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Philadelphia Is First U.S. City to Ban Cashless Stores (wsj.com)
69 points by eplanit on March 7, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 151 comments

A personal anecdote:

At Joe & the Juice in Palo Alto (cashless), I was buying a drink with my friend, and a clearly homeless man in front of us was trying to buy a coffee with cash. They refused and he got upset, so my friend paid for his coffee to de-escalate.

We were outside when the cashier ran up to us in the street, explaining "Please don't buy drinks for these guys, they come in here and get a drink and use that to stay all day. It's not the look we're going for, and it's one of the reasons why we have this cashless policy."

Cashless stores are convenient and I understand the arguments for them (as well as the arguments for not buying homeless people free stuff), but as long as cashless can be used to disenfranchise lower income people, I'm opposed to it.

>"they come in here and get a drink and use that to stay all day."

Not wanting this behavior is absolutely reasonable, but what I'd find suspicious and don't understand is why cashless would be the method. I know of plenty of places that have policies along the lines of "during regular hours 15 minutes per drink, 40 with drink & food" or whatever is appropriate to the location. It's private property though a public business, and they can set non-discriminatory customer neutral policies for free use, particularly around interfering with other customers. It also doesn't seem like it'd be at all a class thing, I know lots of cafes around here have had issues sometimes with someone coming in and getting a single coffee then pulling out their high end notebook and using a table as a free internet accessible office for an hour or two. They are not even slightly poor, they've got credit cards and smartphones, they're just rude.

But the result was just that businesses instituted policies and simply ask such people to leave if it seems to be deterring other customers, and that also seems like the obvious general solution. I'm honestly curious about why in Palo Alto that wouldn't be true too, is there some local law/ordinance that prohibits asking a customer to leave or the like? If there is no such thing it does seem more likely they were just lying, and the real truth was that they want customers who meet some specific level of dress code and also don't want to be honest about it (for legal reasons or just plain PR or both).

There are plenty of real reasons for a business to want to take the hit to go cashless (managing significant amounts of physical cash is a genuine expense, and in some places raises the attractiveness for robbery too). This really doesn't seem like one of them though.

Paying for a coffee and sitting in a cafe for an hour is rude? I try to be conscious of being a responsible customer by this is completely normal and reasonable in the majority of cafes I'll frequent, like Philz in Palo Alto, or any Starbucks anywhere.

An hour seems fairly reasonable. I've seen groups of four people doing business meetings at coffee shops. Where I've heard staff complain is when someone buys a coffee and then stays for 4+ hours on a regular basis in a high traffic shop (like near the touristic cable car stops in SF).

I imagine it is just hard and annoying to try to enforce a time limit. You don't want your cashiers and baristas to have to keep track of how long each person has been sitting at a table. Plus, your cashiers may not be comfortable asking a homeless person to leave the establishment since it could lead to a confrontation.

On top of that, I could totally see a time limit rule being implemented poorly. The well-to-do looking businessman probably never gets asked to leave, while the young non-white person gets asked to leave...

I'm not saying cash-less is a good system, just saying the other policies have their issues as well.

> what I'd find suspicious and don't understand is why cashless would be the method.

It eliminates the confrontation at the end of the 15/40 minute grace limit.

This is disgusting. Here's a completely opposite example of a restaurant that is not run by discrimination: https://dc.eater.com/2017/2/17/14635410/kazi-mannan-mayur-ka...

It's "disgusting" to want to maintain standards in an restaurant?

I mean, to put it bluntly, yes.

You might not be disgusted, that is your right. It is their right to be disgusted.

If you're looking for an argument why one should be disgusted, one cannot be forthcoming. I cannot give you a very persuasive argument why you should be sympathetic to the personal circumstances that the homeless find themselves in. That sort of sympathy is kinda just its own purpose or its own end; if you lack it then there is very little I can tell you that would definitively convince you of its merit. Like I can BS with fallacies all the day long about how this sort of empathy was important to our species in premodern times and continues to be important in modern times, but the fallacy will remain that simply because that disposition exists in a collective historical interest, that does not mean it is in your particular individual interest.

You're saying it's impossible to believe in helping the homeless while also believing there exist restaurants they shouldn't be in in their current state?

Because that feels like a false dichotomy.

Do you also think that if someone has the right to view pornography, they have the right to do it everywhere?

Do you think that if violent child molester deserves a right to a job, that should include the right to working at a day care center? And if someone thinks that's not a job they should get, they must lack empathy?

Those feel like unwarranted inferences, intended more for emotional appeal than constructive engagement.

I never would say something is impossible to believe unless it were a logical contradiction, and even then I wouldn't be 100% sure in saying it. People believe all sorts of things.

I’m just saying that people have a right to be disgusted by the store’s reasoning. I did not say anything that could be construed as supporting violent child molesters and the fact that you think I did says much more about you than me.

Your comment is bluster in search of a fight. I don’t have one to give you. You were just wrong. Tomorrow’s another day.

