Philadelphia has become the first city in the US to ban most cashless stores.
Cashless stores are those that do not accept cash – transactions are carried out digitally.
According to The New York Times, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the law last week. Businesses have until July 1 to become compliant (accept cash) or reportedly face fines of up to $2,000.
Some transactions will be exempt, including those at parking lots, garages, businesses that sell goods through a membership model, goods sold exclusively to employees, rentals that require security deposits, and purchases made online or via telephone.
Lawmakers passed the bill on the basis that cashless stores discriminate against those without a bank account or credit card or people who prefer using cash.
City Councilman Bill Greenlee, a co-sponsor of the bill, told The New York Times in a phone interview: “It just seemed to me unfair that I could walk into a coffee shop right across from City Hall, and I had a credit card and could get a cup of coffee. And the person behind me, who had United States currency, could not.”
The move comes as more and more stores in the US are becoming cashless, from quick-service food spots like Sweetgreen to Amazon’s cashless Go stores.
The main appeal of Amazon Go is the convenience it offers consumers with its ‘Just Walk Out’ system. The ‘Just Walk Out Technology’ automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When a consumer is done shopping they can leave the store without having to go to a checkout or wait in line. After leaving the store, Amazon sends the shopper a receipt and charges their Amazon account for whatever they took with them out of the store.
The new law in Philadelphia doesn’t apply to stores that require a paid membership to shop there. While Amazon does offer paid Prime membership, it is not a requirement to shop at its Go stores – which means it probably won’t be exempt from the law.
A Bloomberg report published in September 2018 said Amazon was considering plans to open as many as 3,000 Amazon Go locations across the US by 2021.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Amazon expressed concern about the new law in the city. The e-commerce giant reportedly told the city’s department of commerce that it would not open an Amazon Go store in the city if the law passed.