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San Francisco Bans Cashless Stores (sfgate.com)
57 points by latchkey 53 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

I pay electronically almost everywhere, but I do recognize that cash payments are a basic human right. Going 100% cashless opens doors to all sorts of monopoly/distopia scenarios.

Not to mention privacy issues. I like using Square, but now my email gets sent around to any store I visit. Even with a regular credit card, they already get my full name from any transaction.

Plus with cash, you've made the payment and you're done. You don't have to check if the charge was correct, or if you bank account has enough money to cover it, or if the purchase will affect your credit utilization significantly.

> or if you bank account has enough money to cover it, or if the purchase will affect your credit utilization significantly

You’re still doing this with cash since you need to be certain to have sufficient funds in bills and coins before making each payment. And there is more safety in a high credit limit or checking balance than carrying large quantities of cash.

> , but I do recognize that cash payments are a basic human right

Is it a human right to be able to pay with any kind of cash, or just from some governments?

Not a human right as such, but it's the law pretty much everywhere in the world.

A shop refusing to accept legal tender seem pretty brazenly illegal to me.

It may seem illegal to you but no, it's actually generally not illegal.

E.g. in the US specifically, US bills say "legal tender for all debts", which means it's illegal not to accept cash once a debt is incurred.

But in most places a business owner is perfectly free to not create the opportunity for customer debt in the first place, i.e. not sell something -- whether based on form of payment ("We don't accept Amex") or quantity ("limit 5 per customer") etc.

You are wrong about US legal tender.

You have to know about the history of currency in the United States to fully grasp why those words are there. The simple explanation is the Coinage Act of 1965, Section 31 U.S.C. 5103[1], entitled "Legal tender," states: "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues." Coins are issued by the US Mint (Treasury Department). Paper money is issued by the Federal Reserve, not part of the US government, but the paper itself is printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Treasury Department).

This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no federal statute mandating that a municipality, organization, or person must accept currency or coins as payment for goods and/or services. Businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a state law which says otherwise.

There was a time in the United States when different forms of currency were available and considered legal tender, including some issued by the states, both individually and via the Confederacy. The original Coinage Act of 1792 made both silver and gold forms of legal tender, and people could come to any US Mint and have their bullion turned into coins.

I think you're agreeing with me -- what specifically are you saying I'm wrong about? My comment said exactly what I think you're saying -- that businesses are free to choose what to accept, by refusing to do business in the first place.

(Or did you mean to reply to the same comment I was replying to?)

You said, "US bills say 'legal tender for all debts', which means it's illegal not to accept cash once a debt is incurred."

This statement is incorrect.

Genuinely curious how it's incorrect?

Is it the word "illegal"? I mean, if a municipality or organization refuses cash for payment of debt... then they're just de-facto forgoing the debt, right? If they tried to bring the debtor to court to compel payment in non-cash form, the court would side with the debtor, no?

So perhaps not illegal but merely unenforceable? (But with the same consequence of it not happening in practice.)

Yes, it is the word 'illegal'. There isn't a federal or state statute requiring paper currency (or coins) to be used to pay off a debt.

Debt doesn't disappear because an organization refuses to accept cash. They can accept cash. They can also accept chickens. While not a form of legal tender, a business can barter for goods and services. Organizations can also restrict certain forms of cash from being used. They refuse to accept anything higher than $20 bills or refuse to accept the entire payment in pennies.

Legal tender means that the note is honored and backed by the United States. The paper currency we know and love is actually called a Federal Reserve Note and should not to be confused with a United States Note, which is no longer in active circulation but it is still considered legal tender. In fact, the United States Note was called Legal Tender Note and a successor to Demand Notes which were printed during the Civil War. The Demand Note had a green back which is how the term greenback came into existence. Other forms of currencies have been issued and used as money includes Treasury Notes and National Bank Notes. Many state chartered banks also printed their own notes. You have to remember the Bureau of Engraving and Printing didn't exist until 1862 and the Federal Reserve until 1913.

