Amazon Go(es to Chicago)
By Noah Liedtke
On Sept 17, Amazon opened its first Amazon Go store in Chicago, making it the first Go store to open outside of Seattle. Located at 113 S. Franklin Street right off the Brown, Orange, Pink, and Green Line trains, the store is surrounded by countless other convenience stores and lunch counters. What sets Amazon’s store apart is the fact that shoppers can enter and exit the store without ever having to go through a checkout line.
To enter the Amazon Go store, all you need to do is download the Amazon Go app to your smartphone, and either create a new Amazon account or link your existing Amazon account to the app. As long as you have a card linked up to the app, you are good to go. You don’t even need an Amazon Prime account. After downloading the app, users can read a quick guide to understand how the store works, and see what goods are offered at the store each day and their prices.
It is hard to miss the Go Store as there are signs along the street pointing the way to it. I walked into the doors expecting not to see workers, but to my surprise there were a lot of employees in bright orange uniforms. As I approached the turnstiles shoppers used to enter, an employee asked me if I had the Amazon Go app. With the app, all I had to do was put the QR code to the reader and I would be able to walk right in, similar to a train station. I walked through the entrance turnstile, and I was greeted by a small, convenience-store type shop.
I arrived around 7 p.m, and to my surprise, the store wasn’t nearly as crowded as I anticipated it to be (although the West Loop area clears out pretty quickly after work hours). I was by far the youngest person there; everyone else was in at least their mid-twenties. Nearly everyone I saw was dressed in business clothes, getting items they needed before returning home on their evening commute.
The Go store sold mostly food items. There were open coolers full of bottled water, coffee, soda, tea, kombucha, and energy drinks. The coolers continue along the wall to the back of the store, containing many different types of salads, sandwiches, yogurts, and bagels. There were plenty of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and only a few selections were sold out. There was fresh fruit as well: the store sold apples, bananas, and whole containers of strawberries. Further back, there were meal prep kits that customers could take home and use to make their dinner from ingredients in the kit.
In the middle of the store there were two sets of shelves containing dry items including granola bars, nuts, chips, candies, and dessert items. There was even a section of the store with drugstore type items such as aspirin and bandages. Near the exit gate, there was a shelf containing items you would see near a typical store checkout line: candy, gum, and chocolate.
As I walked around trying to decide what to buy, I noticed workers constantly bringing products from the backroom to restock the shelves. At some points, it seemed that the workers outnumbered actual customers. I spoke to a group of businessmen who seemed to be in their mid-thirties, and they said, “This place gets really crowded during lunch hour.”
After spending some time pacing around the store, I settled on buying a jerk chicken sandwich, Mexican Coke, and an off-brand rice krispie treat. The exit was a wide gate that automatically opened when I stepped in front of it. I passed through without incident while looking at the print on the wall directly in front of me which read “No Lines. No Checkout. (No, Seriously.) Just walk out shopping.” A few minutes after I left the store, I received a notification from the app with my receipt, which totaled $11.16. It also showed how much time I spent in the store - about seven minutes. The food was pretty average - the sandwich was dry - but it may be because it was the end of the day.
The Amazon Go Store was a very unique experience, and while other stores may not follow this model for years to come, cashierless stores may be our future. If you want to visit the store yourself, it is located at 113 S. Franklin St. and open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.