Amazon Go shop shelves

Amazon unconcerned about shoplifting from Amazon Go shop

Image credit: Reuters/Jeffrey Dastin

After a journalist accidentally shoplifted from Amazon’s new cashier-free supermarket in Seattle, Amazon has stated that it is so unconcerned about these incidents that it has not built in a feature to report it happening.

The first Amazon Go supermarket opened to the public in an Amazon office building in Seattle on Monday. The supermarket is intended to allow for a more convenient shopping experience, with customers being able “just walk out” without queuing to pay.

As the customer arrives, they check-in at a barrier at the entrance by scanning their phone; to do so requires an Amazon account and the Amazon Go app. As they pick up items around the shop and place them in a bag, Amazon Go technology – combining a system of cameras and other sensors around the shop with computer vision and machine learning software – automates the checkout process by detecting the items selected and billing the customer via the app after they leave.

This has been described by Amazon as “the world’s most advanced shopping technology”.

The shop first opened to Amazon employees in December 2016, and since then, the company has been working to iron out technical problems, such as distinguishing between shoppers with similar body types, and dealing with the chaos caused by children moving items between shelves.

Early visitors to the shop have been testing the limits of the Amazon Go technology; a New York Times journalist, for instance, tried hiding a pack of drinks in a bag under his arm but still found himself being billed for it. However, Amazon’s sensors have been fooled at least once as a CNBC journalist left the shop on its opening day with a pot of luxury yoghurt, which she had not been charged for.

“We packed a shopping bag full of cookies, snap peas and Amazon-branded drinkware – all of which appeared on a virtual receipt moments later. But a single-serve Siggi’s yoghurt cup was noticeably dropped from the list,” wrote Deirdre Bosa.

Gianna Puerin, vice president of Amazon Go, told Bosa to “enjoy the yoghurt on us”, stating that such incidents happen “so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened”.

She added that she had not observed this error in the past year of trialling the Amazon Go technology: “I’ve been doing this a year and I have yet to get an error. So we’ve tried to make it super easy on the rare occasion that does happen either to remove it or enjoy breakfast on us.”

Amazon Go is a major step in the internet giant’s gradual move into bricks-and-mortar retail, following its $13.7bn (£9.7bn) acquisition of Whole Foods Market – a high-end supermarket chain – in August 2017.

So far, Amazon has not announced whether it will set up more Amazon Go outlets. It has stated that it does not have plans to integrate Amazon Go technology into Whole Foods Market shops.

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