So I did some more research and I think you're actually incorrect here about orgnanizations restricting cash from being used to pay off a debt (as opposed to purchasing goods/services), which is what I've been talking about all along. From the Federal Reserve:

> This statute means that all United States money as identified above is a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person, or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services. [1]

In other words, yes, organizations can accept chickens or barter. But if you have a debt and you only want to pay cash, and they refuse it, then there's nothing they can do to compel you to pay in a different form.

So again -- you're right there's no law against prohibiting cash payment for debt, but if a business can't collect otherwise, then for business purposes it's effectively a prohibition regardless. (Only difference being that a company can't be fined/punished for it, they just lose the value of the debt.)

[1] https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/currency_12772.htm

But on the bill itself that Im holding now it says “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” Once you owe someone money they can state their preference for card/check, but they cant flat out refuse cash.


The words don't imply that paper currency must be accepted for a debt, simply that the currency can be used for a debt.

Now can we please also stop the cops from confiscating cash if they find more than a certain amount in a person’a vehicle? People shouldn’t be penalized for using legal tender.

I really don't mean to be glib, but really: Only in America.

Sure, you may have a hard time opening a bank account with half a million unexplained cash, but just confiscate somebody's life savings, especially when poor, unbanked and possibly black is a very American concept.

In any other civilized place the onus is on the authorities to prove that the money is dirty. Not the other way 'round.

The UK does it too:


> In November 2008, 20 police officers broke down Finch's front door and searched her house, taking £700 from her purse that she says had been put aside to pay the mortgage. Her laptop computer, mobile phone, driving licence and passport were also taken. No receipt was given.

> Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the police keep 25% of any assets confiscated from raids, the Crown Prosecution Service keeps another 25%, and the Inland Revenue the rest.


> The burden of proof is reversed so people have to prove that any money they have was not earned through “criminal activity”

OP specified civilized countries.

Not just America: Columbia, DRC, PRC, Saudi Arabia... lots of places!

Well, yeah, but civilized countries.

While you could argue that Columbia and PRC fall into those brackets, those are nevertheless countries with a high occurrence of corruption.

Usually laughing at SF regulations - but this is eminently sensible - wish they had added a printed receipt as well

Can we get sales tax to be included in the price on the shelf? The main reason I don't use cash is because I have having change, and sales tax always ends up with me having odd change. In Oregon, I use cash a lot more often because prices tend to avoid weird change.

Some restaurants include tax on the shelf price ($3 for hotdog instead of $2.99 + tax or whatever), and if that were more common, I might forgo credit/debit cards.

I disagree that every store must accept cash. Life-impacting transactions such as grocers and transportation sure, but if a ritzy boutique or Apple store wants to make things more streamlined by only accepting card so be it. It’s better as a customer.

I’m also wary of what I would consider to be ADA-styled protections for the Homeless by forcing businesses to accommodate them in increasingly fringe ways (IMO the rally cry for cash accepting stores WAS that it would hurt the homeless otherwise). Already in San Francisco the homeless are not prosecuted for petty crimes and receive free health services via frequent use of emergency care facilities. I worry the increased privileges for the homeless will attract more homeless to San Francisco, a city which has already proved it cannot alleviate the problem.

You're free to open your cashless business anywhere else, where it's legal.

Just don't count me in as a customer. I may not even necessarilly pay cash. But I try to avoid doing business with assholes.

And a physical store not accepting cash is, in my book, pretty high on the asshole scale.

edited to clarify: I'm not refering to the parent as an asshole, but to physical busines' who won't accept cash.

If you still find this outlandish, downvote away.

In Amsterdam, the cashless option is for security reasons: too many violent, & armed robberies on the smallest of shops. They need to protect their employees, and since only the hardly visible police and criminals are armed: what can you do?

As much as I dislike it (you will loose me as customer too), I understand their logic.

What can I say? You definitely make a valid point.

Living in Zurich, I have to admit that such considerations don't really play a role. But yeah, there are other places where even bus drivers get robbed.

As a side note: The famed coffee shops must have quite advanced logistics, since they (at least I assume so) mostly deal in cash and present a juicy target since there must be a lot of it.

