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'Is It Shoplifting If It’s Not the Customer’s Fault?': Amazon Go Raises Questions for the Retail Industry

“Just walk out,” say the signs at the entrance and store windows at Amazon’s newest concept store. “No lines. No checkout. (No, seriously.)”

Amazon Go opened in Seattle last week with much fanfare, raising a host of questions about the future of retail. Among them: How will the company handle shoplifting? And what does the tech-heavy, no-cashier concept mean for shrink — industry speak for theft, damage and other errors that might eat away at a retailer’s inventory — which costs retailers an estimated $48.9bn a year?

One of the store’s first patrons took to Twitter Jan. 22 to report that Amazon Go had failed to charge her for a container of vanilla yogurt. “I think I just shoplifted??,” CNBC reporter Deirdre Bosa wrote on the social media platform using the hashtag #freestuff.

Amazon executives responded with a giant shrug.

“It happens so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened,” Gianna Puerini, Amazon Go’s vice president, told CNBC. “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.”

But retail analysts said the incident raised concerns about how the store, which relies on a system of cameras, scanners and infrared sensors to track customers’ movements and purchases, might handle theft, whether intentional or not. A spokeswoman for Amazon Go did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment for this story.

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Amazon Go opened in Seattle last week with much fanfare, raising a host of questions about the future of retail. Among them: How will the company handle shoplifting? And what does the tech-heavy, no-cashier concept mean for shrink — industry speak for theft, damage and other errors that might eat away at a retailer’s inventory — which costs retailers an estimated $48.9bn a year?

One of the store’s first patrons took to Twitter Jan. 22 to report that Amazon Go had failed to charge her for a container of vanilla yogurt. “I think I just shoplifted??,” CNBC reporter Deirdre Bosa wrote on the social media platform using the hashtag #freestuff.

Amazon executives responded with a giant shrug.

“It happens so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened,” Gianna Puerini, Amazon Go’s vice president, told CNBC. “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.”

But retail analysts said the incident raised concerns about how the store, which relies on a system of cameras, scanners and infrared sensors to track customers’ movements and purchases, might handle theft, whether intentional or not. A spokeswoman for Amazon Go did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment for this story.

Read full article