By Brian Henry
San Francisco may soon ban cashless stores. Vallie Brown, representative district 5 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, has proposed legislation that would require all brick and mortar stores to accept cash as payment. Brown said the bill is all about fairness.
"We have a lot of people that are unbanked," Brown told Cheddar. "Our immigration community, a lot of them are unbanked. A lot of our youth, that work, are unbanked because of the fees that banks charge to have an account. A lot of people don't have the money to actually pay for those fees. So they don't have a bank."
"We also have people who have had horrendous experiences with fraud, so they don't use credit cards either. Anyone that has cash should be able to walk into a store or walk in a restaurant, a coffee shop and be able to use cash."
Legislation of its kind is not unheard of. Lawmakers in New Jersey and Philadelphia recently passed laws banning cashless retailers.
Brown recently expanded the San Francisco bill to include Amazon Go stores, which had originally been excluded because the stores do not have employees that handle transactions.
Amazon Go uses sensors to track what customers have selected and charges their Amazon account automatically as they exit, eliminating cash and cashiers from the process. There are currently two Amazon Go stores operating in San Francisco and is planning to open a third, though the bill could complicate that if passed.
"I felt like it was equity for the Amazon Go stores. I have a lot of people that work around there. A lot of my constituents that work in around where the Amazon stores are they said, 'we'd love to go in and buy something but I don't have an Amazon account or I don't have a credit card.' When you start excluding people like that, its an equity issue. So I went back and added Amazon Go to the legislation."
Brown told Cheddar she'd be willing to compromise with Amazon if they were to add one cashier that accepted cash payments to their stores.
"Amazon is one of the most successful and innovative companies in history. Its really my hope that Amazon or other companies will devise an innovative way to accept cash and make their business inclusive to all."
Brown isn't worried about alienating Amazon, even after public outcry caused the company to pull out of a deal to build a new headquarters in New York City.
"These are our San Francisco values. We're inclusive and we accept all. We estimate that 50 percent of our African American community and our Latino community and households, they lack access to banks. if Amazon wants to be in San Francisco and be part of our thriving community, they'll have to figure this out."