When those "standards" are built around excluding certain groups of people, yes.

I'm sure they would try to turn away any middle class homeowner who hasn't bathed in months as well.

I think it's reasonable to have some sanitation and pleasentness standards in a restaurant. Anyone from any economic class could meet or not meet those standards. It may be harder for a homeless person to stay relatively well kept, but I don't think that is the responsibility of the restaurants to fix. We should reduce the people living in filth, not accept and encourage filth I'm public spaces.

Who said this person hasn't bathed in months? I have to challenge your claim of it being fine to want "pleasantness" or "standards" in a public space. 60 years ago, pre civil rights, this "pleasantness" meant not being black, which is ridiculous. "Filth" is also very much culturally shaped ... it sounds like you are saying homelessness == filth && unhealthy && public menace, which is very problematic.

edit: also, the no-cash policy does not filter against the "middle class home owner who hasn't bathed in months", so that does not hold.

That's what price and classiness does, doesn't it? Isn't price the ultimate barrier? Isn't that why Facebook and friends are so effective, because they want to subsidize everything?

More interesting would be to get a business license you must supply services to different tiers of pricing access.

Behavior, not people.

Is a policy which discriminates against cash usage the best way to screen against the "behavior" of being dirty/smelly? Why not just ask him to leave if he loiters too long?

Instead, this policy clearly screens against a group of PEOPLE (those without access to electronic means of payment), which may or may not overlap with those participating in the undesirable "behaviors" I agree a restaurant should have the right to not tolerate.

Why would you purposefully rephrase the story to include only one side? It's still there, right above your post.

I am very shocked. I really like Joe & the Juice. This story warrants a boycott, if it is credible.

I had a somewhat similar experience in Williamsburg, New York last summer.

There’s a Sweetgreen chain restaurant in the neighborhood. Being in there always fires off a bit of liberal white guilt, as there are few African Americans in the neighborhood (a Brooklyn outlier), but nearly everyone employed there is. It's the most visible marker of segregation here.

Three black women were ahead of me in line. They have their lunches made to order, get to the register, and are told they cannot pay with cash. None of these three adult women had a credit card or debit card with them.

I immediately offered to accept their cash and put their lunches on my card with my own order. Two of the women were very grateful, the third vacillated between visible embarrassment that some white guy had to come in and rescue her, and anger at the restaurant.

Make no mistake about it: cash-only policies hurt lower income and minority people. Even after this experience I was still sort of on the fence about it, but having mentally reviewed this episode and spelled it out here, I don't think I can continue in good conscience to shop at establishments like this anymore.

Wow, that is an absolutely disgusting justification for that policy. What's next, a button that raises spikes on cafe chairs if you pay with cash?

What is disgusting about it? I don’t know anyone who would want to patronize a business that reeks of body odor and full of possibly mentally ill people.

We want private businesses to deal with the homeless and mentally ill, but I’d like to see all these white collar offices open themselves up so the homeless can come hang out.

I went to Seattle’s downtown public library once, beautiful building and I would have loved to explore, but I had to leave due to the overwhelming stench of all the homeless people.

> What is disgusting about it?

Because it subjects real people to petty indignities for no good reason.

> I went to Seattle’s downtown public library once, beautiful building and I would have loved to explore, but I had to leave due to the overwhelming stench of all the homeless people.

Some people used to think just like that about black people, so they wrote laws and put up signs to exclude them [1]. The people at Joe & the Juice that the GGP describe are the same, but they just have to be more subtle about it.

[1] https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm

I think a better solution would be to provide fresh clothes / showers to homeless people, not force cafes to allow people who absolutely stink in.

Where I live, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (affluenza patients everywhere), there is a full-service laundrymat that offers free cleaning if you have a job interview. It's where I always take my dry cleaning.

Someone’s foul odor and possible mental illness affects others negatively, the color of someone’s skin does not. They are not comparable at all.

I’m all for helping people, it just shouldn’t be the job of private businesses, especially when it’s costing them other business. Let’s build facilities to treat the mentally ill and help addicts, let’s help the homeless who have hit hard times. Let’s not make it the job of hotels and cafes and libraries to host them and play the “discrimination, but not discrimination” game.

> Someone’s foul odor and possible mental illness affects others negatively, the color of someone’s skin does not. They are not comparable at all.

To be perfectly frank: that justification stinks of rationalization. I'm sure that the people who put up those signs I linked also felt that the presence of black customers would have affected them negatively.

> Let’s build facilities to treat the mentally ill and help addicts, let’s help the homeless who have hit hard times.

Those laws I mentioned previously had something to say about limiting black people to special facilities built especially for them, and excluding them from facilities built for whites [1].

> Let’s not make it the job of...libraries to host them and play the “discrimination, but not discrimination” game.

Are you serious? Libraries are public institutions.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_segregation_in_the_Unit...

Particles landing on someone’s olfactory nerves causing chemical reactions that inform the person that they should be repulsed is not the same as a person “feeling” that someone with different color skin negatively affects them.

