The demise of cash. . .and its impacts

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While out and about running errands this weekend, I started thinking about the demise of cash — after all, many of us use debit, credit and vendor-specific cards or “speedpays” or mobile pay, PayPal, Square and goodness knows what else.

Essentially, we use everything but cash — Economist Robert Reich states “95 percent of the transactions in America, or more, have nothing to do with physical pieces of paper or coins” and that was apparent as I started paying attention to what was going on around me. . .

  • there was the Farmer’s Market where person after person had to put their selections back as the card machine was down, lots of grumbling — once should be enough for this to have happened, the owner should have a Square or other mobile payment account
  • a boy scout troop had a table full of popcorn (their annual fundraiser) and sad faces outside a local pharmacy.  Turns out they had lots of “I’m sorry, I don’t carry cash” comments and very few sales — if only these 9-year-olds had a Square account or whoever set up the locations realized there was no ATM in the vicinity they may have fared a lot better.
  • a local restaurant doesn’t accept cards, and doesn’t share that until you try to pay (we all take those “credit/debit card” decals on doors and windows for granted and don’t notice when they’re NOT there) — several tables had one person while the other was out finding an ATM machine to pay for the dinner they just ate — we’ve often decided not to go there simply because we didn’t have the “cash in pocket”
  • and the local business owner who was promoting a “cash mob” for her business on Saturday and had people ask if they had to pay in cash — and were happy to discover they could use their card of choice, my question is how many didn’t ask and assumed it was “cash or nothing” and so left?

And some less “immediately” tangible effects:

  • For some, it’s easier to spend more.  After all, it’s not as if you have a finite number of bills in your wallet — it’s “just” a signature or a code you punch in
  • For others, it’s easier to hold onto more.  After all, every penny is now documented.  No more wondering “where” that $5, $10, $20 went — your account statement shows you, like it or not
  • One can assume that, given how absolutely filthy (literally) cash is, there will be some health benefits to us not touching/transferring it
  • There’s the “innovation needed” of causes who used to stand outside grocery stores, pharmacies and the like — from the Veterans’ annual poppy drive to the Boy Scouts’ popcorn and the Girl Scouts’ cookies — and collect cash donations
  • And of course the restaurant servers, parking lot valets, skycaps, yard sales and other industries who depend on cash may feel the pinch when cash is taken out of the equation

So what does this mean for you?

Quite frankly, it depends.  It depends on whether you regularly carry cash and donate to causes like the Veteran’s during their Poppy drive or the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts during popcorn/cookie time.  If you don’t carry and do donate, then I recommend keeping a $20 stashed in your wallet just for these causes.  And other $20 in tip-sized bills for when needed.

And for your business?

Accept payment in as many ways as possible.  Make it easy for people to do business with you.