Sorry Amazon: Philadelphia bans cashless stores

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Enlarge / Shoppers scan the Amazon Go app on the mobile devices as they enter the Amazon Go store, on January 22, 2018 in Seattle, Washington.

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

This week, Philadelphia’s mayor signed a bill that would ban cashless retail stores, according to The Morning Call. The move makes Philadelphia the first major city to require that brick-and-mortar retail stores accept cash. Besides Philadelphia, Massachusetts has required that retailers accept cash since 1978, according to CBS.

The law takes effect July 1, and it will not apply to stores like Costco that require a membership, nor will it apply to parking garages or lots, or to hotels or rental car companies that require a credit or debit card as security for future charges, according to the Wall Street Journal. Retailers caught refusing cash can be fined up to $2,000.

Amazon, whose new Amazon Go stores are cashless and queue-less, reportedly pushed back against the new law, asking for an exemption. According to the WSJ, Philadelphia lawmakers said that Amazon could work around the law under the exemption for stores that require a membership to shop there, but Amazon told the city that a Prime membership is not required to shop at Amazon Go stores, so its options are limited.

A top official in Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce said that the ban will prevent Philadelphia from modernizing with the rest of the country. Cashless companies argue that cash slows down transactions when change needs to be counted and creates security risks for employees locking up at the end of the night.

Supporters of the new law, however, say that not accepting cash hurts poorer residents who may not be able to afford or qualify for a credit card or who want to avoid fees that come with changing cash into a prepaid debit card. Additionally, privacy advocates say that being forced to use a digital form of payment to buy things is a de facto requirement to share records of their purchases with third-party companies.

According to the WSJ, a New York City councilman is pushing a similar measure, and New Jersey’s legislature has also passed a bill to require storefronts to accept cash, thought the governor of that state has not signed the bill yet.



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