Libraries are for learning, community events, tutoring, many things, but having homeless people stink up the place ruins it for everyone. I don’t understand how someone can argue that society should let a group of people ruin it for everyone. It’s the same as someone walking in with speakers and blasting loud music in a library.

> I don’t understand how someone can argue that society should let a group of people ruin it for everyone.

I don't understand how someone can make sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people, and argue that they should be excluded from "learning, community events, tutoring, many things" because of ignorant stereotyping

>It’s the same as someone walking in with speakers and blasting loud music in a library

It really isn't at all. People don't walk around blasting loud music because they don't have access to proper facilities and products to care for themselves at the same level that you are able to.

It's notable that you keep returning to strong body odor again and again. While I'm sure you can find an examples of homeless people like that, and it's likely that homeless people as a population have more body odor problems, superhuman body odor is hardly a universal quality of the homeless.

The root comment made no mention of body odor, let alone body odor so bad that it would affect other customers. It also referenced a region where the rent is so damn high that people have been driven out of stable housing and are forced to live in campers on the street [1]. It only described a situation were a business was trying to keep "those people" out.

It seems pretty clear to me that you're engaging in negative stereotyping to justify your prejudices. Thank you for the education, it's rare in my life that I see such attitudes so openly displayed.

[1] https://www.mv-voice.com/news/2018/03/08/council-rejects-res...

Are you asserting not having a credit card means you smell and are possibly crazy?

>reeks of body odor and full of possibly mentally ill people

Why are you repeatedly implying that homeless people reek of body odor and are mentally ill when the original comment made no mention of either? It sounds a lot like the kind of excuses made about black people, jewish people, and other groups that have been stereotyped and dehumanized in order to justify poor treatment and cruelty. There are plenty of homeless people that are not mentally ill, and strive to maintain their hygiene despite not having access to the same facilities products that people take for granted. People seem to be able to get away with talking extremely poorly about homeless people, and yet if you replaced homeless with a particular race/religious group/etc you would likely be called a bigot. It sounds like you've never experienced homelessness or had family/friends that have been homeless, and your comments are ignorant and show a complete lack of empathy.


Reminds me of this art exhibit: http://i.imgur.com/tgKix5d.png

Please don't give them ideas.

They ultimately disenfranchise people far less than the real issue, which is high prices and financial disparity in society. What would it even mean to improve access by allowing cash but still having an entire stratum of society inaccessible through high prices? Money is the ultimate accessibility issue, which is why Facebook and friends are racing to subsidize everything with ads.

I'm more worried about the loss of privacy in a new fully accounted world without cash.

I know the classic argument against giving homeless people money, but what's the argument for not buying them food? They'll stay lazy" and not "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" (which physics shows is actually impossible)?

The store's reasoning in this anecdote isn't that they don't believe homeless people shouldn't have their drinks; it's that they don't want homeless people to spend time in their cafe. If they have drinks, they'll spend time in the cafe.

They're wielding a "cashless" policy here much in the same way states used to use things like literacy tests and poll taxes[1] as ways to disenfranchise minority voters.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_rights_in_the_United_St...

I mean if you're curious there actually is a good argument for not buying the homeless food, and it has to do with a sort of "market saturation." Talking to some homeless people and some formerly-homeless people, my understanding is that they know at this point where they can go to get a hot meal, and they take full advantage of those sorts of help.

By contrast what is missing includes reliable sources of clean drinking water, reliable sources of quarters and possibly detergent that could be used to do laundry, reliable sources of personal-needs products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, dish soap, changes of underwear/socks since those are less-often donated to clothing distribution locations.

Indeed the argument against giving the homeless money seems to me a little strange, since it inherently places them in a distrusted role over their decisions about themselves and emphasizes your control over someone else. It's not that the argument has no merit—it still has some. But in many regards the argument is limited, simply because wisdom cannot be imposed on someone from outside but must be learned and chosen from within: if I create a sandbox for the homeless where they can only do the activities that I approve of, I might get them out of homelessness—but am I really sure that then when I send them back into the world they will fare better? Put another way, how many people go through drug rehab and then relapse? Giving someone money and saying “I don’t know if you are going to spend this on booze tonight but I trust that if you keep having opportunities like this eventually you will learn that its more wise to spend it on your laundry” may be worse overall—but it's not clear that it’s worse in the long run by a substantial margin.

I heavily prefer cashless stores. For me it's all about the convenience. Also I am better able to track my purchases and spending habits. Additionally, I like eat in a clean environment if I can. I don't want to eat where it stinks to the high heavens or is dirty. It is a preference. There is nothing stopping homeless people from going cashless by simply buying a AMX card at walgreens with cash already on it.

How is a cashless store more convenient and help you better track your purchase, compared with a store that accepts both cash and cards? You're setting up a false cashless vs cardless dichotomy.

