retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I returned to the original Amazon Go store in Seattle last week, after visiting the two new ones that the company has opened there. I continue to love the format, but I noticed something had changed.

When the store opened, they gave away cloth bags. (They’re great - well-made orange bags with the Amazon Go logo emblazoned on them. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had about them with my local Whole Foods employees when I’be brought them into the store; the conversations are particularly interesting with the checkout personnel, who are curious if they’re going to be losing their jobs anytime soon. No, I tell them. Not anytime soon.)

But now, they’re charging for them. Ninety-nine cents.

This tells me one of two things.

That Amazon is comfortable enough with the way the format has been accepted and the business it is doing to no longer have to provide the freebie.

Or, that Amazon is losing so much money on the store that it has to grab 99 cents anyplace it can.

I’m betting it isn’t the latter.

There is, however, one thing that intrigues me.

You’ll notice that the sign instructs the consumer to “tap the bag icon in the app to buy” a bag.”

Which I did. Though, when I thought about it later, it seemed to me that this sort of was like the honor system. If I’d just taken the bag without tapping the icon, does that mean I wouldn’t have been charged?

More to the point, I wonder why I have to tap the icon at all. After all, you’d think that the same system that allows Amazon to track what I take off the shelves in the store and charge me for what I leave with would also be able to track how many bags I take.


I’ve reached out to Amazon with these questions. I’ll report back.

KC's View: