I have a problem with technology. And age.
Quille, the main character in my current mystery/suspense series (the Q.C. Davis series) is nearly 20 years younger than me. Because of that age difference, she almost certainly uses technology differently than I do. Not only in her law practice but in her day-to-day life.
Including when she shops.
So today, all in the interest of character research, I checked out Amazon Go.
(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through this site, but that doesn't add any cost to the buyer.)
No Driving Through (Or To)
In some ways, I am like Quille. We both live near downtown Chicago.
She's never owned a car. And I, despite being in my early 50s, haven't owned one for the last 20+ years.
So, like my character, I walk a lot and use public transportation. I also belonged to a car sharing service long before it was common.
So, like Quille, it’s rare that I drive to a grocery store. Or any store. Which is why I thought Amazon Go with 3 locations within walking distance was worth checking out.
Money v. Time
Quille has a lot less time than I do.
A former child stage actress turned lawyer, she runs her own law firm and, these days, is becoming something of an amateur sleuth. That means it’s harder for her than it is for me to use a grocery delivery service.
For delivery service Peapod, for example, you need to be home for at least a two-hour window. Three is better, as traffic is hard to time and it's not unusual for drivers to be early or late. That was a real challenge for me when I practiced law full-time (which generally meant 50-65 hours a week). I suspect it is for Quille as well.
What I loved, and I'm sure Quille would too, is that there are no checkout lanes at an Amazon Go store. And, from an aggravation perspective, the most important thing is there are no self checkout machines.
You don't have to scan your items as you juggle money or credit cards or your wallet and you don't have to start over if you hit the wrong button because there are no buttons.
Instead, when you walk in you scan the code that was provided when you downloaded the Amazon Go app. As you walk around the store any items you pick up are added to your account. If you put them back on the shelf, they're taken back off.
The best thing is that when you leave the store you just leave through the gate. Amazon automatically registers your exit and sends you a receipt for your purchases. Mine included only the items I picked up and all the prices were correct.
The charge went automatically to the credit card I had chosen through the app, which is the same one that all my Amazon purchases default two. This was so much easier than any other store I've been in.
I figure Quille would love this even more than I do because she is probably more used to shopping online and getting items without interacting with people.
Also, while the prices weren’t supercheap, they cost less than the convenience store around the corner from me. And most items were cheaper than the major grocery stores near me, Peapod, or Target.
What I didn't like was that the store is small, so the grocery items struck me as more similar to convenience store fare than a grocer.
A quart of milk. Hummus. Yogurt. Chips.
There was a lot of prepared food. I found a package of trimmed and washed fresh green beans and lots of premade salad options. There were no loose apples, pears, cucumbers, or other fruits or vegetables.
I’d love to see Amazon expand the concept to include those types of items.
I suspect for Quille, though, the many prepared items would make up for the lack of grocery items. She'd probably pick up a meal kit on her way home from a deposition so that she could make dinner without too much trouble. She also might like the trays of sushi, at least in winter when it wouldn't get warm on the walk home, and premade salads and sandwiches.
On the other hand, prepared items means more packaging than if you shop at a farmers market. It did seem to me, though, that overall Amazon Go did a pretty good job on packaging.
Compared to other grocery stores or convenience stores, for instance, it seemed to me there were more items wrapped in plastic wrap rather than plastic containers and more cardboard and paper generally than plastic.
While it won't replace my grocery shopping, I'll probably head to Amazon Go the next time I need a quart of milk, a few containers of yogurt or hummus, or a few different types of cheese. (The cheese selection was surprisingly good for a small store.) It's so much quicker and more convenient than anywhere else that I could get those types of items and the prices are reasonable.
As for my mystery/suspense series, probably not what Amazon was aiming for, but I can definitely see an Amazon Go location as a great setting for intrigue.
Perhaps Quille will meet a murder suspect in the dairy aisle, or have a quiet chat near the chips and cookies with a witness (of any age).