Amazon upset with city officials over cashless stores

Alex Lloyd Gross file photo- Delaware Valley Mayor Kenney and city council

By Alex Lloyd Gross

Amazon, the largest retail company in the world is upset at Philadelphia city council for voting to not allow cashless stores in the city.  They were reportedly so upset that they contacted city officials several times and threatened to not open a brick and mortar store in the city should this  legislation pass. It did pass by a vote of 12-4.  Opponents to this new technology argue that it is discriminatory and racist, because it does not allow the lowest of income  people to shop there. They, in a sense would not be welcome in the store as they would be unable to purchase something.

The cashless stores would operate by using a bar code and registered device on a smart phone or on a device that might resemble a key fob.  A customer would go into the store, swipe the device for their purchase and leave. cash would not be accepted. It’s also discriminatory to rich and middle class folks as well. Imagine the doctor who just finished a surgery, they run out to a cashless store to buy  something. However, the doctor forgot his wallet or pay device. The do have $40.00 in cash. Sorry, the doctor is unable to shop there.

What about the poorest of the poor, those that work for $8.00 /hr or less . They have very low credit scores, or very low credit lines.  Should they be not able to shop, due to the fact that a billion dollar retailer is scared of getting ripped off for a $5.00 item? Credit cards would still be accepted in these stores, which critics argue only compounds that discrimination.

During city council hearings, the public is encouraged to voice a concern and address council. Amazon did send anyone to speak at the hearing, instead, the company tried to coerce legislators through closed doors. Some business groups have come out in support of a cashless locations. They have a valid pint that robberies are prevented due to the fact that there is no cash on hand to steal. However, these are the same business groups that vehemently oppose raising the minimum wage.

Philadelphia does have a smattering of cashless stores. Under the bill, these stores will have a few months to get technology to accept cash. Mayor James Kenney can sign the bill, or veto it. If he takes no action, it automatically becomes law. New Jersey has already passed legislation that bans cashless stores in the entire state. The mayors office issued this statement:

“The Administration will review the bill. As we testified, we share the concerns of Councilmembers about the significant number of Philadelphia residents who are unbanked and underbanked, and who cannot access critical financial resources such as a mortgage, educational or small business loans. Separate from this measure, the Administration has worked to find ways to ensure that more Philadelphians have access to bank accounts and all the benefits that come from that.

That said, we remain concerned about how this measure impacts innovation in our retail sector. We constantly seek to strike the balance of growing our economy while ensuring our growth is inclusive. This issue is at the heart of that challenge. We’ve spoken to Councilmembers about a number of various options, and we anticipate further discussions before the Mayor needs to act on the legislation. Even beyond this immediate discussion, we’re going to continue to review the subject over the next several years to gauge progress on getting more people to be banked and accessing bank accounts, as well as innovation in the retail market that might address the concerns underlying this bill.”