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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Led by big chains like Amazon Go, Sweetgreen, and Shake Shack, U.S. retailers are fast eliminating cash sales. But cities and states across the country are fighting back.
Driving the news: In recent weeks, New Jersey and Philadelphia have passed laws prohibiting cashless stores, and four more cities — Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — are contemplating doing so.
The backdrop: As we've reported, the world is racing to speed up checkout — with China far ahead. Over the last two or so years, Chinese tech giants Alibaba and JD.com have wholly eliminated checkout in hundreds of stores. American counterparts Amazon and Walmart, meanwhile, are only starting to debut such technology in a few flagship locations.
The big picture: The U.S. still leans on cash. Around 30% of all U.S. business is still done in cash, and not credit cards — some 14 million Americans have no bank account.
And the move to cashless stores — among them, Dos Toros, Bluestone Lane, and Milk Bar — has miffed officials in places like Philadelphia, where city councilman Bill Greenlee says it's fundamentally undemocratic.
"[Killing cash] creates 'us and them' places. I could walk into a coffee shop and pay with my credit card. Someone standing behind me in line with the same amount of money in their pocket, but in cash, cannot buy that product. That seems wrong."— Philadelphia Councilman Bill Greenlee
What's happening: The anti-cashless laws require all retailers and restaurants to accept cash — with some loopholes (see Bonus, next post).
New York City is watching Philadelphia and New Jersey. There, Councilman Ritchie Torres in December proposed a similar ban, and its supporters believe it will pass within the next six months.
Sweetgreen declined to comment. Amazon and Shake Shack did not respond to emails.
What to watch: "We're not going to see the end of cash anytime soon," says Natalie Bruss of Fifth Wall Ventures.
Banned? Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty
In an example of the power of Big Tech, as Philadelphia moved to ban cashless stores, Amazon lobbyists went to work and won a carveout that makes an exception for its Go stores — but still outlaws the competition, Erica writes.
That it wriggled out of the law is emblematic of Amazon's outsized market power, says Stacy Mitchell, a critic of the company and a researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. "Amazon can walk into virtually any city in this country and tell people what to do."
New Jersey's law has loopholes, too. There, car rentals and parking booths are exempt.
What to watch: The current version of New York's bill to ban cashless does not have carve-outs, so it would impact Amazon Go.
In the next decade, AI is likely to eliminate work — and in some cases entire jobs — currently being done by more than 130,000 federal agency employees in more than 80 occupations.
Retraining hundreds of thousands of other federal government employees will take time and resources that haven't yet been allocated on a large scale, writes Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.
By the numbers: A new report from the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for the Business of Government found that this shift is likely to impact agencies with financial responsibilities — including the Department of the Treasury, the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation — where technology could be used for data analysis.
Only about 3% of the 130,000 jobs are blue collar.
What we're watching: President Trump recently issued an executive order urging agencies to promote AI research and development in addition to making government data widely available to industry and reducing regulatory barriers to innovation.
Branicki Palace in Poland. Photo: Getty
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Photo: Alexey Vasilyev
In the winter, highs in one corner of Siberia hover around -40º Fahrenheit.
Kaveh writes: Around 200,000 people make their lives in this brutal cold in the city of Yakutsk. One resident, the photographer Alexey Vasilyev, chronicles life in his frigid hometown. He shot the photo above, and several more you can see on Wired.