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Why some US cities don't want cashless stores

People have cited the model’s discriminatory nature towards unbanked and underbanked populations
Payment problems
Payment problems
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Suhashini Sarkar   |   Published 25.05.19, 04:17 AM

A new Amazon Go store debuted in New York City on May 7. But as Amazon Go expands, a number of American states are voting against a cashless economy. Amazon is central to this fight, owing to its Amazon Go stores, which were originally all built on the cashless business model.

However, people have raised objection to cashless retail, citing the model’s discriminatory nature towards unbanked and underbanked populations. Amazon has felt the pressure to join in on the trend, with restaurants like the salad chain, Sweetgreen, reversing their cashless models. Also, dealing with entire cities refusing to grant exemptions to retailers, Amazon has been forced to pivot away from purely cashless Go stores.


Last March, Philadelphia became the first major city in the United States of America to ban cashless stores. A new law will “require most retail stores to accept cash” and comes into effect in July 2019. The law will not apply to parking garages, stores like Costco (which require membership) or hotels, according to The Wall Street Journal. But it will have an impact on restaurants, grocery stores and food retailers, including Amazon Go stores.

Amazon had asked for an exemption under the new law, but was told by Philly lawmakers that in order to get one, its Go stores would have to put a membership clause in place. Those in favour of the cashless model argue about the ubiquity of mobile or card payment. Those against it say that accepting those payment forms only excludes poorer communities and people for whom credit cards might not be an option.

Remember them

Memorial Day can involve a family-friendly vacation or a sombre appreciation of US veterans. There are several events and parties hosted on Memorial Day across the US, but Washington DC hosts the nation’s largest event. This year marks the National Memorial Day Parade’s 15th year. The American Veterans Center describes the event as a ‘moving timeline of American history’ that draws on traditions from past Memorial Day parades, going back to the beginning of the holiday just after the Civil War.

This year’s grand marshals and special celebrity guests include the heroes of D-Day, the Criminal Minds star, Joe Mantegna, and the celebrity chef, Robert Irvine, as well as musical performances by Justin Moore, Quaid & James, Kiefer Sutherland and the winner of The Voice.

The 133-feet long, and eight-and-a-half-feet tall wall of red poppies — approximately 6,45,000 of them — is hard to miss. The poppies represent the American servicemen and women who have given up their lives since World War I.

Classical masters

Summer means that it is time for Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. This is a free outdoor production of William Shakespeare plays. This year, in August, one of the productions will be held at the at the Prospect Park Music Pagoda, and produced by Torn Out Theater, a company that specializes in nude productions of classics. It will present an anthology called Mere Flesh and Blood. The show will include scenes from all three of the group’s previous productions as well as excerpts from other works, including Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III.

One can also enjoy plays by Shakespeare and other classical masters elsewhere in the city: Brooklyn, Bryant Park, even at a parking lot in the Lower East Side. The most popular production is the Public Theater’s production in Central Park. This year, the company will partner with organizations in all five NYC boroughs to distribute tickets within the boroughs, opening up the shows to all New Yorkers.

Green dreams

Sustainability has had an impact on the start-up world. Generation Investment Management, co-founded by the environmentalist and former vice-president, Al Gore, just announced that it has closed a $1 billion Sustainable Solutions Fund for growth investments. It aims to use the $1 billion to back later-stage start-ups working on sustainability in at least one of three areas — environmental solutions, healthcare, and financial inclusion — and also creating financially sustainable businesses.

The start-up, Food for All, is an app aimed at reducing food waste by allowing people to buy food that restaurants didn’t sell by the end of the day at a discounted price. As of January, Food for All has stopped over 1,00,000 pounds of food from being thrown away. Nexamp helps provide solar energy to people without them having to instal solar panels on their roofs, and also aids in lowering their electricity bills.

Lilly Wollman, partner and co-head of the Growth Equity platform, says that sustainability is winning on economics alone, and people are buying electric vehicles not just because they are green, but because they are becoming cheap enough and performing better.

Atlanta will have greater access to fresh food thanks to a public ‘food forest’. The city council approved the transformation of 7.1 acres of property into a public park and garden. The food forest is the first in Georgia and the largest in the US. The aim is that the green space will have trees, shrubs and vines that produce fruit along with walking trails, a community garden and restored forest and stream-side areas by 2020. Residents will be able to pick produce for free from the trees.

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