The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to ban all retail outlets in the city that don't accept cash as payment. The move to quell a growing trend of cashless stores and restaurants is meant to ensure access to all stores by low-income residents.
The legislation, introduced by District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown, follows on similar laws recently passed in Philadelphia and New Jersey.
"The future may be cashless," Brown reportedly said at Tuesday's meeting, per the Examiner, but for the time being, this ban "will go far in ensuring all San Franciscans have equitable access to the city’s economy."
As the Associated Press reports, the legislation exempts food trucks and temporary pop-ups, as well as internet-only businesses. But after the law takes effect, 90 days after it gets final sign-off by the mayor, the three Amazon Go locations here (300 California, 98 Post, and 575 Market) will have to begin accepting cash. Notably, the first Amazon Go store to open in New York City, which debuted Monday, already accepts cash.
The law will also impact restaurants like Eatsa, The Organic Coup, Freshroll Vietnamese Rolls & Bowls, and Bluestone Lane which currently don't accept cash. Repeat offenders will get fined up to $1,000.
As the ordinance reads, "The City must remain vigilant in ensuring its economy is inclusionary and accessible to Everyone. The purpose of this [law] is to ensure that all City residents — including those who lack access to other forms of payment are able to participate in the City’s economic life by paying cash for goods and many services."
While the demographic of downtown city workers that typically frequent these cashless establishments tends to operate mostly cash-free as it is — and tends to be in a higher income bracket — the intent of the new law is to curb what could be a quickly growing trend that ultimately has direct impacts on those who do not have access to credit. As the AP reports, via figures from the FDIC, 17 percent of African American households and 15 percent of Latino households have no bank account.
Also, it should be noted that there are plenty of people with access to credit who still prefer to pay for certain things with cash, both for personal reasons and to avoid leaving a digital trail for every single purchase they make so that companies can better target them with ads (ahem, Amazon).
Amazon Go now operates 11 stores, including the original that opened in Seattle in January 2018. The company has not commented on whether it intends to remain cashless in all of its locations besides those where it's not legal — though having to accept cash is going to put a damper on the company's slightly creepy, AI-driven "Just Walk Out technology," which senses everything you pick up in the store and automatically charges you when you walk out.