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Shoppers at some Whole Foods can now pay with their palms

Whole Foods sign.
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Pay for groceries with your hands.
  • Michelle Cheng
By Michelle Cheng

Reporter based in New York


For Amazon, it’s a post-wallet world.

After debuting the Amazon One device, which lets users pay with their palms, to Whole Foods stores in Seattle last year, Amazon is bringing the payment system to its first Whole Foods store in Austin this week and plans on adding the tech to six more locations in the region.

To opt in, shoppers must scan their hand over the Amazon One device, which uses algorithms to capture and encrypt the biometric data of their palm—similar to setting up Face ID to unlock your iPhone. Once a customer is enrolled, the company said that the device will recognize each unique palm in seconds.  Shoppers have the option to decide when to use it.

In its term of use, Amazon said it receives information on the customer’s biometric data and on purchases, reflecting how tech companies continue to find new ways to collect personal data in exchange for convenience.

That comes as customers paying via mobile becomes increasingly more common, driven by Gen Z and millennials. A National Retail Federation 2020 survey found that the majority of retailers offer some form of contactless payment, such as tapping a credit card or paying via digital wallets like Apple Pay.

Supermarkets have gotten more high-tech during the pandemic

Whole Foods, which was bought by Amazon in 2017, has gotten increasingly high-tech. The predecessor to Amazon One is Amazon Go, convenience stores that launched in 2018 without cashiers; to date, there are some 20 locations from New York to San Francisco. Last November, Starbucks announced that a location in Midtown Manhattan is using the Amazon Go technology, which detects which products are being taken or returned, allowing customers to walk out the store and later see the charge on their Amazon account. More broadly, the pandemic has pushed supermarkets to become more tech-y, as seen with grocery delivery and automated warehouses.

To meet increasing customer demand during the pandemic, companies have been turning to robots and automation to cut down labor costs for now—and in the future. In fact, the employment of cashiers is projected to decline 10% between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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