> Additionally, I like eat in a clean environment if I can. I don't want to eat where it stinks to the high heavens or is dirty. It is a preference. There is nothing stopping homeless people from going cashless by simply buying a AMX card at walgreens with cash already on it.

These two arguments are at odds. Cash is not what makes stores stink or get dirty; what you're saying is that you prefer stores without people you associate with stink, ie., homeless. But if the homeless could "simply" get a card, cashless stores wouldn't have that advantage.

And the reality is that they can't; prepaid cards have monthly fees, which are only waived in certain cases (e.g. have a monthly direct deposit of over $500).

> Cash is not what makes stores stink or get dirty; what you're saying is that you prefer stores without people you associate with stink, ie., homeless. But if the homeless could "simply" get a card, cashless stores wouldn't have that advantage.

You are reading more into what I stated than what is there. I'm saying I don't care if someone is homeless or not. If they stink in a restaurant or coffee shop I don't want to eat there. That's all I said. I did not link it to the store being cashless or not. You added that in yourself.

Then I simply offered up an alternative to get around the cashless rules. Someone collecting a monthly fee from the cards does not matter as much if it's just going to be spent within the month anyway.

Many businesses have cashless as a theft prevention measure. It's only mildly more difficult for people to do transactions there if it's more difficult at all. When I was poor I preferred cashless. Nothing has changed since I'm less poor now than I was before. With cards I have recourse. With cash I have zero recourse if something is stolen or there is fraud.

"going cashless" is a form of class warfare.

This is excellent news. I hope other municipalities and states follow. The exceptions for 'memberships' is a cop-out and hopefully this will be changed in the future as well.

Cash must be accepted. It is the only form of payment (besides cryptocurrencies) where the individual does the payment. Other forms are merely large corporations/institutions using their financial clout to signal that they will pay for something in the future. And those corporations always have perverse incentives to both sell your purchasing history to anyone that wants it as well as enact financial embargoes against arbitrary people/companies whenever even slight political or social pressure is applied.

Only accepting corporate or institutional payments is racism against non-corporate persons (humans).

Most cryptocurrencies someone else is still doing the payment, they're just selected in pseudorandom way that's waited by their ability to complete a proof of work.

Unless you're using an exchange (admittedly most are) for your trading then it's still your machine telling the network it'd like to do a transaction - somebody is selected via proof of work to confirm it - and then you're on your way. Only you can start the transaction, and it can only be received by the one you addressed it to.

The way credit/debit cards work is far different IMO.

This argument runs counter to all the articles saying China is ahead of the U.S. in cashless transactions and that we should catch up or be left behind.

All those articles about "digitizing commerce" are pushed by parties (fintech startups, banks, you name it) that have a vested interest in getting between you and the vendor.

That said, I won't be surprised if a growth sector of tomorrow's job market is in literally digitizing what didn't need to be digitized, so that Big Tech has an even bigger data pie to gorge upon.

This has already started happening judged by the proliferation of unnecessary IoT like kitchen appliances or your washer/dryer.

A million times yes. I'm just waiting for the next idiotic thing to put on the internet? Light switch? OK, fine. Light bulb? Uhh...... Microwave? Huh?! Fridge? Wtf. How about iot Rice cooker! Bread maker! Shower faucet! (toc apply that zuck up all your data)

That's it. Life on this planet is obviously doomed, as evidenced by this fourth horseman here. Nothing to due but start over with a new evolutionary tract in another solar system. I hear good things about silicon-based life on Betelgeuse V.


Any establishment where you pay after you receive goods or services (post-pay gas stations, restaurants, etc) must accept cash by federal law. If you are paying for something you have not yet received (grocery store, movie tickets) the business can refuse cash, unless a state or local law requires it.

Honestly, I'd like to see universal acceptance of cash extended into federal law.

That's what I've heard too, but the Federal Reserve site's statement doesn't make that distinction:


It seems to be the same distinction to me, just worded differently. i.e. legal tender is valid for settling debts, such as the debt you have after eating a meal in a restaurant or filling your vehicle, whereas in the process of grocery shopping you do not incur and later settle a debt.

Right, but it says specifically that businesses don't have to accept cash, no exception for "once the service is rendered" or whatnot.

Ah, I see what you mean.

At my brother's wedding last year he had a food truck come in that would not even acknowledge your existence unless you used your credit card to enter your order in the computer terminal on the outside of the truck. There are definitely ways to get around the current 'must accept cash for debts' laws being widely exploited now.

Do post-pay gas stations still exist?

Yes, in most of Europe at least.

We've three ways of paying I know of:

1. Fill at the pump, go inside (or sometimes to an outside payment booth) and pay with cash or card. Almost all manned stations offer this way of paying.

2. Start a transaction at the pump with a card. A large enough amount to fill a large car is reserved on the card. After filling up, the real (lower) amount is confirmed and written off. (deferred sale). This is used at most unmanned stations. Also manned stations sometimes offer to pay at the pump this way, next to option 1.

