A woman walks into the Amazon Go store at California and Battery streets on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Businesses to get 90 days to comply with SF’s proposed ban on cashless operations

Amazon Go has said it will begin accepting cash after similar legislation adopted in other cities

The impact of a proposed ban on cashless businesses is already being felt, with Amazon Go deciding this week to start accepting cash as the legislation moves toward approval, Supervisor Vallie Brown said Thursday .

San Francisco is expected to adopt the ban on cashless stores, following the lead of Philadelphia and New Jersey, which passed similar bans in recent weeks.

“Many of you have read in the last couple of days that Amazon Go will begin to accept cash in the stores after folks like me and others in the community correctly called out the discrimination and elite nature of the current business model which requires customers to have bank accounts and a smart phone to purchase any items,” said Brown, who introduced the legislation, during Thursday’s Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee hearing.

The legislation initially did not cover Amazon’s stores, but was later expanded to include them.

“Amazon listened to community and The City and other cities around the nation who called out the inequity of their business practice,” Brown added.

The committee amended the proposal, which was introduced in February, and is expected to vote April 25 to send it to the full board for approval.

The amendments included extending the timeline for when the law would become effective, going from 30 days to 90 day to give cashless businesses more time to transition.

Brown said Amazon and other businesses had asked her for the 90 days. Amazon declined to comment on the discussions with Brown.

CNBC reported Wednesday that Amazon’s senior vice president of physical stores, Steve Kessel, told workers last month that the company is planning “additional payment mechanisms” at the Go stores when asked about “discrimination and elitism” at these cashless stores.

There are two Amazon Go cashierless stores currently operating in San Francisco and a third to open soon. Details on how the stores will start accepting remain unknown, but an Amazon spokesperson confirmed Thursday “we are working to accept cash at Amazon Go.”

Other amendments added Thursday include a ban on any surcharges or fees on customers pay in cash and the requirement for accepting cash for single transactions of $5,000 or less.

The law would apply to brick and mortar businesses. It does not apply to ride hail companies like Uber or Lyft, food trucks or temporary pop-up businesses, and there is an exemption for professional services like accountants, attorneys, financial advisers and software developers.

Enforcement of the law would be the responsibility of the San Francisco County Sealer of Weights and Measures, which currently investigates complaints around overcharges at stores.

Multiple violations would be a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000.

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