Amazon Is Opening a Cashier-Free Store in San Francisco
There's a new AmazonGo convenience store coming to town where you can stock up on snacks and more without exchanging chit chat or money with a real person.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this week that Amazon appeared to be eyeing a space at Post and Kearny near Union Square. While Amazon refused to comment on location specifics for that article, The Seattle Times noticed yesterday that the AmazonGo jobs board included two positions, (manager and assistant manager), for a San Francisco store.
So far, the only AmazonGo store is located at the company's headquarters in Seattle. To make a purchase at the store, a customer scans through a turnstile using an app. Once in the store, Amazon technology—a combination of "machine learning, computer vision, and AI"—tracks which items a customer takes from the store. If you pick up an item and return it to the shelf, the system will delete that item from your tab. When you have everything you need, you simply walk out. (Watch the video below to see more.)
On the positive side, lines are annoying, and I can't even begin to count the number of times I've left a store empty-handed because I didn't want to wait in the checkout queue. On the downside, retail jobs constitute about 10.1 percent of the American workforce—more than 15 million jobs—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (That number is based on figures from 2016, and is projected to dip to 9.7 percent by 2026.) If cameras, deep learning, and apps can eliminate the need for cashiers, we're going to see a significant increase in unemployment and/or underemployment.
Right now, it's super expensive to create a store like this, just as it's incredibly expensive to build a self-driving car. But you can imagine a future in which the technology becomes more accessible and retail jobs become scarce. (Don't believe it? Look at the number of grocery stores that have rolled out increasingly fancy self-checkout lanes.)
Regardless of the broader implications on the American retail workforce, the future is coming to San Francisco, and it looks like it will be here soon. If you've ever recoiled in horror seeing the checkout line at the Union Square Trader Joe's, the AmazonGo store could be the easy shopping experience you've been waiting for.