Amazon's High-Tech, Cashier-less Grocery Store Delayed

John Lister's picture

Amazon's plans for convenience stores without checkouts or cashiers have taken a knock. Initial test show the system doesn't work properly if more than 20 or so customers use the store at once.

The Amazon Go store works through a dedicated smartphone app and a technology similar to that used in hotel minibars. When a customer picks up an item from the shelf it will automatically be added to their virtual shopping cart (as well as their real one), though if they put it back on the shelf it will be removed.

Instead of paying for the items at the check out, the customer simply walks out the front door with the items they shopped for. That triggers a sensor and the system charges the items they kept to their account, then sends a digital receipt to their phone.

Moving Groceries Causes Glitch

A test version of the store already exist in Amazon's home city of Seattle, and has been used by the company's local employees. However, the Wall Street Journal reports there are some technical problems, which means Amazon is delaying a public launch indefinitely.

One problem is that there's only a certain number of people who can use the store at the same time before the system is unable to keep track of them all. Another problem is if people pick up an item and then put it back on a different place on the shelf, the system can't always work out what it is when another customer picks it up. (Source:

Virtual Reality Boosts Furniture Store

The company hasn't been deterred from exploring physical retail, however. Sources have told the New York Times it is working on a home furnishings and appliances store that uses virtual and augmented reality. As well as physically inspecting the items, customers would be able to use their phones to see virtual images and video of how the items would look in their actual homes. (Source:

Amazon is also said to be working on dedicated stores for its gadgets such as the Kindle eReader, Fire Tablet and Echo Digital Assistant. These stores wouldn't be a new concept but rather would be modeled on Apple stores, complete with "expert" staff to provide advice and possibly a support and repair center.

What's Your Opinion?

Would you shop in a cashier-less store if the technology can be worked out? What's the biggest cause of delays when you grocery shop: checking out, or choosing items in the first place? Does the virtual reality feature for furniture stores sound useful or just a gimmick?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Amazon undoubtedly has big bucks from its success on - and rightfully so.,, and two other computer portals (NCIX and Newegg) are the only places I shop online.

The fact is: being able to compare products and read reviews are incredible time savers, and not something you can easily replicate in a brick and mortar store - especially without a smartphone and Internet. Plus, not having to drive across the city to get the best deal (minus the price of gas) is so convenient, I wouldn't have it any other way. And how about shopping online during the holidays? It's practically stress-free!

As for shopping for groceries - I agree that checking out in a brick and mortar store is one of the things I don't like, especially when the person in front of you causes a delay. As such, Amazon may be onto something with its "cashier-less shopping". If it takes off, you can bet that "cashier-less" won't be hyphenated anymore - sort of like "smartphone".

ecash's picture

They had a system that would Scan a cart full of goods and give you a total...It worked..
Just run the cart threw and it scanned everything..

1. no one to talk to.
2. if any problem, No cashier.
3. Price checks..still needed someone on the floor.

Soon there will be Very FEW jobs that humans will be ALLOWED to do..

And this has been going on Since the beginning of the Industrial revolution.. from trains and Cars, airplanes, Harvesting equipment, and on and on..
We have made things So fast paced..That insted of a 20 mile trip taking 1-2 days...Take 20 min THERE, Shop for 1 hour, 20 min BACK..

The NEXT big thing, will be Electrical POWER control..All electronics work on FM(yes Radio..Frequency modulation) and Protecting machines from Electrical problems..UPS, EM protections

scowei's picture

I visit Seattle every couple of months and I've been tracking when I can check out this store. Too bad it's delayed.

I hate the inefficient process of putting stuff in your cart, then taking it out for the cashier, then putting it back (bagged) into your cart.

I don't know why a system needs to know when you've taken something off a shelf, though. Seems like if everything had an RF chip, you could pass it by a reader that double-checked based on weight and head out the door.

...except for that bagging thing. Guess they also need to come up with a bagging robot. Like a car wash, you push your cart in one end and it come out bagged on the other.

I do worry about the elimination of jobs - millions work as cashiers. However, I think it's the inevitable future. Perhaps later rather than sooner, but it's coming.


