One of the trends we've seen in the past year or so is the trend away from cash. The move makes a lot of sense for certain businesses, such as Amazon Go, the automated convenience store. These stores are designed to be functional with little to no employee interaction, making it easy to pick up what you want and just walk out. When you do, the card on your Amazon account is automatically charged. Because of that, cash is not really an option for the business model. However, thanks to a new law in Philadelphia, Amazon Go is not permitted.
The new rule prevents any cashless stores, including the Amazon convenience brand, from operating within the city. The move has less to do with fear over progress and more to do with a claim of protecting "unbanked" consumers. The fear is that people with a lower income will be disenfranchised by the increasing popularity of cashless stores. The bill's co-sponsor and City Councilman Bill Greenlee spoke with the New York Times,
It just seemed to me unfair that I could walk into a coffee shop right across from City Hall, and I had a credit card and could get a cup of coffee. And the person behind me, who had United States currency, could not.
The bill is the first major move in the new clash between an ever-increasingly digital world and the people who feel left behind by the change. The problem here is that the move to a digital world, with digital payments, isn't going to change. A law like this can only serve to leave Philadelphia behind as the world changes around it. If the city council was actually concerned about people being left behind, they would encourage new ways for the "unbanked" to be able to participate in a new, digital world. We have seen solutions in other countries, so it should be possible in Philadelphia, as well.