It's weird: Nowadays I visit Amsterdam for museums and culture, not for coffee shops. So what do I know? :)

> Living in Zurich

I live in Bern, so I know what heavenly security feels like.

> The famed coffee shops must have quite advanced logistics

They do, but that starts with the (ridicules) law that (permited) coffeeshops can not hold more then 500 grams of the stuff they sell at any given moment. This means there is a constant flow of new material coming in from safe houses, which are prime targets for rippers & pissed of police.

So the quite advanced logistics start there. Know where to hide your surplus, protect it, transport it and on return take the money to a safe place.

> It's weird: Nowadays I visit Amsterdam for museums and culture

That dates you. The (Amsterdam) locals recognize 3 age & target groups. <25 coffeeshops, >25 Red light district, >35 the arts ;)

Thank goodness for the homeless for preventing at least some of the people that don't like looking at poor people from moving here.

This comment is perfect San Francisco. We welcome the homeless as props that reinforce our moral superiority for welcoming them. More extreme or visible distress, behavior further outside social norms, etc. suits us even better. But God forbid we make any tradeoff whatsoever to actually improve their situations or bring behavior within norms.

Please, let's bring in as many migrants as possible who don't like looking at poor people, then we might actually do something about poverty.

I was responding to a comment that had the idea that we shouldn't do anything to benefit the homeless because it might attract more homeless. But I'm the one that doesn't want to improve their situation.

For one thing I was born and raised in the Bay Area so I wouldn’t cross your fingers that you can prevent people like me coming in. I am from here.

To your point, I wasn’t advocating for a decrease in homeless services offered by local government. I was saying the forcing of businesses to personally intervene (versus just a tax or similar abstract approach) makes me uneasy. Similarly I don’t agree with an alternative justice system being applied to any class of Americans, though chucking everyone in prison doesn’t help either...

I realize I could’ve made my points clearer which may have avoided this turning into an emotionally charged online argument.

The problem here is that there isn’t a non-private-enterprise privacy sensitive (although accessible with appropriate warrants etc) cashless money system IMO.

Cash enables so many problems in the world I’ll be happy to see the end of it.

What's your main problem with cash? Is it that it is fairly untraceable? Because for me that is the main benefit. If it is possible to access my purchase history with a warrant, it is also possible to access that history without one if the government or police force is malicious. And if we eliminated cash, people would just find something else to use for illegal payments (ex. gold, anonymous cryptocurrencies, etc.)

All that darned privacy! If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

I’m saying it would need to be private, but still able to prevent money laundering, payments for sex trafficking, drug trade, weapons trade.

I’m aware such a thing doesn’t exist and may never, but this would be the ideal state IMO.

I agree. I understand the motivation to not have un-banked people locked out of the economy (although I don't know how big a problem that is in San Francisco yet - if it's only a couple experimental checkout-less stores it doesn't seem like a huge deal).

But maybe a better eventual solution to that would be for everybody to have access to some basic banking services (and some sort of electronic payments). I think many countries provide it at post offices.

> it would need to be private, but still able to prevent money laundering

That's like the big screen TV that is small enough to for in your purse.

Let's not pretend both these things are possible.

I’m an optimist that it’s possible. There are systems that are private but for legitimate government requirements with sensible public oversight. Maybe not in your jurisdiction, that would vary more than just about anything.

So they install one self pay cash box? Not a big deal, and probably required for ADA. Not all seniors have access to electronic payment.

Seniors or not, the most important thing to me is this: cash is issued by the government, and can be used without incurring any additional cost. Credit cards require you to sign contract with a bank, which is a private company, that makes money on every transaction. Government should never force you to sign a contract with a private entity, for any reason, so if they ever want us to go cashless, then I would expect they provide government-issued, free of charge credit/debit card for everyone first.

But the law in question isn’t about the government requiring people to go cashless; it’s about whether private businesses (stores) are allowed to require their customers to go cashless.

Receiving cash does have a cost, it requires you to either have an employee to handle it or a machine, someone to install and do maintenance on your register or cash machine, and armored cars to transport your cash to the bank.

Only coins are issued by the government. Paper notes are issued by the Federal Reserve.

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