Amazon doesn’t care if you accidentally shoplift from its cashier-less store

Photo by Stephen Brashear / Getty Images

Amazon Go, the e-commerce giant’s new cashier-less grocery store in downtown Seattle, opened today to a mix of general curiosity and incredulity. How can a store function without cashiers? How do you pay, and how does the business know who’s buying what?

Amazon has done a sound job of explaining many of the particulars of its new concept store, one the company hopes brings more online customers into contact with its increasingly important offline presence. There are cameras and sensors, to detect when you’ve walked in and when items are removed from shelves, and there are check-in kiosks near the entrance for scanning your phone to register your presence via Amazon Prime. Regardless, Go will likely remain an alien concept for many.

And one the most pressing questions people seem to have is: what happens if you try to steal something? That was put to the test today when CNBC tech correspondent Deirdre Bosa accidentally left the store without being charged for one cup of Siggi’s yogurt.

Amazon took the error in stride, with Go VP Gianna Puerini telling CNBC, “First and foremost, enjoy the yogurt on us.” Puerini goes on to say that accidental shoplifting “happens so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened.” Puerini said she hasn’t personally seen that error in the past year she’s been using the store, but that Amazon “tried to make it super easy on the rare occasion that does happen either to remove it or enjoy breakfast on us.”

Revealing that there’s not even a feature to tell Amazon you’ve taken something without paying is rather telling. It suggests the company is so confident in its system that it hasn’t built out any protocol for or safeguard against missing items. And it’s not just that, but Amazon also isn’t drawing a distinction between those who accidentally leave without paying for something and those who may be actively trying to steal. All of this raises some interesting questions about how robust this system is and whether it really is the bolder and more convenient future of retail.

We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment on how rare it anticipates this situation might be, and whether it has any methods for detecting, penalizing, or tracking one-off or habitual shoplifting. We’ll update this story when we hear back.

On one hand, it would seem that Amazon is playing a bit of a numbers game here. Sure, one cup of yogurt lost is not going to affect the Go store’s bottom line. And when it’s Amazon’s system at fault, for not detecting that Bosa had the yogurt with her and charging her for it, it makes total sense to comp the customer. All forms of retail also deal with shoplifting as a built-in cost of operating a brick-and-mortar business, and Amazon’s immense size, scale, and financial war chest means it can weather those costs more than any comparable company in the retail sector.

The other factor to keep in mind is that perhaps Amazon’s system is so good that stealing just isn’t an option. How would somebody go about shoplifting from Amazon Go anyway? You’d still have to check in with your Prime account, and you’d still have to purchase items to make it not look suspicious that you were wandering the store, then leaving without a bag. With cameras watching your every move and sensors detecting even subtle changes in inventory, I doubt even the most bold shoplifters could reasonably find a loophole.

Still, Amazon seems to be inviting people to exploit Go by publicly announcing that it has no way of either knowing or easily detecting items that are removed but not paid for, and that it doesn’t even care about the loss at the end of the day. It will be fascinating to watch how customers acclimate to the Go experience and whether any good faith (or bad faith) experimenters find ways to undermine it.

Comments

With cameras watching your every move and sensors detecting even subtle changes in inventory, I doubt even the most bold shoplifters could reasonably find a loophole.

Opening a store in Naples (Italy) would have been the real acid test. They’re real artists.

Can confirm. Someone opened my backback within an hour of landing in Naples

Wow, can confirm as well. Tourist there for just a day and had a friend get mobbed by about ten people, they picked him clean and scattered.

Been to Naples once and it did seem…shady. LOLed at the first three comments about this being about how horrible Naples is, though. Didn’t see this heading in that direction.

This suggestion is perfect, someone should forward it to Jeff Bezos.

I checked it out today. Very awesome setup and it solves my issue with supermarkets.

The chatty Kathy’s who either stand behind me with mindless chatter or they know the cashier and end up chatting and taking extra time. This will kill all of that.

Stores are not bars. Buy your stuff and don’t do things to cause slow lines and leave. One day this will be a thing and I can shop without folks trying to be overly social

Never happened to me and I’ve lived in various major cities my entire life. Concept is cool no doubt but I’m more excited about the drone delivery system than I am this.

Yes. God forbid people become too social in the real world.

I also hate when people open their mouths to not breath but instead talk to other people – STRANGERS! – in supermarkets. Like, just pay for your damn sh-t quickly so that I can get back into my car by myself, turn on my podcast, drive home on the freeway (not in the HOV lane because that’s for enviro-friendly social losers), and watch Netflix while liking my e-friends’ Instagrams on my phone.