3. You pay an amount up-front, at the pump with cash or card. Tricky part is you have to guess how much fuel you'll need, because there will be no refund if you use less. I've only encountered these pre-paid-only ones at some unmanned stations on the east coast of Italy.

Yes, but they're generally in rural areas where people know each other.

Or, ya know...the entire state of Oregon.

And New Jersey.

Yup. They're the standard in Minnesota/Wisconsin as far as I can tell. I always get a little upset when I encounter a pre-pay gas station in other parts of the country. It's offensive.

Many in Australia, particularly rural areas.

I don't get why there aren't any laws formulated at the federal level to ban cashless stores. Not accepting the U.S. dollar as direct payment is pretty much refuting the sovereignty of the U.S. government, no? It also concentrates financial leverage in a few payments companies rather than direct consumers, which may incentivize anti-consumer behavior like adding/raising credit card rates (what are you going to do, use cash in a cashless world?).

They still accept US dollars, just not in physical form. Most money created by the government is virtual.

I'm impressed that such a move is even possible, considering the powerful interests that must be in favour of cashless. Cashless stores could be a stepping stone in the abolishment of cash.

The main issue for me is that if society is cashless, we could get negative interest rates, and we would be at the mercy of banks. All kinds of offers and conditions could be tied to and bundled with an increasingly abstract concept of money, credit and income.

Is there much difference between a negative interest rate on a bank account, and holding cash in an economy that experiences inflation?

I think it's important for there to be options - if you are reliant on the payment network, what happens if it goes down? What if someone for whatever reason is unable to use their card?

Having cash as a universally accepted backup is a good thing. That being said, I can see all the issues with the implementation - I've experienced some of them myself. But, why have we not seen any improvements? We already have mechanisms for processing cash and change automatically, vending machines do it all the time. Self-checkouts seem to manage cash just fine.

Just a speculative idea, but why not an automatic cash processing machine on the side of the main line? Tell it what the amount owed is, person can move over there and take all the time they want digging through wallets without disrupting the main flow. Possible issues with employees having to take time out for fixing issues with the machine, but then you have that problem with card processing machines anyways. Some Walmarts have both cash/card machines and card only machines - seems like a reasonable compromise.

There are clear benefits to being able to process both card and cash - why are we so fixated on getting rid of cash instead of bringing the process to the same level as card?

I bet these non cash businesses start taking cash right away of their card reader goes down. Either that or close for the day? No way. They will change their policy temporarily because keeping poor people out is less a priority than making money. Still a priority, just less of one.

I enjoy cashless stores. A few bars in Seattle are card only and it’s a lot more efficient. I understand that there is potential impact to low income people who don’t have credit but isn’t it kind of up to the store owner to decide what they want to accept?

The store owner agrees to abide by the laws of the city at the time they sign their articles of incorporation, or their business license. If they want to do cashless, they're free to talk to their political representatives about it, or go online-only.

I know it's cliche, what I'm about to do, but your comment is unhelpful enough to merit it.

"The store owner agrees to adhere to the Jim Crow laws at the time they sign their articles of incorporation, or their business licenses. If they want to serve black and white people in the same space, they're free to talk their political representatives about it, or operate in a different jurisdiction."

Repeating that the law is the law is not a productive contribution to a discussion about the merit of the laws.

Interesting that you chose to reference Jim Crow to contextualize a law explicitly designed to not restrict access to services because of the form of legal tender you carry. In a city where 26pct live in poverty and may not have access to banking services, such a law is about as no-brainer as it gets.

Laws attempt to balance the interests of the individual with those of the community, and can be influenced by the participation of the community. Jim Crow lasted as long as it did because the people that it harmed never got a vote.

For such a law to be unjust, you'll have to show some evidence of people being negatively affected by it. The only counterpoints offered by the article are concerns from Amazon, about a store that does not even exist in Philly yet.

Do you see the difference between the argument you just made and your original comment?

I don't. This is not some obscure by-law from decades ago that a businessperson wouldn't be reasonably expected to know. I imagine a businessperson would already know what their cash policy would be prior to applying for a business license.

Businesses continue to have the right to refuse service to anyone. Just don't tell them it's because they brought cash. I don't recall Jim Crow laws having such loopholes.

The upscale cashless places mentioned in the article already have most if not all of their customers using credit cards, so this law won't be losing them any customers. Although as the article says, their cashiers may have to learn how to add and subtract change every now and then.

Really? You honestly don't see the difference between "you had to agree to that law to operate your business" and "here is a reason that the law is a good idea"? Or the similarity between "you can just do sales online if you don't like the laws, therefore there is no problem here whatsoever" and "you can just operate in a different jurisdiction, therefore there is not problem here whatsoever"?

Then ... I don't think there can be any real meeting of the minds on this :-/

There's a ramen shop in Seattle that won't accept cash anymore, and that always leaves me feeling uncomfortable. What's wrong with real money? Why should we all be dependent on banks to mediate our transactions?

