Both cash-only and cashless-only are barriers, and both tend to be driven by the needs of the business rather than what works for customers.
We got talking about this in the pub last night because of a poll from the Beer O’Clock Show:
This week’s #hopinions folks 👇🏼👇🏼
Are you a fan of cashless pubs / bars / taprooms?
— Beer O’clock Show #Hopinions (@BeerOClockShow) November 25, 2018
The arguments against card-only have been piling up for some time:
- it excludes the poorest in society
- it discriminates against older consumers
- it plays into the machinations of global tech giants
- it contributes to the tracking and influencing of our behaviour.
But on the ground, in daily life, we very much understand the appeal of paying by card in pubs, bars and bottle-shops.
It saves us having to wander round suburbs or industrial estates looking for cash machines, and makes it easier for us to manage our various bank accounts and budgets, with every transaction recorded and reported.
And not taking cards can be excluding in its own way. One publican in a cash-only business recently told us they’d been thinking about getting a card machine purely because they were aware of constantly turning away young people who expected to be able to use cards. About half of them were willing to find a cash machine and come back, but the rest just moved on down the road.
A lot is made of the cost of processing card payments but depending on the size of the business, cash can be just as expensive to handle, and certainly less convenient. It can require extra staff-hours for counting and banking, and needs transporting, either at considerable cost (secure pickup) or risk, with a member of staff walking to the bank with a sack of readies. (I’ve managed cash-heavy concerns and write from experience. – Jess.)
The presence of cash can also make premises more vulnerable to crime or, rather, advertising total cashlessness can be a good way to deter it.
And some of the objections cash-only businesses have to cards seem to use to be a hangover from a decade ago when banks charged a lot more for the service, and when people who paid by card in the pub were amateurs and freaks.
It used to mean five minutes of faffing around with signatures and pin numbers, holding up the line. Sometimes, there’d also be another minute or two of trying to get up to the limit for paying by card without an additional charge – “What are your most expensive crisps?” Nowadays, it’s a quick one-handed tap and done, and its people fiddling with coins and waiting for change who seem to cause a delay.
Fundamentally, though, we bridle at the idea of businesses doing only one, or only the other, because it’s convenient for them, rather than offering both with the convenience of their customers in mind.