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Of the most popular coffee shops in San Francisco’s Financial
District, only one is manned by a robot. Every morning, in a glass-and-wood
booth on the corner of One Bush Street, customers queue around a whirring
hydraulic arm, waiting for it to serve them cappuccino. It’s an odd sight. Cafe
X has three San Francisco locations, and all are cashless and fully automated,
with orders taken via app.
Paying with a credit card has many benefits but appreciating
the value of money isn’t really one of them. When the actual money is virtual —
represented solely by a line on a screen — and the process of making a purchase
is a quick swipe or a tap, it feels less real and less precious.
By now the fact that credit cards can make us less frugal is a truism, but it hasn’t
stopped many millennials from avoiding
cash, because a lost
credit card is an inconvenience and lost cash is actually lost money. However,
new research from Avni M. Shah, a professor at the University of Toronto
Scarborough, highlights another advantage of cash—making you like what you buy
It’s the corollary of
seeing the value of your money when you buy something, and it seems to be just
as strong: When you spend $20 in cash, it’s not just the money that has more
value to you — so does the item too.
According to multiple recent press reports in the past 24 hours,
the formerly "cashless" Amazon-Go Stores will now start accepting
cash as well as other forms of payment at their retail locations. This reported
policy change follows claims by state and local lawmakers that cashless retail
discriminates against the under and un-banked, a position echoed by community
leaders who have called the cashless policy "elitist." Recently
enacted laws banning cashless retailers in Philadelphia and the state of New
Jersey, as well as the contemplation of similar legislation in New York City,
San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., have served to bolster the public
policy arguments against "no-cash" retailing.
News of the Amazon policy was leaked, and later confirmed,
from an internal meeting in which Steve Kessel, the company's Vice President of
Physical Stores, announced a variety of new "payment mechanisms" for
Amazon's brick-and-mortar locations. These are said to include the acceptance
of cash payments and government subsidized SNAP benefit payments, along with a
program that would allow consumers to add cash value to digital accounts via
other retailers, such as a convenience and drug store chains.
One of the most common complaints of small retailers like convenience stores, bars, and single location restaurants is the high cost of accepting credit and debit cards. Card processing fees can cut into already thin margins for many business owners.
A recent settlement on a long-running court case in New York regarding surcharging could be a game changer for merchants who have been shouldering the burden of credit card processing fees. According to a Newsday article, the settlement will allow New York retailers to pass surcharge fees on to consumers as long as the additional amount is disclosed in monetary terms. California, Florida and Texas are among other states who have overturned surcharge bans, allowing retailers to share or pass on the burden of using plastic. While surcharge fees are controversial, cash discount programs are legal in all 50 states.