Amazon Go - the future of retail?


They will probably take a hit on some returns. Some kid grabs a perishable that the parent didn’t see, and the parent returns it three days later and it’s past due in one day, so it’s a loss.

Amazon will swallow the loss and smile, because it brought the parent back again and the parent probably bought another 4-5 items while making the return.

Once they have traffic enough, prices will gradually rise so the returns will matter even less. And they will get better at flagging weird purchases on the spot. And parents will be better trained to keep their kids from grabbing stuff.


Dunno, but I suspect the answer is either

  1. the omnipresent cameras detect that you’ve set it back down regardless
  2. People get a lot more careful about putting shit back in the right place after they get dinged a few times.

But being as it’s Amazon, probably 1.


So our office landlord has a snack shop set up that is humanless. We use our keycards to get access, and once in we grab what we want (drinks, sandwiches, frozen stuff, crunchy snacks, sweets, etc.) and scan it and either use a card to pay or use or keycard to pay.

There are cameras to watch us and I guess if I try to pocket something and walk out there will be some kind of flagging, and then the video will be reviewed and I will soon be maced, cuffed, and thrown into a dark pit. So I’ve seen this on a small scale and from my consumer viewpoint, it works. I’ve never tried to abuse it, and I suspect the people with access are unlikely to as well (professionals, lawyers, etc.).

If it was open to the public, it would need gating. Because if someone could walk in, it would be a grab and run and good luck using video to catch the dude.

I do see the potential. It’s super easy and quick.


The Ars Technical article today had some interesting observations on the experience.


There’s still a risk of someone jumping the gates, grabbing and running, so they’ll still need human security, unless they really want to rely solely on video footage (of which there’ll be a lot, at least).


Oh! I know this. I read an article, I forget where, I think it was that Ars Technica one, that had screenshots of the Amazon Go app and it showed a screen with something like, “If you are going in with multiple people, scan your phone multiple times and let them in ahead of you.”

Basically, their faces get registered to your account as they enter the store at the turnstiles. You are then responsible for anything they pick up and walk out with.

[EDIT: Found it! It’s worth looking at the other screenshots in the article if you’re curious about this,]]


This is clearly just a test for Amazon, who have decided that even if shoplifters stole everything in the store for the next three months it’d be fine, because they’re learning how to make it work better.

It’s not like there’s billions of dollars of merchandise in there. The whole store probably has under $20k worth of stuff in it when it’s full.


And to be fair shoplifiting is still widespread in all stores so anything that reduces it will be a benefit to the retailer.

So you could get reduced costs and reduced stock loss which makes for even better margins.


Yea reading the articles about it it’s much closer to an express grocery store than a full competitor to traditional groceries. Sort of between a convenience store and a supermarket and very much like a CVS/Walgreens (in the USA) in that way. Having a ton of staff who “rush” forward to rearrange cans makes it obvious this is a test bed first.


They won’t be able to pull this off in a full fledged grocery store unless they come up with a clever way to track fruits and vegetables.


Not 100% sure what you mean by a “full competitor to traditional groceries”. In the UK, express and convenience grocery stores (sometimes smaller branches of the big chains) have taken a huge chunk of grocery market share from the giant supermarkets over the last decade. No reason that couldn’t happen in denser or more walkable cities in the US.

This report is a bit out of date, but it clearly illustrates the trend.


Just prepackage them, surely.


In the US express groceries tend to be significantly more expensive than traditional. The local Walgreens for ex tend to be at least double the price for the same product and for some like antacids can be as much as 5x the price. The idea seems to be you’re paying for the convenience of fast shopping with higher prices. This greatly limits the reach of express grocery stores to geographic areas that do not have easy or close access to traditional big box grocery.


Is the stuff any cheaper in the Amazon Go store than at other similar stores?


You should expect to pay a premium for the privilege of not having to talk to anyone.


So I’m going to walk in, pick up prepackaged bananas, open the package to inspect them… maybe toss out a couple bad ones… and the system will calculate the new weight via cameras? That’s impressive.


No. If you are that picky about your bananas you will go to a regular grocery store. The rest of us will just buy a pre-packaged bunch of bananas and go about our lives.


Even in full-size grocery stores over here a lot of the fruit and veg is prepackaged, sometimes absurdly so. That’ll be what the automats sell.


C’mon, Ars. Give us the real story.

What if you walk in wearing a white baseball cap and sunglasses, then once you’re inside, you turn off your phone, take off the glasses, put on an eyepatch, switch the baseball cap with a porkpie, turn your coat inside-out exposing the plaid interior, and walk out with a bag full of steaks?


“Costume change detected. Rejiggering parameters.”