Checking Out Amazon Go, The First No-Checkout Convenience Store

The cashierless shop which uses AI to ring up your purchases, could be a key part of Amazon’s expanding vision

of retail’s future. And it opens on Monday.

Every part of the U.S. has a different local term for a convenience store: the bodega, the corner store—even “the Wawa,” a chain name that Northeasteners use generically. Now Amazon wants to extend its brand to the notion of a grab-and-go shop with Amazon Go, a store that literally lets you grab and go. On Monday, more than a year after the company unveiled the concept and began a beta-test phase open only to its own employees, the first Amazon Go in Seattle will welcome all shoppers.

In December 2016, when the company first teased the automated store–which eliminates cashiers and checkouts in favor of AI and cameras that detect the products you select—it said that it was coming in early 2017. Last March, however, the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Stevens reported that Amazon was having trouble getting its “Just Walk Out” technology to work as the place filled up with customers. Amazon Go’s VP of technology, Dilip Kumar, who gave me a pre-opening tour, acknowledges that Amazon had expected to let in non-Amazonians earlier. But he says that the delay was because its employees embraced the beta program, providing enough willing participants until the store was ready to exit its beta phase.

For now, Amazon Go has a single location deep in Amazon’s own world. It’s on the ground level of Amazon’s Day 1 skyscraper, next to its Spheres, which are sort of giant-scale terrariums. (Kumar says that the company expects to roll out more locations on an unspecified timeline.) The store has been highly visible from the sidewalk since it opened to employees, with windows into the kitchens that let passersby watch staff make fresh prepared food and meal kits.