Real talk: I get annoyed by people who chat too much at the supermarket too. But I acknowledge that the people that do are usually older senior citizens that are probably lacking social interaction in their lives and/or grew up in a different era when face-to-face social interaction was a thing.

All of this. How many minutes do those "Chatty Cathys" really take out of your life?

"shrug" Let ’em chat.

How much time?

Me: idly waiting line
Guy: In front me talking to the cashier for 5 minutes after his stuff was rang up.
Me: Are you going to be done soon or do I need to ask for a manager?

I’ve lived many places and this seems to something I’ve noticed only in Seattle.

It’s not for 5 minutes. That’s aaaaages. You’re doing that human thing and over-exaggerating. Massively oh Zen master.

It was 5 minutes and people in line were getting upset also. You can choose to believe what you want but unless you were there yourself maybe you should pipe down.

Yeah, but just because it might have happened once, doesn’t mean that it’s an epidemic.

Im sorry but as a cashier myself we do like chatting with our customers, heck its actually encouraged to give them a better experience. Cashier’s are humans too and we need social interaction as well.

thank fuck you commented in this thread of self centred entitlement.

I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a cashier that stops working completely when talking to other people. Not that hard to scan and talk

I’ve encountered it before, but usually in really weird and rare circumstances.

But heck if it isn’t one of the most annoying things in the 1st world shopping experience. Like, everything is going great. They got the peanut butter you like, you picked up your dogfood, maybe even pick a random video game just cause you can and it’s payday so why not. Then you stand in line with all this stuff, and it’s not going anywhere. So you decide to do self checkout. But you gotta prove you’re over 18 for the video game, so you wait for the one roaming human staff who can verify your age.

But they don’t come.

They found a friend.

They’re going to ignore your existence while they chat it up about what happened this weekend and what are the next parties coming up and did you hear about what happened in Afghanistan isn’t that so sad.

But you’re polite. You wait. They’ll see the blinking light and your pleading eyes and come save you from this purgatory you’ve found yourself in. They have to see it. There’s no way they could ignore their job for more than 5 minutes right?

But they do. They keep talking. 5 minutes, 8 minutes, 10 minutes go by and you have somehow being entirely ignored by the person who is literally paid to deal with your video game age verification bullshit.

So you politely interrupt to ask them to please come help you.

And they roll their eyes, drag their feet, and listlessly verify that your wrinkle-faced dad-bod belongs to a person over the age of 18.

You fake a smile and an insincere thank you. You make your way home. And you curse that self-checkout worker with every ounce of voodoo magic you wish there actually was.

TL;DR – It only happened like twice ever in my life, but goddamn if I wasn’t annoyed by it.

Turns out life isn’t just about you and others want to enjoy their time in the store. Don’t like that, use the self checkout. Don’t have it? Shop elsewhere. Quit shitting on other people’s social decisions. It’s not a good look.

I’ll continue to speak my mind. When your social decisions impede on my time then it’s a problem.

As far as it being a good look? I damn sure don’t care what you or anyone else on verge thinks about this. I don’t need approval from others. Anyway I am gonna leave it at this.

It’s pretty clear that you don’t care how people view you or that you care about others, as you have the social graces of a 5 year old.

Completely agree. I especially hate it when you’re like the 4th or 5th person in line and each person ahead of you decides to have a 5 min conversation after they’ve paid for their stuff. That’s 20 mins that Amazon has just saved from my weekly grocery trips.

Where do you guys live? A small town in the middle of nowhere?

I go to the grocery store once a week, a line of 2-3 people takes 5 minutes total. I think your perception of time is just not used to the idleness of standing in line.

The worse epidemic is self checkout lines, honestly. You go there with three things and every lane is taken up by someone with a cart full of items (excluding the one lane that is always broken for whatever reason.) Amazon’s store will be a welcome fix for that.

And with your 3 items, one refuses to scan, another one scans ok but is too light for the scales to register, so it won’t let you scan anything else, then you try a heavy item first, and scan the light item, and "unexpected item in the bagging area". Then wait 5 minutes for the overworked harassed supervisor to reset the till.

You have never in your life stood in line for five real, countable minutes after the person in front of you finished their transaction. It might have felt like five minutes. It was not five minutes.

On the off-chance you’re not making shit up, it has not happened more than one time in your life, guaranteed.

It was five minutes. I was there I know how long it was keep arguing about it though. I won’t feed your BS. Have a good night

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