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Amazon bows to pressure to accept cash at its brick-and-mortar stores

Amazon is being forced to rethink its policy of not accepting cash at its 42 brick-and-mortar stores as lawmakers from San Francisco to New York propose -- and pass -- legislation requiring that all retail establishments accept greenbacks.  

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to CBS MoneyWatch that "Amazon is working to accept cash at its stores." The company offered no further details on the state of its plans.

Businesses argue that cashless retail policies cut costs, speed transactions and protect workers from theft, while opponents say that they discriminate against lower-income shoppers who are less likely to have debit or credit cards.

Earlier this year, Amazon threatened to abandon plans to open a "Go store" in Philadelphia as the city's government debated limits on cashless retailers. The tech giant ultimately caved and said its cashierless retail locations will start accepting cash after Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny in March signed a law to ban cashless stores, making Philadelphia the first city to do so. 

Cashless trend worries lawmakers: "If it's not discrimination, it's elitism"

New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres in February introduced legislation prohibiting retail establishments from refusing to accept payment in cash. It provides penalties of up to $250 for a first violation and up to $500 for subsequent violations. 

An Amazon "4-star" brick-and-mortar store in New York's tourist-friendly Soho neighborhood offered a peek this past weekend at some of the hoops customers who wish to pay in cash must go through currently. (Amazon 4-star locations feature products that are given ratings of four stars or above, are top sellers, or are popular among local residents online. Amazon Prime members are given access to Amazon.com Prime pricing in-store.) 

A handful of customers at the Soho store who tried to purchase goods, including one who wanted an Amazon "4-star" water bottle, were turned away for not having debit or credit cards. A checkout worker instructed the customer to visit a nearby drug store chain and use cash to buy an Amazon gift card, which he could then use to purchase the water bottle in-store upon his return. The same employee explained that the Amazon store would, in the next month or so, begin accepting cash in anticipation of city legislation being passed to outlaw cashless retailers.

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