Advertisements

I open the Amazon Go app on my phone, scan a QR code on top of the white turnstile and watch as electronic arms open to let me in. Glancing around the convenience store, which is bustling with Amazon employees shopping for lunch items, I head left to the cold drinks section, grab a can of Diet Pepsi and exit through the barrier. Not once did I pull out my wallet or tap my phone anywhere to make a payment.

 

amazon go 1

No, I’m not a shoplifter. I’m getting a preview of the Amazon Go automated store within the internet giant’s headquarters in Seattle. It opens to the public Monday.

The biggest feature of the store, one of the first shops of its kind, is the fact there are no cashiers. When you arrive, you scan the Amazon Go app on your iPhone or Android phone at a turnstile to register your presence and enter the store. After that, everything you pick up is automatically tracked by the store’s cameras and charged to your Amazon account when you walk out. It all happens without you having to check in with a store employee or physically make a payment.

“Our plan from the beginning was … what can we do so you could walk into the place, take anything you want and leave,” Gianna Puerini, vice president of Amazon Go, says as we walk around the store four days before it opens to the public.

Amazon Go was a surprise announcement from the company, timed right in the middle of the 2016 holiday shopping season to get Amazon plenty of buzz. It’s an 1,800-square-foot convenience store, built at the street-level entrance of its Day 1 high-rise, that uses deep-learning algorithms and computer-vision-enabled cameras to let people grab what they want and walk out.

Amazon Go, which was supposed to let in the public last year, opens the door to the prospect that you may never have to wait at a cashier line again — even for those clunky self-checkout machines. But at the same time, the store raises concerns about the future of work or the local corner store, and worries that Amazon is slowly replacing humans with technology.

But all of that was in the back of my mind as I entered the store. My most pressing question: Did any of this work?

I traveled to Seattle from San Francisco to see how convenient the Amazon Go convenience store actually is. My colleague Ben Fox Rubin, who’s based in New York and helped write this report, gave me a good rundown of how the store was supposed to work. But I didn’t really realize just how easy and fast the process would be.

Amazon Go felt a lot like shopping online, except you’re in a brick-and-mortar store. I didn’t have to wait in any lines and could immediately take whatever I wanted. The whole process was so quick and seamless, I almost forgot the items weren’t free — and for Amazon, that may be the point.

Fast and convenient
The first thing I see when I walk into the Amazon Go store are ready-to-eat meals. Pasta salads, lettuce salads, wraps and sandwiches line the tall shelves, making it easy for someone to dash in, grab food and run back out. Amazon employees in bright orange shirts restock items, making sure the store never runs out of popular selections.

To the left of the ready-made meals are cold drinks — pop, sparkling water and pretty much anything else you can think of. As I head right to walk deeper into the store, I see giant cookies from Seattle’s Macrina Bakery and dill pickle chips from Whole Foods, the grocery store chain Amazon acquired last year. Other sections have milk, yogurt, snack trays, baking supplies and Amazon Meal Kits, which come with all the ingredients needed to make a meal for two.

In the back corner is the wine and beer shop, the only place you have to actually interact with a human being. There’s an Amazon employee there at all times to check your ID. After your age is verified, you can grab whatever alcohol you want and walk out of the store, the same as you do with any other item.

“We really focused on fast, convenient,” Puerini said. “Grab a quick lunch, grab something to take home for dinner, perhaps a quick drink or a snack.”

The store has been open for the past year, but only to Amazon employees. Monday marks the first time members of the public can shop there. You don’t need an Amazon Prime account or any sort of special verification. All you need is a regular Amazon account, the Amazon Go app, and to be in Seattle.

Prices at the store are subject to change, but right now they range from 49 cents for a bottle of water to $42.99 for a bottle of Caro Red Blend wine.

The store is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT from Monday to Friday.