I haven't stopped going to that ramen shop, and I often pay for things with a debit card anyway, but it feels wrong not to have the option to use cash.

I went to get a coffee at a random shop in SOHO. When I took out a $20, they said they didn't take cash. I left immediately.

> low income people who don’t have credit

I know that banking in the US is both weird and antiquated compared to the rest of the developed world, and I also know that the unbanked population is relatively high, but surely most low-income people can own a debit card and pay without cash, no?

Might depend on where you are. With the exception of Food Stamps, pretty much every transaction I've seen from lower income people in my area is cash based.

I usually feel like an outsider since I generally carry no cash in an area where it feels like everyone pays for everything with cash.

Most can, lots can. "Unbanked" is a real problem.

> isn’t it kind of up to the store owner to decide what they want to accept?

Yes, and it's up to the community what kind of business practices to accept.

This doesn't sit right with me. If someone comes in with thousands of pennies am I allowed to refuse that type of payment? As a business, if I don't want to deal with the overhead of handling cash, I shouldn't have to. It feels like a law where websites are required to render correctly on all browsers or something. The right to refuse service to people should also extend to the right to refuse types of payment.

> This doesn't sit right with me. If someone comes in with thousands of pennies am I allowed to refuse that type of payment?

In the UK yes.

There are rules about the maximum you can pay in different denominations.

    1p – for any amount up to 20p
    2p – for any amount up to 20p
    5p – for any amount up to £5
    10p – for any amount up to £5
    20p – for any amount up to £10
    25p (Crown) – for any amount up to £10
    50p – for any amount up to £10
People where paying their council tax (think of them as state taxes) in 1's and 2's.

If you wonder what 25p (Crown) is, the law dates from the early 70's which was the era we went over to decimal coinage.

"This note is legal tender for ALL debts, public and private."

A state must have a monopoly on its money. We don't let people print money and cards are an indirection, but they must still deal in US currency. The note is the most basic form of that currency.

So yes, you should need to count 1,000 pennies. You might not like it .. it may be abused, but those are the rules of the system we currently have.

A more common case than the 1k pennies I see is small item shops like convenience stores having a posted note for refusing to accept $50 and $100 bills. This seems totally fine per: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Currency/Pages...

There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.

That's actually not what legal tender means: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Currency/Pages...

Incorrect. You are not required to accept all and any form of legal tender. You do not have to count those pennies. You can refuse to accept that form of payment.

A sale is not a debt, so by the rules of the current system a shop can refuse to count those pennies.


True, but that's why I'm saying it doesn't sit right with me. I'm not debating what the law is. I'm saying, in my opinion, businesses should be allowed to refuse types of payments.

You can probably refuse any type of payment you want... except cash.

I believe in Canada they can and the limits are expressly stated.

You can refuse payment. But in doing so, you dissolve the debt.

That sounds like a highly uncommon scenario. I cashiered full time for nearly 3 years during college at a busy convenience store and encountered people paying with large sums of change < 5 times. Doesn't seem like a good reason to ban an entire payment method.

Of course you should be able to refuse 1000 pennies. Singapore has a very simple law that solves this cleanly with no fuss at all: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/what-you-should-know-...

As a business, you can refuse service any time. Trying to pay with pennies is not a protected class. Any complaint or outrage would likely be met with public scorn. Pennies are legal tender, but you do not have a right to pay exclusively in pennies.

> If someone comes in with thousands of pennies am I allowed to refuse that type of payment?

Yes, this has always been the case.

Card payments are so much faster for everyone involved in my experience at bars, nightclubs, event venues (sports, music festivals, concerts), and coffeeshops.

Other groups to consider (not mentioned in this article) are foreign visitors and kids.

Foreign transaction fees on each transaction can add up, so it's often best to get local currency at an ATM or a bureau de change. As for kids, parents often give kids cash as a budgeting mechanism.

With chip based cards, cash has become faster. At least this is the case with the card reader at the cafeteria at work, where you can hum most of the Jeopardy theme while waiting for the machine to do its thing. Whereas cash customers move along in a few seconds.

Good for them. Cashless stuff sound cool and progressive in the short run, but it's is a horrible idea in the long run. It's a privacy nightmare and gives disproportionate power to a few middlemen entities that usually have zero obligations to anyone. Also, it's a great stepping stone towards centralized control over all transactions.

Going back to largely cash transactions not only reduced my paper trail, but it's much easier to keep to a weekly budget. And, hey, cash price at gas stations!

> cash price at gas stations!

I avoid all gas stations that have a "cash" price.

On average, you're not saving money that way. The cash price reflects that you're not paying as much in bank fees.

Sure, and if you pay cash anywhere that accepts cards but has no cash discount, then you are subsidizing the bank fees (gotta get those points!) for all card-paying customers.

Pretty sure all of MA banned cashless stores in the 70's. Guess this is the first _city_, but still not the "first" to make the move.

