Supervisor Vallie Brown, who introduced the bill, argues that cashless policies discriminate against the unbanked, who have no option but to pay with cash and low-income earners who need a free-to-use payment form.
On Tuesday May 7th, officials voted unanimously on passing the bill. Cashless retailers now have until June 6th to re-embrace cash as a payment option at all their San Francisco locations. The support for cash comes in response to the growing concerns that cashless policies are simply discriminatory when cash is the only payment option that can be used by anyone.
"[...this law] will go far in ensuring all San Franciscans have equitable access to the city’s economy.”
Last month, New Jersey passed a bill making it illegal for businesses to refuse cash as a payment option, making the Garden State the second American state to ban cashless businesses. Massachusetts was the first US state to ban discrimination against cash payments in 1978, however, the last 10 years has seen a trend of cashless restaurants popping up in Boston.
Recently, Sweetgreen and Amazon Go made the headlines for publicly acknowledging why keeping cash matters, following Philadelphia's new law to own ban on cashless stores. Well done, USA!
Brown said she thought it unfair that someone couldn’t buy a sandwich just because they had cash. She said young people, victims of ID theft, immigrants and homeless people are among those who don’t have bank accounts or credit cards.
In many ways, the legislation was an easy call for San Francisco officials, who strive to make life more equitable in a city with an enormous wealth gap.
“I just felt it wasn’t fair that if someone wanted to buy a sandwich in a store and they had cash, that they would be turned away. We also have our homeless population – they’re not banked.”
High-paid tech workers who flocked to San Francisco to work for Facebook, Google, Uber and Airbnb may like the ease of paying by credit card, debit card or smartphone. But many low-income people, including more than 4,000 who sleep on San Francisco’s streets every night, likely don’t have money to sustain bank accounts.
According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 17 percent of African American households and 15 percent of Latino households had no bank account.
Some people also prefer to use cash because they don’t want to leave a digital trail of where they have been and what they have bought.
San Francisco’s legislation requires brick-and-mortar businesses to accept cash for goods and some services. Temporary pop-up stores and internet-only businesses such as ride-hailing companies would be exempt, as would food trucks, which say they lack the resources to handle cash.