On January 22, Amazon opened its first ever cashier-free convenience store, Amazon Go. Asserting itself as the future of in-store grocery shopping, Amazon Go claims to add convenience and innovation to the otherwise tedious task. However, a reporter from Slate recently noticed a controversial omission — Amazon Go doesn’t accept food stamps.
Does the future of grocery shopping leave a large demographic of American shoppers behind?
The system makes Amazon’s new store both convenient and exclusionary. The store eliminates the wait time of checkout by taking payment through a smartphone app. Customers simply walk into the store, sign in to the app, and take what they want off of the shelves. An intricate system of observational technology takes care of the rest. (Theoretically, at least: The observation of the system might not be so keen, since there have already been instances of accidental shoplifting.)
But if you don’t have a smartphone and/or you rely on food stamps, you’re out of luck entirely. Amazon Go shop somewhere else.
According to data from October 2017, over 45 million people in America use food stamps to supply their groceries. In Ohio, according to a recent study, one in 10 of Amazon’s own employees is on food stamps. That’s a lot of Amazon employees — and Americans — who might have a hard time shopping at the shiny new store.
This isn’t the first time Amazon has faced criticism relating to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Amazon Prime, the company’s online shopping tool, only began accepting food stamps in June 2017. They did, however, implement a budgeted option for membership for their SNAP-assisted customers.
The Daily Meal has reached out to Amazon for comment. We have also asked whether the company has any plans for accepting food stamps at Amazon Go in the future.
Amazon acquired the grocery chain Whole Foods last year in a multi-billion dollar deal. Though Whole Foods does accept food stamps as payment, they’ve been accused of making things more difficult for shoppers on a budget with shockingly high prices.