Amazon phasing out “Just Walk Out” at its Fresh grocery stores

Grab-and-go was supposed to become a revolutionary, checkout-less way of shopping. But Amazon is now ditching its “Just Walk Out” technology at its grocery stores.

As reported by The Information, the e-commerce giant is getting ready to open up a new batch of its Amazon Fresh grocery stores after an 18-month pause, and “Just Walk Out” will not be available at the new locations.

According to Tony Hoggett, Amazon’s senior vice president of grocery stores, the next generation of Fresh Stores will instead focus on Dash Carts. They let customers scan items while they shop.

“Just Walk Out,” is still equipped at over half of Amazon Fresh stores, allowing buyers to skip checkout altogether by scanning a QR code when they enter the store. The technology, introduced with fanfare in 2016, relied on cameras and sensors to track what people were purchasing.

It isn’t completely automated, though. Describing the technology, Amazon says: “Sensors, cameras, and deep learning tools sense what a consumer takes off the shelf.”

But in May 2023, The Information said that, in fact, around 1,000 workers in India were used by Amazon to track customers remotely. These remote cashiers reportedly took hours to compile the data they tracked and generate receipts that customers would receive much later.

In other words, the cashiers who would normally work at physical stores were moved off-site, and Indian workers were chosen because they could be paid less than locals. Amazon Fresh stores are mostly located in rich and expensive developed countries.

The technology has also been costing Amazon a lot of money and time lost in reviewing whether the receipts were accurate.

According to The Information, 700 out of 1,000 “Just Walk Out” sales required human reviewers as of 2022. This widely missed Amazon’s internal goal of reaching less than 50 reviews per 1,000 sales.

In 2023, the US Federal Trade Commission and 17 state attorneys general sued Amazon, which allegedly used anticompetitive and unfair strategies to maintain a position of dominance in the e-commerce market.