaX

Cashless Amazon stores will be cashless no more, as the Seattle-based internet retail juggernaut bowed this week to calls for it to broaden access to its physical Amazon Go stores in cities like San Francisco.

At a meeting of the Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee Thursday, Supervisor Vallie Brown credited the concession as a win for her proposed new law outlawing cashless storefronts in SF.

“Amazon will begin to accept cash in their stores after folks like me and others correctly called out the discrimination and elite nature of the current business model, which requires customers to have bank accounts and as mart phone,” Brown told committee members.

“They are also now looking at ways to accept SNAP benefits,” she added, praising the company for abandoning what she calls “the inequity of their business practices.”

Brown’s anti-cashless store law did not originally apply to Amazon locations, but she expanded the proposal in March. Amazon presently has two Go stores in SF, with plans for a third.

CNBC first reported the change of rules this week, citing an announcement by Amazon VP Steve Kessel. The company has not yet set a timetable for when it will begin adding “additional payment mechanisms” to stores.

Kessel specifically cited complaints about “discrimination and elitism” in the current Go business model as the company’s motivation.

Brown says that her SF measure is an equity issue, citing the plight of those without bank accounts, which may include the homeless or recently homeless, immigrants, working-class people with too little money, or anyone who doesn’t trust the banking industry.

On Thursday, Brown called the legislation “a law I wish we didn't have to have on the books.”

She added, “I wish all San Franciscans had equal access to banks.”

Under new changes made to the proposal this week, stores will have 90 days to adopt new payment methods. The committee sent the measure back for amendment and is scheduled to vote on it April 25, with consideration by the full board sometime in May if it passes.