Who wouldn’t love shopping at a store with no checkout lines?
Walk in, pick up what you want, and just stroll out. Payment? Oh, the camera recorded everything you just did – you’ll get a bill when you get home.
This is the enticing concept behind Amazon’s radical Go store, which opened in 2018 as a higher grade 7-Eleven type store aimed at office workers.
Now, Amazon looks to take on the traditional grocer with a full-sized store and a selection of meats and seafood, fruits and vegetables. It’s basically everything you might want from a major supermarket minus the in-house florist, bakery and sandwich counter.
I visited the first Amazon Go Grocery store, which opened Tuesday, in the Capitol Hill section of Seattle, an urban neighborhood in the heart of downtown, far from the suburban sprawl that’s home to many large mega markets.
Like the earlier Go stores, in Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Chicago, the Go Grocery has hundreds of overhead cameras and sensors, tracking your every move and marrying your selections to your Amazon account. When you exit, you get an e-mail receipt of your purchases.
What’s different? More selection within the traditional market, although still way smaller than the usual supermarket, 10,000 square feet compared to 50,000 square feet and up, says industry consultant Britain Ladd.
I was able to easily comparison shop brand new versus want to be new after I left, strolling a few blocks down E. Pike Street to Broadway, where I visited the independent Harvard Market store. This store seemed a good10 times larger than the Go Grocery, and it looked to the future with at least 10 self-checkout machines.
These are the units that promise to speed up the process, but in fact, at least for me, slow it down tremendously. And there’s no one to help you bag your stuff.
The machines kick in when you touch the screen, scan each product individually, one by one, wait for the machine to detect that you’ve put the product in a bag, insert your loyalty number and credit card, and then wait for your receipt before leaving.
How those cameras above our heads know that we picked up the correct strawberry jam versus grape jam or a specific type of avocado, is beyond me, but Amazon execs assured me it gets it right, 99% of the time.
So what’s the negative? Well, if you’re a supermarket employee, you know where this is going. Amazon wants to replace you with robots, says Ladd.
“The brutal truth is that Amazon is focused on one thing – eliminating as many jobs as possible,” says Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents grocery workers.
He added that the union looks to make Amazon’s grocery plans an election issue for 2020. “Every voter – and every candidate running for office – will be made aware that they have a choice to make: support good jobs or support Amazon’s destruction of jobs.”
Looking to the future, Amazon envisions a powerhouse chain of 2,000 stores nationally, a mix of its Whole Foods, Go and other outlets, selling the curated selection and fulfilling instant online orders that can be picked up locally, according to Ladd.
And, of course, Go is just one prong of Amazon’s push into selling us food. Beyond Whole Foods, its Fresh division announced recently free delivery, within two hours, of food orders for members of the Prime expedited shipping and entertainment service.
And free shipping for Prime members is available on many food items with free, one- or two-day shipping.
We reached out to Amazon, which declined to comment for this story.
Back to instant purchases, If Im a grocery worker, I’m not happy about Go and where Amazon is headed. But as a consumer, I’ve got to admit, this is one sweet experience. I want every store to do this.
Readers, what are your thoughts?
Let me hear from you on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham