Costco Exec: We Beat ‘Amazon Go’ To The Punch “Literally 20 Years Ago”

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In response to the arrival of Amazon Go — a checkout-less store design the Seattle ecommerce giant is planning for next year — one might expect that other food purveyors would be nervous. Not Costco, though. It’s already been there and done that, a company executive claims.

The new Amazon concept will use what the company calls “Just Walk Out” technology, which lets customers scan an app upon entering a store, pick up items and add them to their baskets while the app updates their virtual cart, and then just walk out with their products when they’ve finished browsing. This is not a new idea, according to Costco’s chief financial officer.

“In terms of scan-and-go, honestly we’ve had a version of scan-and-go literally 20 years ago,” Richard Galanti said Wednesday during Costco’s third-quarter earnings call (via Business Insider): members would grab a radio frequency device upon entering the store, walk around and scan their items, then hand the scanner to a cashier, who would print out a receipt.

That’s not quite like Amazon Go, which doesn’t require shoppers to interact with a human cashier at all or get a physical receipt, but sure, yes, it does involve scanning things. Many stores do in fact allow shoppers to use handheld scanners, or an app, while shopping, but customers still have to stop at a register — manned or self-serve — on the way out to pay.

Costco is paying attention to Amazon’s efforts but doesn’t want to copy it, either, Galanti noted.

“We want to make sure we understand what all of these people are doing,” he said, while admitting that the company does recognize convenience is a value. “But there’s also some things that we can and can’t do. So I think that we’re looking at these things offensively, not defensively at this point.”