Vancouver's mixed feelings on cash

calendar iconJul 3, 2019

The rise of cashless businesses in the USA has faced fierce backlash thanks to public concern for those who have no option but to pay with cash. Now, Canada is on a similar journey as businesses trialing cashless policies find that not all their customers approve.

In Canada, cash is used for more than half of all point-of-sale transactions under $15, and yet, small businesses are playing around with the idea of banning cash altogether. One business owner says that only 20% of customers were using cash, inspiring a cashless trial which sped up foot traffic but resulted in resistance for many reasons.

Preempting the implications of the abandonment of the use of cash in a cashless future, the Bank of Canada published a paper last year. The paper concludes that there could be adverse collective consequences, and in turn, public policy responses.

'Given that most merchants accept several methods, it is mainly consumers who determine which they will use.'
"p. 14, Acceptance and Use of Payments at the Pointof Sale in Canada (Autumn 2017) Bank of Canada

The owner of Vancouver-based cafe chain, Grounds for Coffee, reports that 80% of customers used non-cash payment forms, arguing that "it's just a better experience for everybody,” but this begs the question, when did 8 in 10 become 'everybody'? Who's looking out for the 20% who prefer immediate, private and free cash? No coffee for them? As the cashless trial progressed, the owner found that opinions vary, one branch saw customers demanding to keep the option to pay with cash while customers at another branch have yet to object.

Excerpt from Vancourier

While business touts the cost-saving efficiency of going cashless, and consumers enjoy the convenience only carrying plastic offers, some experts warn Canada isn’t ready yet for a cash-free economy.

For starters, consumer privacy is often overlooked, says Werner Antweiler, a professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

“Whenever you use an instrument like a credit card or debit card, you're actually sharing information about your transaction with a third party,” Antweiler explained.
"Werner Antweiler, CanadaProfessor at UBC Sauder School of Business

Antweiler also echoed the concerns of those on the Drive who believe cashless businesses exclude low-income and homeless people without access to credit or debit.

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Last Updated: Jul 5, 2019