December 16th, 2017

Heading for a cashless society, but it’s not utopia

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on August 4, 2017.

The pace at which we are moving towards a cashless society is reason to be concerned on a number of levels including the public being misled about the so called advantages.

This week it was reported a fast-food chain iQ Food Co., with 11 locations, will no longer accept cash payment. The entrepreneur claimed the decision was based on saving time.

Not so long ago the express queues at supermarkets would accept only cash in order to provide faster service. If you have ever been in a line waiting to pay for groceries it is obvious how much longer it takes when someone pays by debit or credit card.

For those who take too long paying cash, it is often a reflection of our education system that has resulted in people unable to do basic mental arithmetic and cashiers flummoxed by someone paying the exact amount if it includes coins.

Perhaps the real reason for going cashless has more to do with banks. This week media reported that some banks are offering commercial customers incentives of up to $10,000 to move to a cashless business.

There are numerous advantages for banks. Many financial experts trying to help people get out of debt repeatedly say those who pay electronically typically spend more freely. They often have only a vague idea of how their money is being spent. Last week two different finance experts interviewed on two different radio shows said they can typically free up $200 to $300 a month for a client, simply by making the person aware of the bank fees they are paying needlessly.

There are obvious advantages for banks to get people to spend more — bank fees and interest charges —without even being aware of it.

If you are handing over cash for a purchase there is sobering second thought as you equate what you are shelling out from your wallet and how many hours you will have to work for that money. It makes you consider how badly you really need the item you want to buy. If you are sitting in a restaurant and consider splurging on an expensive bottle of wine or the most expensive entreé and have to consider whether you have enough money in your wallet to pay for it, you may reconsider. If it is an electronic transaction you are more inclined to splurge.

An even more worrying aspect is our increasing reliance on technology. Not even fears of major computer hacking has us taking a second glance.

If the only way you can make a purchase is electronically and there is a massive failure in the system you will simply do without no matter how badly you need the item, including food.

As a society we rely far too heavily on technology that is ruling our lives and is a fantastic tool for hackers and terrorists to stop us in our tracks.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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