Even though a survey by the Bank of Canada in April 2020 found that cash in circulation surged in the first months of the pandemic, and almost two-thirds of Canadians said they did not change their use of cash in response to COVID-19, Canada’s small and independent businesses view the increasing pressure on cash with unease.
Tom Gilchrist from Gilchrist Vending in Toronto, whose job it is to equip business premises with ATMs, and who supplies many small and medium shops, restaurants and cafés across Ontario, says ‘Like any other cash-focused small business, we’ve been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, since people have been made afraid of cash, even though all experts say it is safe.’
Together with some of his customers, he started his own pro-cash campaign, producing a video meant to convince people to start using ATMs again. He is not alone in his efforts to resist the growing pressure by non-cash payment providers using the pandemic as a platform to nudge people toward their products.
Consumers can help independent businesses by paying cash
Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President at The Canadian Federation of Independent Business CFIB, in a piece by CTV News Calgary from July this year, states that ‘While consumer spending through credit and debit seems to be improving, the broader picture shows that there has been a shift in payment methods and sales remain at perilous levels for many businesses.’ The CFIB has been distributing signs asking consumers to pay cash when visiting a small shop: ‘Would you consider paying cash? You may not know that small businesses pay huge fees to the bank and credit card companies to process credit card transactions. Will you help independent firms keep prices down?’
Sharing is caring
Indeed, it is small shops and restaurants that are suffering most from the impact of the pandemic. However, there are other considerations at play as well. For Andrew Stoddart, owner of of Mick E. Fynn’s, a pub in downtown Toronto, cash is the only way to distribute tips fairly: ‘I am extremely worried about my wait service staff, who rely on tips as part of their income. Many times, these waiters have to share their tips with the bartenders, busboys and cooks in the kitchen. With no cash, they can’t do that.’ Or, quite simply, as Mike Reynolds from the Toronto bar Farside puts it: ‘I want to accept only cash because why pay credit card companies and banks huge fees to handle my money?’