Petition asks that food stamps be accepted at Amazon Go store

SEATTLE — Shopping at Amazon Go may come with the convenience of not having to stand in a line, but a report from Slate said the convenience isn't for everyone.

People who are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reportedly don't have the option to shop at Amazon Go.

A store customer service representative supposedly told Slate on the day of its opening that the store does not accept food stamps.

The social network Care2 has targeted Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, with a petition with more than 14,000 signatures asking for SNAP benefits to be accepted.

Care2 points to a report by Policy Matters Ohio that 1,430 Amazon employees or their family members in the state of Ohio were getting SNAP assistance.

The social network does point out that the report is specific to Ohio but also said Amazon employees nationwide face miserable working conditions.

There has been no word concerning Amazon employees in the Seattle area as to concerns over Amazon Go accepting SNAP.

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Care2 posted this about Bezos on its site:

"Unfortunately, Jeff Bezos is clearly out of touch with the reality his workers live in. The newly-launched, brick-and-mortar grocery store, Amazon Go, does not accept SNAP benefits."

Care2 wants Amazon Go to start accepting SNAP immediately and is asking for supporters to sign its petition.

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Amazon does accept SNAP in some situations.

Amazon is participating in a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot project that was announced last year.

The project includes several retailers and is a two-year trial for SNAP participants to purchase their groceries online.

Amazon is only offering it in Maryland, New Jersey and New York.

"Online purchasing is a potential lifeline for SNAP participants living in urban neighborhoods and rural communities where access to healthy food choices can be limited," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "We're looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP."

Another way SNAP participants can use their benefits is at Whole Foods. Amazon acquired the grocery chain last summer for $13.7 billion.

"We're determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone. Everybody should be able to eat Whole Foods Market quality -- we will lower prices without compromising Whole Foods Market's long-held commitment to the highest standards," said Jeff Wilke, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon.

During the acquisition, Amazon did say it was just the beginning and lowered prices on some of the store's staples.

It also said certain Whole Foods products -- such as 365 Everyday Value -- will be available through, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry and Prime Now.

The e-commerce giant also announced last summer a discount on its Prime membership for people receiving government assistance.

People who get benefits such as SNAP and may not be able to afford the regular membership were offered memberships at $5.99 per month, opposed to the regular price of $10.99 per month.

Despite the push from Care2 to find out if Amazon Go will accept food stamps or SNAP benefits, an Amazon spokesperson told KIRO 7, “We don't accept food stamps at this time, but will continue to look for ways to better serve customers.”

Care2 said that by not accepting SNAP, Amazon is sending a clear message about who can shop at the store.

Amazon Go is a grocery store with no cashiers or checkout lines

The world’s largest online retailer announced Amazon Go in December 2016 as a grocery for employees only. This week’s grand opening to the public constitutes a big step for Amazon.

Once inside the store, patrons won’t need to use their phones at all, but to gain entry through the turnstiles you must open the Amazon Go app on your smartphone. Contrary to popular belief, the store does have employees. Chefs prepare food in a kitchen and associates are on hand to prep items, the company says.

If you pick up an item to read the label, you won’t be charged unless you leave the store with it. “If you change your mind about that cupcake, just put it back,” the store says in the video.

While the online retailer hasn’t announced plans for the 1,800-square foot store to be expanded to other cities, there is clearly an opportunity to bring this high-tech approach nationwide, maybe even to the Whole Foods franchise, which Amazon bought in 2017.

But what does Amazon Go mean for the customer service industry, which is already ceding jobs to email, social media and chat bots?

On Amazon’s Facebook page,  many people are excited about the new store, but others are criticizing the company for doing away with retail jobs at a time when Seattle’s minimum wage is $15, the highest in the nation among cities. You can be sure that as companies continue to innovate with automation, the trend is that more jobs in the customer service industry will likely be affected.

One thing customers can do to make sure their needs are always met is to communicate with these companies to let them know what patrons expect when they shop or buy their products. The hallmarks of great customer service —courteousness, honesty and respect for one’s time — should never be compromised.

No matter the awesome advances of AI in retail settings, many of us simply want to deal with humans when it comes to transactions involving our hard-earned money. Many people, especially older ones, lament the loss of customer service interaction, no matter how superficial and time-consuming much of it is.

A 2017 story in Entrepreneur magazine highlights what kind of experience companies try to curate when representatives interact with customers.  “While speaking to people, one must always keep the fact in mind that people always want to hear whatever is liked by them. And using this to ones benefit is a great strategy. While providing customer services, win their hearts by speaking well about them, their taste, their city, and all other unnecessary things. Manipulate the customers by sweet talking.”