Clients hesitate in front of the Amazon Go turnstiles, as if crossing them means relocating to another universe. In a sense, it is. Shiptor international team came by the Amazon Go store in Seattle for a new shopping experience.
How it works
The buyers, finding cash desks and carts dull, can download the Amazon Go app, sync it up with their Amazon Account and generate a QR-code.
Then, bring the QR-code to the scanner on a turnstile and be ready for the future of offline retail. If you share one code with someone, scan the code and let the other in first.
Don't scan goods. Pick something from a shelf and put it in a bag (or a pocket), while Big Brother watches every move you make via numerous sensors and cameras on the spooky black ceiling. Amazon Go invoices you 5 minutes after you leave the store.
Good news for greedy cheaters: when you buy anything by mistake, or don't like the taste of a sandwich, email Amazon and explain the reason for purchase decline. As always with Amazon, you don't have to send the goods back.
One year after the official opening (before that, the store was available only for Amazon personnel), queues disappeared, yet introverts still have confront people.
At the entrance staff checks the mobile app, in case you think of jumping over the barrier with unpaid goods. Human factor is controlled by humans, not machines.
A couple of team members replenish inventory, put things back after buyers' attempts to break the system, and help visitors. Don't say you're a journalist, otherwise no one will answer your questions — they just hand over an Amazon PR business card.
We noticed 3-4 staff members at a warehouse, plus another one checks id in the liquor department — Amazon doesn't rely on machines with age control. The personnel wear bright orange jackets and t-shirts, the same colour bags are given away to clients.
Unexpectedly for a high-tech format, a simple paper job ad is attached to the window. Now, there are 40 vacancies open: Head of Marketing, engineer, creative director, security analytic, cooking product developer, research specialist, and designer.
Located in the downtown next to the Amazon Spheres — famous glass tropic office of Amazon, the store is targeted at hurrying buyers, who disappear in the buildings next door.
The store is crowded with tourists and hipsters coming to buy useless stuff for the sake of new retail experience.
It's easy to identify newcomers — they hesitate in front of the turnstile, have fun picking up goods and putting them back, and when leaving the store they stare at smartphones checking whether they'd been charged.
Apart from obvious sense of superiority, customers get everything to avoid starving death: salads, sandwiches, dinner sets. The whole back stand is one shelf with ready meals.
Amazon did its best to exceed expectations: Chicken Banh Mi, Burrata Caprese Sandwich, Chili con carne for exotic fans; smoked tofu, fruit salads and vegetable kits for vegetarians.
Under the sign «We do the prep. You be the chef» Amazon entices its visitors to buy big boxes with dinner-for-two ingredients. In terms of cuisine, the emphasis is placed on internationality and authenticity.
Take away meals are cooked right here — you can watch the staff, working in black latex gloves, through the window.
Amazon Go pastry is delivered by the local trendy chain — Macrina, and this means that you'll get crafted buns and cookies. And right next to it, there are porcelain jars saying «Free Cream Cheese for your Bagel».
Chocolate with sea salt and other exotic combinations — supplied by a local store Theo. Many «Organic» labels.
We ran into a funny rack with uncategorized yet useful items: plasters, tampons, smacks for dogs, batteries, Tylenol and Advil, washing powder, and even the Maldon Salt.
There's no empty spots on the shelves: sold out goods are replaced by charts «So good it's gone» or «Being made right now». Yellow charts with reduced prices for near-end-of-life goods.
Plain brand cups «Just Walk Out Shopping» for $5.99 are in demand and most likely to become one of iconic Seattle souvenirs.
There is also a dining area with spices, cutlery, and WC....
Is it possible to steal anything?
Sure, Russian hackers can do everything, but we haven't found any loopholes — you can eat a sandwich inside and hide away the package, but the system knows and sees everything — you'll be charged anyway. However, the store can't be left unattended — to cross a turnstile having taken anything you like is simple as that.
By the way, the store is closed on weekends, which we found very disappointing — the future seems to be a kind of limited.
Taking over Whole Foods and reducing its prices by 30-40%, Amazon is likely to set own terms with local vendors and brands, who'd better obey in order to stay on board.
Although it all looks more like an exciting social and cultural experiment, it proved to be very convenient. No doubt that Amazon Go stores will be popular, as nobody wants to stand in line.