Cash is so much faster. I'm frequently stuck behind someone who has card problems, or is using some affinity card, or mistypes their PIN, or is mucking with their phone to get it to interact with the reader. Cash and you're done in 15 seconds.

Worst case is someone who actually accepted the clerk's sales pitch to sign up for an affinity card. That takes forever.

In NYC I have had the exact opposite experience. Cashiers routinely process 2 or 3 card payments while they politely ask the odd person rummaging around their wallet for cash to step to the side. Plus they have to mess around with change once the person does finally get the correct bills together. In the morning when I'm in a rush I get anxious if I notice someone start reaching for cash and I'm behind them in the line.

Random idea, and I know this is unlikely to come to pass, but this could be largely mitigated if stores listed all-in prices (including tax) and made those relatively round figures so that people could figure out how much to get out while in line.

The problem is that sales tax varies wildly according to your local jurisdiction, and prices, particularly for chains, are not set at that level.

Maybe, but that doesn't seem like an intractable problem if you're willing to take some fluctuation on margin from region to region. Which corps do already due to differences in minimum wage, suppliers, etc.

well, they still have to account for the local sales tax at the register, so why not at the price gun?

Fascinating - and I always wonder how much that experience is geography-specific. I've noticed that Canada has had chip cards for years while US was signature-based; and have than had tap-to-pay credit card standard for years as US catches up with chips. Here, it's at the point where I feel quite bad and socially pressured if I "have to" use cash for whatever reason, because I know I'm delaying the line up behind me.

Credit card is usually 2-3 seconds tap and you're done, whereas cash means I have to find it, cashier has examine it, to enter the denomination into the cash register, hit button to open the cash drawer, collect the correct change (which could be a combination of bills and coins), and give it to me, close the drawer etc - minimum of 15-20 seconds per transaction. In a line up of 10, that's 3-4 minutes; in a large busy store, it can really add up.

I often think about this:

1. Sometimes it's said in the ad world that you take your greatest weakness and market it as your strength. Airlines selling on friendliness and roominess, for example. 2. When Visa made a big push for debit cards, the TV commercials had people in a cafe moving in rhythm, and the person with cash was the person who slowed everything down[0].

I was a kid then and accepted it uncritically. But when I actually rethought #2 in light of #1, they basically did this. You're right, cash has pretty much always been faster than a debit card. I dunno how much this had an impact on the uptake of debit cards, but it definitely made me a bit more cynical about advertising.

[0]: YouTube pulling through in the clutch! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jslUaywn7h4

Great job finding that! You got me to look up another ad I remembered, along the same lines, but criticizing the inconvenience of checks:


Ahhh amazing, I think I remember that commercial now. I definitely also forgot about people writing checks at stores; haven't seen that since the days of going to the grocery store with my mom.

It can go either way TBH. I've been stuck behind people fishing for the right bills or change or whatnot, and I've seen CC purchases go really fast.

And there are legions of time-wasting upsells regardless of how you're paying.

Cash is slow. Everytime they are counting the change forever

If this were true, there would only be one time, and they would still be counting the change.

I posted this in the article about NYC going cashless as well. The thing that I find interesting is the lack of septa key being mentioned.

Septa key is their new transit card. But it can act as a debit card with money loaded via cash. No bank account required. Caveat that the kiosks aren't spread every where. But they are in enough locations.

Despite that I have barely heard mention of it during this cashless discussion. The whole crux is allowing underprivileged to access stores. Which was one of the reasons for the Key card as well.


It's not mentioned because SEPTA still accepts cash. You aren't required to buy a Septa Key card to ride.

I understand that. But the Key card can act as a debit card / electronic payment. Without a backing bank account. The whole complexity add of turning it into a debit card. Was so that people without banks could shop at card only stores.

The whole argument for this doesn’t make sense. Cashless payment systems are ubiquitous across socioeconomic lines in China and other countries. The problem is specific to the US and can be solved in a less destructive manner to businesses. Instead of punishing retailers, the city should create an incentive system to help people from less privileged backgrounds obtain access to banking systems and electronic payment systems.

I was thinking about this recently when news broke that Atlanta's Mercedez-Benz Stadium (home to MLS's Atlanta United, NFL Atlanta Falcons, recent superbowl host) was going cashless too. While technologically 'neat' or whatever, it always also feels just like a flashy move and definitely a slight against the poor. Sports entertainment doesn't have to be only for the rich, a trend that always creeps

I was thinking about this recently when news broke that Atlanta's Mercedez-Benz Stadium (home to MLS's Atlanta United, NFL Atlanta Falcons, recent superbowl host) was going cashless too. While technologically 'neat' or whatever, it always also feels just like a flashy move and definitely a slight against the poor. Sports entertainment doesn't have to be only for the rich, a trend that always creeps

My first move would be to eliminate the ability to write off tickets/boxes. I can't count the number of people I know that have corporate tickets that are 90% for personal use, but written off because they take the occasional client to a game/show.


