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Not Ready for Amazon Go?

Research shows the use of paper money rather than plastic proves effective in curbing spending. This runs contrary to the Amazon Go plan.

Click here to ask Chuck your money questionTo learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Chuck Bentley
Chuck Bentley

Ask Chuck:

Is Amazon Go a "No" For My Wallet?

Dear Chuck,

I saw that Amazon just opened its first grocery store. The store has all kinds of technological advancements, and you don't even have to pay at a register. While this seems really cool, what kind of impact will these kinds of advancements have on my finances? And does the Bible say anything about it?  - Not Ready for Amazon Go

Dear Not Ready,

While this may not impact all of us yet, it is a shopping trend that we should all better understand because it is possible that this method will be used by many retailers in the future.

On January 22, Amazon Go opened in Seattle. It is the first store to operate without cashiers and is drawing worldwide attention. A smart phone and payment system linked to an Amazon account enables people to shop without waiting in line. Cameras and sensors track purchases via an Amazon Go app on their phones.

Customers scan the app on electric readers at the entrance of the store, pick up what they want and carry it out as the Amazon technology charges their account. Hundreds of cameras, painted to blend in with the ceiling, track the movement of products. No carts are needed, and products are monitored as they go directly into a purse or shopping bag.

Assorted high-end foods and beverages are shelved in the space of a typical convenience store. A small seating area and counter are available for those who desire to eat in.

Pros and Cons

There is a financial drawback to this innovative method of shopping. People who enjoy the convenience of Amazon Go will have to keep a mental tally of how much they're spending. Because they do not witness the cash leaving their wallets or have to surrender a debit or credit card, it is easy to spend more than they realize.

Amazon Go bypasses the barriers of time and money, and makes shopping a pleasurable experience. The app simplifies the purchasing process but could cause problems with a person's budget if not carefully monitored.

Research shows the use of paper money rather than plastic proves effective in curbing spending. This runs contrary to the Amazon Go plan. In fact, we recommend cash diets for those desiring to get out of debt or sticking to a budget, because paying with actual bills is painful. Every transaction requires the physical parting of cash. Mindless spending is curtailed as every purchase is evaluated and visible bills are a reminder to be frugal. One writer at CNBC recently reported how she saved over $1000 in just two months on her cash diet. Many others could testify to the effectiveness of the practice.

This ease of purchasing at Amazon Go is welcomed by many shoppers and the automated security that prevents shoplifting may be welcomed by store owners. But, these come with a cost that could lead to loss of privacy. Will our country embrace the convenience without thinking through the cost of machine surveillance? Think about the ramifications of recorded files of anything people do. Technology is moving fast and we need to be aware of the positives and negatives without becoming paranoid.

Finally, there is the possibility that cashier jobs will become obsolete if the technology of Amazon Go eventually spreads. The company says its technology just alters the role of employees. Rather than cashiering, they're cooking, stocking or offering customer service. But, 3.4 million cashiers must be wondering how secure their jobs will be in the future, just like truck drivers are wondering how their positions will be impacted by self-driving vehicles.

Whether or not this technology will be economically worth replicating is yet to be seen. It's certainly a novelty worthy of our observation. And, the impact on our lives cannot be dismissed. Living with a budget is an essential part of being a faithful steward. It's discipline that takes time to develop, and we have a free easy-to-use guide that will get you started.

We must hunger after true wisdom as we watch things unfold. Solomon said it this way,

Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. (Proverbs 8:10-11)

Just as there were men of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, we need to seek the Lord for understanding of the time in which we live. God's Word never changes, it is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We have the Holy Spirit to comfort us, empower us, and lead us into all truth. And, our Savior is always interceding for us. So, we can live with confidence in our victorious Lord, while being watchful, prayerful, and ever ready to discern the times.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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