As I walked up to the Tender Greens counter that afternoon to pay for my salad, the cashier didn’t and couldn’t take my money. After I inquired about the rather bizarre turn of events, she quickly pointed to a freshly minted sign that I’d never seen before: “We’re going cashless.”
In an era of iPhones and instant virtual assistants that have proliferated within the global market, the contemplation of a global financial turnover isn’t much of an intellectual leap. What will be the ‘next big thing’ that society opts for, in exchange for a better, more fruitful life? When will the financial revolution happen, whatever that may be? Well, that time is now, it’s happening before our eyes.
Month after month, merchants in America are rushing to shut down their cash registers, as numerous technologically savvy Americans are opting for computerized forms of payment for their everyday needs. Just as my lunch experience required a credit card, retailers and restaurant chains across the country are slowly barring the cash in your pocket, and forcing you to ‘swipe’ for your goods.
To many, the usage of the digitalized financial transaction is simply a convenience. According to Tender Greens, “guests were getting through the line faster”, their “teams were getting back hours of time,” and their new cashless enterprise is “cleaner and better for the environment.” From the merchant’s perspective, this ‘brick and mortar’ style of e-commerce is highly beneficial, however some wonder if the corporation was prudent in testing the consumer’s ‘expenditures’ in this novel approach to fiscal trading.
For example, some argue that a chain such as Tender Greens is unable to serve every customer without the factor of economic disenfranchisement, given that low-income consumers are usually unable to accumulate credit for a credit card, which tends to compel them to use cash. According to CBS News, “About one out of 13 U.S. households are unbanked,” a statement which fuels the passions of consumer advocates to fight a potential fiscal revolution, which they believe to be unfair.
While it is apparent that unbanked individuals stand in the financial minority, critics say that a cashless commercial market can also have serious implications for other “groups”, as well. For example, entering college students who are frequently solicited for a completion of a credit card application, cash advocates say that a cashless system can leave students with hefty outstanding balances, given that students usually receive cards with low monthly limits and high interest rates. Moreover, consumer watchdog groups argue that this computerized trend could throw young Americans into perilous debt, through a potential accumulation of interest. In essence, adamant critics note that money loses its tangibility when embedded into a computer, which usually means that judicious financial decisions are harder to carry out, especially for an — arguably — fiscally vulnerable population, such as entering freshmen with almost no experience in money management.
As this perplexing question continues to explore the crevices of the American pocketbook, U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) told Forthwrite Magazine in a statement that he has “concerns with any policy that will make it more difficult for low-income and unbanked individuals to make payments and access the financial system”, adding that “Congress is actively working to strengthen data security for electronic payment systems to prevent future breaches”, with regards to the vulnerability of identity theft in the booming age of the iPhone. With merchants across the nation analyzing, whether to digitize their consumer relations or keep them old-fashioned, Americans are faced with a single question: In a world of endless possibility, how will they choose to spend?