Cash Might Be King, but They Don’t Care
By ANDY NEWMANDEC. 25, 2017
The other day at Dig Inn, a just-opened lunch spot on Broadway and 38th Street in Midtown Manhattan, Shania Bryant committed a consumer faux pas. She placed her order for chicken and brown rice and yams, and when she got to the register, she held out a $50 bill.
“Sorry,” the cashier told her. “We don’t take cash.” Not, “We don’t take $50s.” No cash. Period.
“What?” Ms. Bryant asked.
The cashier patiently explained. Credit and debit cards were fine, as was the easy-to-download Dig Inn phone app. But the almighty dollar was powerless.
“I’ve never experienced that before,” said Ms. Bryant, 20, an assistant to a designer. “I guess we’re in new times.”
Indeed. Cashless businesses were once an isolated phenomenon, but now, similarly jarring experiences can be had across the street at Sweetgreen, or two blocks up at Two Forks, or next door to Two Forks at Dos Toros, or over on 41st Street at Bluestone Lane coffee. In Midtown and some other neighborhoods across New York City, cashless is fast on its way to becoming normal.
The Two Forks chain also does not take cash. Visa recently offered select merchants a $10,000 reward to switch away from cash transactions. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
But it is not quite normal yet. So the cashier at Dig Inn cut Ms. Bryant a break.
“Just this one time, we’ll give it to you on the house,” she said, handing over the bag. “But just so you know, in the future.”
They can, and do. At Pokee, a poke-salad place in Greenwich Village, cash is treated like a quarantinable substance. “If you have exact change, we’ll take it,” said the woman behind the counter. “We give it to the manager and he puts it in a safe. Because we don’t have a register.”
Not surprisingly, the credit card companies, who make a commission on every credit card purchase, applaud the trend. Visa recently offered select merchants a $10,000 reward for depriving customers of their right to pay by the method of their choice. A Visa executive described this practice to CNN as offering shoppers “freedom from carrying cash.”
The perils of a cashless society
By MIKKI KENDALL
JAN 02, 2018
Visa last year offered up to 50 small businesses a $10,000 bounty to go cashless. Though it is still too early to know what will happen to the businesses that won the contest (Visa has not announced the winners yet), the key arguments in favor of cash-abandonment are that it would lead to more efficient service and carry a lower risk of theft. A recent New York Times article profiled restaurants in Manhattan that take only plastic, and boosters are looking forward to an entirely cashless society.
Doing away with cash may indeed sound appealing. Proponents often note that China and India have already gone further in this direction than the United States. But a few drawbacks are obvious: Card companies such as Visa charge merchants high processing fees, the risk of fraud balances out the lower risk of theft, older customers may not wish to make the change, and consumers will lose yet more privacy (corporations will have the ability to track every purchase made). Perhaps less obvious is that a cashless system will exclude the poor and near-poor.
Many impoverished people don't have credit cards or bank accounts. The very poor can't take plastic if they're begging on the street.
The cashless future won’t be easy and convenient. For too many, it’ll be a new hardship.