Looks Like Cash Is No Longer King

In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 photo, a clerk poses for a photo showing cash in the register at Vidler's 5 & 10 store in East Aurora, N.Y. U.S. consumers earned more and spent more in February, helped by a stronger job market that offset some of the drag from higher taxes, according to the Commerce Department, Friday, March 29, 2013. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

Imagine presenting your selections to a check-out clerk at a store, offering several bills to pay for your items, then being told, “We don’t accept cash.” Apparently, we’d better start getting used to it.

A woman recounted her recent experience at a hair salon to the Wall Street Journal:

Sam Schreiber was mid-shampoo at a Drybar blow-dry salon in Los Angeles when someone from the front desk approached her stylist with an emergency: a woman was trying to pay for her blow-out with cash.

“There was this beat of silence,” says Ms. Schreiber, 33 years old. “She literally brought $40.”

Schreiber offered to take the other customer’s cash and add the $40 to her own credit card.

The WSJ reports that an increasing number of US retailers and restaurants are no longer accepting cash payments. Most of us use credit cards to pay for larger purchases. However, for smaller purchases, such as a cup of coffee or a small order at a fast-food restaurant, we often pay in cash. Now a growing number of businesses have shifted to “no-cash” policies. A Starbucks in Seattle adopted a cashless policy earlier this year joining a growing number of similar businesses.

The WSJ cites an October 2017 Federal Reserve survey:

Despite the popularity of debit and credit-card transactions, plenty of people do still pay for things with actual money. Cash represented 30% of all transactions and 55% of those under $10, according to a Federal Reserve survey of 2,800 people conducted in October 2017.

There are many reasons why a business would choose a no-cash policy. A spokesperson from salad chain “Sweetgreen” told the WSJ “its decision makes its team members safer amid the risk of robbery and improves the cleanliness and efficiency of the restaurants.” A “Dig In” spokesperson “says it makes for a faster experience for customers and for employees, who don’t have to count cash or make runs to the bank.”

With the exception of Massachusetts, which is the only state that currently requires retailers to accept cash, it is not illegal for a business to refuse cash. Still, as the Journal points out, all U.S. bills contain the words “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”

There are many groups of people who pay only with cash, such as minors, low-income earners and people who simply don’t want their every purchase to be documented.

This recent trend has caught the eyes of several legislators. Lawmakers in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. have proposed legislation to force businesses in their states to accept cash. New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres of the Bronx told the WSJ:

I refuse to patronize businesses that reject cash payments, even though I primarily use debit or credit. Not accepting cash is discriminatory against the undocumented, people without bank accounts and credit cards, and those who wish to have their transactions be more private. It’s a humiliating situation.

Clearly, the U.S. is moving toward a cashless society. Interestingly, China comes closer to a cashless society than any other nation.

Chinese vendors say they prefer debit or credit transactions for reasons of efficiency and hygiene. They also credit the trend with sharp reductions in the number of citizen and stall vendor robberies and in the use of counterfeit currency. Also, it goes without saying that Communist leaders find such easy access to an individual’s spending and a business’ earning history to be a beautiful thing.