> In February, New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres introduced legislation that would prohibit retail establishments from refusing to accept payments in cash. The council hasn’t made a decision on the bill yet, but Torres is confident that it will pass by mid-year. If it does, cashless businesses could face fines of up to $500 for every violation ... Also in February, both houses of New Jersey’s state legislature passed a similar bill and are only awaiting the governor’s signature. San Francisco has recently proposed a similar ordinance, and Washington D.C. and Chicago have also introduced legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against cash as a form of payment.

>Philadelphia City Councilman William Greenlee, a Democrat, >said he was inspired to introduce the bill after noticing >some Center City sandwich shops had gone cashless.

>“Most of the people who don’t have credit tend to be lower >income, minority, immigrants. It just seemed to me, if not >intentional, at least a form of discrimination,” he said. >Now, he said, stores will be required “to do what businesses >have been doing since Ben Franklin was walking the streets of >Philadelphia.”

Shame on Philadelphia for punishing innovation instead of helping low income families access banking and credit cards.

There is no one in Philadelphia who does not have access to the banking system, or have the ability to pay cash for a prepaid debit card. After dealing with people in Philadelphia who are "unbanked" it was never because they couldn't get access, it was a choice they made to avoid having assets in the regulated banking system

I'm not entirely sure why the article is conflating credit with this issue. Card != credit. There are debit cards too, and you don't need credit for one of those.

The same factors that lead to being denied credit also result in being denied access to banking, so, sure, the problem is really for the unbanked and not those simply lacking credit, but those groups have a deep and fundamental link, not a mere casual correlation.

As a Philadelphian, I find this odd and backwards. It’s cash only stores (Chinese food stores, corner stores, etc) that are annoying to me since I almost never have cash on hand and prefer to pay with my card. Plus I’m sure the city is bringing in far less tax revenue from cash only stores than a cashless store since there’s no paper trail with cash.

However, I am aware Philadelphia is a poor city, with around a 20% unemployment rate so, and many unbanked/underbanked ppl I can see the other side.

> since there’s no paper trail with cash.

Exactly this. This is why cash is good. Anonymity.

Enjoy it while it still exists.

Weirdly, the idea of an entirely cashless store strikes me as sort of last century. I do most stuff online now. There is no point in bothering with a special payment method for offline stuff. It is easier to just use cash for everything.

Perhaps some day the government might come up with some sort of usable electronic cash system, but until that day I carry around bills and coins.

Meanwhile, "Danish government wants to allow petrol stations, stores to refuse cash" https://www.thelocal.dk/20190227/danish-government-wants-to-...

> ... shall not: ... Charge a higher price to customers who pay cash than they would pay using any other form of payment.


Businesses are also prohibited from charging a cash processing fee higher than the processing fee of any other type of payment. Depending on how this is interpreted you could introduce an alternate form of payment that carries a high processing fee and charge the same amount to pay with cash.

Edit: Replaced joke with the technical insight it was meant to suggest due to downvote.

"Any other" is not "some other". I don't think that's ambiguous, you can't charge more for cash than the cheapest alternative payment method.

It sounds like it might also require a company to give cash purchases the same discount they offer to consumer credit card purchases.

i thought that because cash was "legal tender" it was required by law to be accepted but the second paragraph disabused me of that.

Is it just about purchasing access to certain consumer groups, or also a defensive move to preserve human cashiers jobs?

Unlikely. Self-checkout kiosks can process cash and give change just fine.

My assumption is that this is to protect the buying power of the unbanked - which are predominantly low-income, as I understand it.

Ars Technica has a non-paywalled article: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/03/sorry-amazon-phi...

And notes that Massachusetts has banned cashless stores since 1978

IMO the whole cashless/alt currency movement indicates to me that the Government failed to innovate to the benefit of it's citizens.

Sorry, how is this relevant to this article? Banning pure cashless stores for the benefit of low-income or young customers seems reasonable to me. I think my takeaway is, what can the cashless movement do for low-income or young populations?

Their money is arguably safer and they have recourse if their card is stolen.

I'm conflicted in how I feel about this.

On one hand, cash is legal tender. If you're a business charging money in that currency, not accepting that currency seems wrong. Even moreso given some of the socioeconomic impacts of people not able to have bank accounts / debit cards.

On the other, this is capitalism. As a consumer, innovating towards a cashless society is a good thing, and I would be afraid that such legislation would have a chilling effect on innovation in this area. As a business, if eliminating the requirement to deal with cash makes business sense, go for it. If you're a consumer that wants to make cash transactions, or feels that others should have that ability, vote with your feet and take your business elsewhere.

At the end of the day, I'm more concerned about businesses that only accept cash. That's annoying to me as a consumer, but I wouldn't suggest legislation: I might just vote with my feet.

(I do think that public/government entities should be required to accept credit cards, though. Toll plazas, for instance. I don't always carry cash in this... increasingly cashless society.)

Good. I prefer paying with my phone/card, but cash should always be an option.

Some politicians work some deals cash-only by necessity.

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