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Amazon Fresh opens in Fairfax, with more stores coming to the region

(Updated at 5 p.m.) Fairfax City’s latest grocery store is giving a new meaning to the term five-finger discount.

Amazon Fresh opened in Point 50, previously known as the Fairfax Shopping Center, today (Thursday), boasting new technology that lets shoppers buy items without having to get them individually scanned.

All they need to do is swipe an app or a credit card when they enter and exit the store.

“The goal is to make the smoothest transition,” Amazon Fresh District Manager Jim Gillespie said.

Shoppers inundated the approximately 30,000-square-foot store at 10360 Fairfax Blvd. when it opened at 7 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting and the potential for prizes and discounts.

Fairfax resident Nile Milton grabbed a pineapple and wondered how the store would know who and what to charge.

“We’re going to see how this works out,” said Milton, an Aldi regular who also frequents Giant and Walmart.

When Milton asked how purchasing worked, a worker explained that the store’s overhead cameras detect what items customers take and link them to people when they enter the store. Weight sensors also assist.

Traditional checkout lines with clerks who scan items are also available.

The new technology is a first in the region for Amazon and involves some 1,600 cameras for the store, according to a tech worker. A public relations representative later challenged that figure, saying that the number of cameras in stores are in the hundreds.

“Anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart,” Laura Hayes, a public relations representative for Amazon, said in an email regarding customers who choose to pick the Just Walk Out technology option.

People can use the Amazon app to link their bank account. And those with the app can use their palm to swipe in and out of the store, somewhat like a touchless digital fingerprint.

It’s one of the ways the company is looking to transform the industry. The store also touts competitive prices, such as 15-cent bananas and 89-cent loaves of fresh bread, and it plans to offer two-hour delivery of groceries, a standard for the brand, within coming weeks.

Fairfax resident Tom Castro arrived at the store at 3:55 a.m. and waited with others in the rain. As part of a prize for being first, he received flowers, which he promptly gave to his wife.

Castro said he visited the store about a half dozen times before it opened, wondering what the company’s timeline was. He said the pandemic led him to become a believer in having groceries delivered.

“We’re thrilled Amazon has decided to bring this technology to Fairfax — a city that embraces innovation and technology — for the benefit of our residents, office workers, and visitors,” Mayor David Meyer said in a statement. “Amazon has been a great partner in the development of this Fresh store, and we are looking forward to welcoming them into our community.”

Other stores in the region are planned for Arlington, Lorton and Manassas. The company is hiring hundreds of workers for those stores. Hayes said the Lorton store could open this year.

Amazon has also targeted Bailey’s Crossroads for a grocery store, but staff were unable to identify whether it will be an Amazon Fresh. The company also operates Whole Foods.

The Fairfax store’s hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The company first brought Amazon Fresh to Fairfax County last summer, with a store opening in Franconia (7005 Manchester Blvd.).

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