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Amazon Go's first NY store is also the first to accept cash

The 12th Go store comes to the Brookfield Place mall near the World Trade Center.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
3 min read

Amazon plans to add cash payments to all its Go stores.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You'll find lots of the usual stuff on the shelves at the newest Amazon Go convenience store in Manhattan. There are meal kits for beef Bolognese rigatoni, assortments of sushi, and sweet potato and avocado mole wraps.

But what's new at this location is actually something Amazon Go was invented to get rid off: a cash register.

The 1,300-square-foot store, which opens Tuesday at the upscale Brookfield Place mall, is the first Amazon Go location to accept cash, as well as the first Go store in New York. The 11 other US locations in Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco will add the ability to accept cash, though Amazon didn't provide a time frame for the change.

"Because it's a new process, we're starting here. We're going to learn and iterate and we're going to, over time, launch it in our other stores," Cameron Janes, Amazon's vice president of physical stores, said during a store tour Monday.

Amazon Go, which the e-commerce giant introduced in late 2016, lets customers check in at turnstiles using their phones , grab whatever they wanted and then walk out. The wealth of technology developed for the store allows it to have no checkout lines or cashiers.

While Amazon gained loads of attention for this reinvention of shopping, the nascent trend of cashless stores has already faced blowback from local and state governments. Cashless store operators, which include the salad chain Sweetgreen and restaurant Dig Inn, say going cashless made their checkout lines faster and most of their customers didn't pay in cash anyways. But in March Philadelphia and New Jersey both approved laws to ban cashless stores, saying they discriminate against lower-income or younger customers who don't have bank accounts, cards or smartphones. Sweetgreen last month scrapped its cashless policy.

New Amazon Go store opens in NYC now offers cash sales

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Amazon, whose Go locations became the highest-profile examples of cashless stores, said last month it too will start accepting cash in response to these concerns.

In the Manhattan location, cash-paying customers are let through the turnstiles by a greeter at the front. There's a new counter in the middle of the store where an employee can check out your items using a handheld scanner. You even get a paper receipt.

It's quite a throwback for a store that's filled with hundreds of custom-built cameras along the ceiling and weight machines in the shelves to do away with checkout lines and cashiers.

In addition to the new cash capability, Amazon continued its work adding local favorites to its Go stores. The Manhattan spot includes Magnolia Bakery cupcakes and Hale & Hearty soups and Ess-a-Bagel bagels.

The store has a large section of prepared foods, including packaged sandwiches and wraps, sushi and salads, made specifically for quick purchases for the lunch crowd. The aisles feature rows of snacks including Doritos and pretzel crisps, as well as a section with Ricola, Advil and toothbrushes.

By the front is a section filled with meal kits, prepared dinners like grilled chicken teriyaki with bok choy, meats and milk.

Watch this: The first Amazon Go store comes to NYC

The Amazon Go app, which is required to enter the store, includes the same privacy policy as Amazon uses online. This policy allows the company to collect and store user information, though it doesn't specifically discuss data from Go stores. You don't need to be an Amazon Prime member to shop at a Go store.

Amazon may have much bigger plans for Go. Bloomberg in September reported that Amazon was planning to open up to 3,000 Go spots by 2021. So far, there are 12. Janes declined to comment on that story.

"We don't want customers have to think about it," Janes said about the experience at Go stores. "We just want them to focus on shopping and getting out as quickly as possible. And so you put your phone in your pocket, you put it away and off you go."