Boots66's picture

Let me start and say that yes I do occasionally use Scan & Go at stores, BUT very occasionally! Why- By not wanting to wait, you are going to throw a lot of good people out of jobs! What reason can you give that says you are so important you can't wait patiently?
It is also a case that you are continuing to allow companies to gouge you more!
How? - You think you are getting out faster and maybe to a degree you are, but you are paying for it! You are doing the cashier's job! BUT>>>!
You are NOT getting paid for it and the store is reaping in A) The free value of charging you the same price whether you scan it or a cashier scans it,
B) They don't give you any discount and believe me that is gravy to them AND
C)Now thanks to you, they don't have to pay a cashier either.
And likely they paid her a wage and benefits, vacation, sick leave, etc. It adds up!

So with that, You have sped your way out of the store faster you think but at what total additional cost?!
You now have to subsidize that poor cashier by paying more into Unemployment Insurance so she can draw a cheque from UI - She/He no longer has a job that you have helped to eliminate - Think about that!

scowei's picture

Although I don't usually have in-depth conversations with checkers, I appreciate the impact on jobs from this relentless march toward automation. But nothing you or I do will impact this one bit. It's happened dramatically in agriculture and manufacturing and mining and...retail is the next step, followed shortly by food service, then most white-collar jobs (those that aren't already decimated, such as stockbrokers and legal assistants).

Unless we legislate reducing the allowable workweek to promote higher employment, then the solution may turn out to be the universal basic income.

And businesses will push for this, for the simple reason that unemployed people don't have money to spend on goods and services. To keep businesses functioning, someone will have to give their customers some cash to spread around.

I don't know what to think of all this. But leaders need to be thinking because it will be the biggest destabilizing force in our history, starting soon.

kitekrazy's picture

Seriously whatever happened to patience. We've created another sense of entitlement by no having enough patience in a grocery store. People who have 2 items believe they should go first because they have less. I even refuse when someone asks me to go ahead of them. If people are in such a hurry shop at places that have self checkout.

So much tech has made us social idiots. We don't bother interacting anymore unless we can put it in the form of text.

The other problem that is pushing people-less tech is being unrealistic about minimum wage. That is the #1 job killer and companies are looking for ways to eliminate people wanting $15hr. making penny widgets. It's not working too well in Seattle.

People are still better than tech.

John Lister's picture

That brings up a possible reason why the 'overcrowding' turned out to be a problem. It might be that the type of people who would want to skip the checkout to save time are more likely to be shopping at a similar time of day (eg right after office hours close) which makes it more likely you'll have extremely busy periods that stretch the system's resources, rather than it being more spread out during the day. Then again, it might also be that Amazon employees aren't necessarily representative of grocery shoppers as a whole, which could be a limitation of the testing.

keffdoak's picture

When I was young (long, long ago), automation and robotics were expected to do jobs that humanity would no longer have to do. The result was supposed to be more leisure time for us. Instead, it has led to unemployment. The solution is to have a government-paid minimum salary so that displaced employees don't wind up in food lines or on the street. Corporate savings from automation could pay for this (by way of taxation). I think of the advent of automated teller machines that banks installed to reduce the number of tellers they had to pay, and then started charging customers to use them. Unbridled capitalism is an ugly thing.

ecash's picture

The one little problem of Economics...
FEWER workers,
FEWER people working,
LESS money..
Less State/fed taxes/medical/.../...

who and WHAT is a poor person going to PAY FIRST and LAST..
Cant afford Food? STEAL IT. If no one can PAY RENT?? lower rents/lower Property tax? Bills? RED letters in the box..

The most fun you have in a Capitalistic environment is that 1 thing has to HAPPEN.
BUY BUY BUY..all MUST buy. from POOR to RICH..
I compare 1 rich person to 100 poor..WHO has more BUYING POWER??
100 poor people have MORE bills, more GAS, MORE insurance, MORE cars, MORE utilities, MORE food..../.../...??
then 1 rich person.

In a monopolistic environment, the CORPS HOLD all the Never gets to the bottom/poor.
a Couple of things to think about..
The Banks were playing monopoly..WITH REAL FAKE MONEY..thats why they failed.(then we bailed them out with REAL money)
7-8 banks,Own/control/lease/rent/have papers on 1/2 the world corporations..
GE is a conglomerate..(look it up) it USED to be the #1..its now #3(?)