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Amazon Go’s expansion could face trouble if more cities ban cash-free retail stores

Amazon Go’s expansion could face trouble if more cities ban cash-free retail stores
[Photo: Flickr user SounderBruce]

A New York City councilman introduced legislation last week that would require retail establishments and restaurants to accept cash.

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Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat, has said that stores and restaurants that only take credit cards or digital payments are effectively discriminating against people who have trouble getting credit cards and bank accounts, the Associated Press reports. Mayor Bill de Blasio has indicated tentative support for the plan.

That might spell trouble for Amazon if the retailer plans to expand its Amazon Go line of cashless convenience stores to the city. The stores let customers check in with a smartphone app, pick up items they want, and exit the store, with the purchases automatically charged to their Amazon accounts. That likely wouldn’t fly under the bill, says Raymond Rodriguez, deputy chief of staff in Torres’s legislative office, on hearing a description of the stores.

“If you pay by phone, then you’re not using cash,” he says.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the proposed cash mandates.

New York isn’t the only jurisdiction to consider such a requirement: Similar bills have been proposed in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Chicago, reports Next City. State lawmakers in New Jersey are also weighing a cash-free retail ban. Amazon currently has Amazon Go stores open in Chicago, as well as Seattle and San Francisco.

New York state and city officials recently announced more than $1.7 billion in incentives to attract Amazon offices, part of the company’s so-called HQ2 project, to the city’s borough of Queens.

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