Jonathan and I checked out Amazon Go for you…
You probably heard that behemoth Amazon opened a store in downtown Seattle called Amazon Go. The big idea is there is no checkout line. Just swipe your phone as you enter and grab what you want. Your designated card is charged automatically. The top secret, proprietary system seems to work with sensors on the shelves and cameras throughout.
Friend, client and owner of Uncharted Waters Float Center, Jonathan Stone Murray and I recently visited the Amazon Go in the name of research. It was smaller than we expected. We anticipated a scale like Metropolitan Market, with groceries and maybe even a high-tech section offering racks of noise-canceling headphones.
“It is a convenience store,” Jonathan Stone Murray concluded. And it is, with an added convenience of requiring no checkout.
Lost in all of the talk about the nature of the technology and privacy issues might be the simple fact that Go offers reasonably healthy fast food. Good on them for spotting an underserved area of demand. This was not hot dogs, nachos and Slushies; it was sandwiches, salads and a big selection of pre-made meals. I opted for a turkey basil wrap paired with GT’s Multi-Green Kombucha tea, which resembles water from the Puget Sound but tastes substantially better. Jonathan Stone Murray selected a nice Mediterranean chicken wrap and Honest T in the “Peach OO-La-Long” flavor, which looks exactly as the name suggests.
There was something freeing about the experience. We certainly saved time. It almost felt like cheating. It is easy to imagine the day when every store uses this technology. That is the real undercurrent; why this little convenience store in downtown Seattle is generating buzz nationwide. It may be a harbinger of shopping in the future. Amazon will demonstrate the technology works, establish that consumers will use it, then license it to practically everyone else in the retail space, in the same way they have licensed web services initially developed for Amazon.com to Netflix, Reddit, Pinterest, and many others.
Privacy issues, sure. Amazon now knows I enjoy kombucha and they have my credit card info, etc. But Amazon.com already had my Visa and they already knew a lot about my buying habits. I find the notion of corporations studying me to be Orwellian and creepy, but I have yet to opt out.
Too convenient? It is easy to overspend when you use a card instead of cash because you are not actually handing over your hard-earned money. This technology conceals the cost behind one further veil. You needn’t think of the cost at all as you moonwalk out of the store.
This really advances the trend toward isolation. Given the choice, many of us skip chances to interact with strangers. With stores like Amazon Go we needn’t make polite conversation with the clerk at the checkout line. People can run errands with little risk of pesky human interaction. The way texting has reduced time spent talking on the telephone, the concept of Amazon Go may be just one more brick in the wall people can choose to build around themselves.
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