Cash may no longer be king, but we shouldn’t be pushed into losing it

A sign on a shop window in Kirkcaldy last week stopped me in my tracks: “Cash only - apologies for any inconvenience.”
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Was it really worth a handwritten apology? It says everything that the money that once jiggled in our pockets is now seen as old, worthless and unwanted; an impediment to swift transactions that involve nothing more than a tap of the card.

The rapid pace of change is also worrying, and it is being driven by business and retail, not consumers. We’re being swept along with little choice but to cling on for dear life. The concern is people without access to cards and smart phones, are being marginalised and ignored.

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I’ve got no problem paying with a tap here and a scan there, but I want the choice to also use money when I want, where I want, and it should not be considered unreasonable to expect shops and businesses to be able to manage that way of taking payment. They’ve been doing it for generations after all, and, last time I checked, it is still legal tender.

Cashless has become the norm at major events and in many stores (Pic: Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Mastercard)Cashless has become the norm at major events and in many stores (Pic: Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Mastercard)
Cashless has become the norm at major events and in many stores (Pic: Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Mastercard)

But, going cashless is now the increasing norm, much in the same way as supermarkets are abandoning manned check outs in favour of abysmal self-service - those packing areas are utterly useless and I’m tired having to hang around until someone comes, punches in a code and walks away without uttering a single word, as if I don’t even exist - and rail companies which want to do away with ticket booths almost completely in the name of progress.

Technology is driving the changes, but so too is the desire to shed jobs and offload folk from the payroll as they invest in apps, which, when they work, are brilliant, but when they don’t, they leave you stranded and helpless without a person to go and ask for advice.

And sometimes, all you want to do is double check a booking, or have a simple query which could be answered in seconds with a smile.

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One week into owning an electric car and I’ve had to twice call ChargePlace Scotland for help as I stood with charger cables in hand with no idea why power wasn’t flowing from machine to vehicle. One both occasions they have been brilliant - absolutely brilliant. We need that human interaction more than ever as we get our head round more and more apps.

When it comes to charging my car, I can’t pay by cash. There is no facility for shovelling a bunch of coins into the machine, and I’m fine with that. I love the RingGo parking app because it’s simple and easy to use - much better than rummaging for change.

But money is far from obsolete - but that will only prevail if we, the customer, make enough of a fuss when it comes to making payments. We’re far too passive for our own good at times.

We need to stop being rolled gently over by business and explain that paying by cash is the best way people can budget, and they, in turn, have to facilitate that.

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Cash used to be king. Today, you feel almost guilty when you check if it is okay to pay with notes and coins. We need to stop with this meek appeasement, and simply slap the money on the counter and take our goods - and let the shop figure out what to do with it once we’ve gone.

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