(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
This week, the state of New Jersey passed a law banning businesses – with the exception of parking lots, car rental companies and a few others – from not accepting cash. The move, which follows a comparable law recently enacted in nearby Philadelphia (Massachusetts has had similar legislation in place 1978) – has sparked a debate.
Is this fair? Is this discriminatory? Is this anti-business? Oh please. To me, the law doesn’t go far enough.
If you’re a supporter of “cash-less” stores you’re probably a chain store like Sweetgreen or a disruptor like Amazon. These companies argue that cashless stores are safer for employees, provide a quicker and more seamless experience for their customers, and encourage more productivity and better accounting. They’re probably right about that.
They’re also probably correct when they say that most of their customers prefer not to use cash because the use of mobile and credit card payments is so popular. Of course, Sweetgreen, Amazon and others like them have their reasons. Amazon, for example, is launching a chain of self-serve grocery stores across the country where all transactions are done via a mobile app so the company has an obvious reason to fight this kind of legislation.
Opponents argue that cash-less stores are a form of discrimination. “Many people don’t have access to consumer credit and any effort by retail establishments to ban the use of cash is discriminatory towards those people,” the Democratic New Jersey state assemblyman Paul Moriarty said in a New York Daily News report, which also cited a 2017 FDIC surveywhich found that 6.5% of all US households did not have an account at a banking institution and that black and Latino households were among the most affected.
Unfortunately, these laws aren’t going far enough. Why?
What about those silly small business owners that only take cash or won’t accept credit cards for small purchases? I have personally walked out of restaurants and left products on store counters because they refused to accept my preferred form of payment. What, are these people independently wealthy?
They say it’s to “minimize their credit card fees”. I say it’s also because they’re monkeying around with their taxes. Whatever the reason, they’re stupidly losing revenue. Go ahead, charge me extra if I use a credit card. But don’t let me walk away without buying anything, dummy!
Accepting cash or not accepting cash isn’t a legislative issue. It’s a customer service issue. Maybe Amazon and Sweetgreen can afford to turn away customers that don’t have credit cards or a smartphone but most businesses I know can’t.
The smartest clients I work with accept any form of payment possible – cash, credit, euros, wampum, bitcoin (not recommended), a chicken, a firstborn child … whatever the customer wants to use as payment is fine by them. They don’t turn away customers because they prefer to use a credit card. And they wouldn’t withhold a sale because a customer only has cash.
If legislatures in New Jersey, Philadelphia and other places around the country really want to do a service they should pass laws that ban businesses who don’t accept all forms of payment. Except, of course, a first-born child. Did I really need to say that?