This morning I popped into Frutas Nieves, one of the local chains of greengroceries, and bought two oranges for the grand total of 55 céntimos. My fruit and veg buying rarely comes to more than 6 or 7 euros at a time. So, do these little greengroceries, and there are masses of them around just about every Spanish town I visit, have card readers in case customers want to pay by card.
I wonder about this because I keep hearing more and more about our becoming a cashless society. Some say it started in Scandinavia but it’s all over the place now. And in Spain, like everywhere else, those loaded supermarket trolleys are more often paid for with a card than with bank notes!
In Manchester and London I see younger people buying small items such as bars of chocolate, chewing gum, stuff that costs less than a pound. They pay for them with their cards, usually contactlessly. Now, I assume that the same thing happens in Madrid and Barcelona, butI haven’t been there recently so I can’t say for sure. Do such young people, the health conscious ones at least, also pop into a frutería, pick up an apple and pay for it contactlessly? Can they do that?
So, is cash on the way out?
I read something yesterday about a report that says that up to eight million people in the UK could not cope with the disappearance of cash. After all, many are already struggling to cope with the disappearance of banks. Older people who live in out of the way places find it hard to have to go into the nearest town centre to go to the bank and they are usually the ones who don’t have computers and therefore cannot do online banking.
On the other hand, I also read that Philadelphia has become the first city in the USA to require that retailers accept cash instead of cards. New York, Chicago and Washington DC are considering similar action. And just imagine having to bring in legislation which obliges retailers to accept cash payment. It sounds like something from a strange futuristic dystopia.
Will children playing shop soon stop handing over plastic money (and I mean real plastic coins) and go through the motions of swiping a credit or debit card in payment instead? How will they actually learn the value of money?
Will cash machines, ATMs, also disappear?
This is already happening in some small places. The local branch of the bank closes and before you know it the ATM stops functioning as well. Is that why I had to try three different Santander STMs one day last week before I found one that actually had cash available? Actually I doubt that. I suspect it was because it was a Monday morning and the cash-machine filler-upper had not been round yet.
But the cashless society question is a bit of a poser.
I have just been reading Lee Child’s novels in which the protagonist, Jack Reacher, maintains his total anonymity as he travels around the USA by paying for everything in cash. In hotels he signs in under an assumed name and pays in full, in cash. He travels by bus and train rather than plane so that does not need to sign into anything. He has no credit card and so he leaves no trail. A cashless society puts an end to that.
I think I may have mentioned before that in “The Handmaid’s Tale” one of the ways that the fundamentalists are able to take control is because theirs is a cashless society. When Gilead wanted to restrict women’s freedom, they simply froze their bank accounts and cancelled their bank cards.
Big brother does not just watch you, he keeps track of your spending! And he might turn on you!
You have been warned!