Whole Foods to Get Cashierless Checkout, but will Slow Receipts Make it a Whole Big Mess?

Just Walk Out turns into just wait awhile.

Listen, I know this is two times in the span of one week that I’ve covered cashierless checkout. More specifically, this makes two times over the past week I’ve covered Amazon’s cashierless checkout. But this morning, Amazon made the announcement industry watchers have been waiting for — that the company’s Just Walk Out cashierless checkout is finally headed for Whole Foods Market.

Starting next year (Amazon wasn’t more specific with the timing), two Whole Foods locations in Sherman Oaks, California and Washington, D.C.’s Glover Park neighborhood will be outfitted with the cameras, shelf sensors computer vision and AI to enable cashierless checkout. As Amazon is fond of saying, customer can walk in, grab what they want and just walk out.

Industry watchers like myself have been waiting for this announcement because it’s another milestone that proves Amazon’s cashierless checkout can scale. Right now the technology is predominately used at smaller Amazon Go-sized stores, though it is also being used at one full-sized Amazon Fresh supermarket in Bellevue, Washington.

The question remains, however, whether Amazon’s computer vision-based cashierless checkout is truly ready to scale to full-sized stores. That question only became more germaine when Amazon admitted last week that it can take hours for a customer using just walk out technology to receive their receipt.

Not seconds. Not minutes. Hours.

That, is ridiculous. As I noted last week, waiting hours for a receipt is a horrible customer experience. The whole point of frictionless, cashierless checkout is speed. If I use Just Walk Out, I should get my receipt by the time I’m done loading my car, not after I get home, put my groceries away and am halfway through an episode of Hacks. I, the customer, should not have to wonder — for hours — whether or not I was charged properly.

The silver lining to Amazon’s announcement today is that the new cashierless stores don’t open until next year. Which means Amazon has time to shrink the lag time with its receipts.