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COMMENT: A cashless society is not for me

Monday, 22nd April, 2019 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: A cashless society is not for me

When it’s gone, it’s gone. You know where you stand with cash. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: A cashless society is not for me

When it’s gone, it’s gone. You know where you stand with cash. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

I WAS in a pub recently that refused to serve me drink. Nothing to do with my behaviour or breaches of the dress code, I must stress. My crime? I tried to pay for my drinks with a card.

“We don’t take cards,” the cranky owner barked. 

When I asked if there was a nearby ATM, she shook her head and gave my now settled pint of Uncle Arthur to a man beside me who was proffering actual money – the smug git!

This particular publican was certainly bucking the trend by refusing card payments. I grew up in an era where living in a cashless society simply meant that you were stony broke. Now we’re told it’s the future, with one coffee shop in Dublin recently making headlines for refusing to accept cash.

Personally, I’m not a fan of this trend. These days, it’s now even possible to make payments via your mobile phone; another indicator that digital technology is further encroaching on once-normal, day-to-day functions.

Besides, you know where you stand with cash. You take out what you need and it has to last you for the week – or at least until your next pay day. If you are prone to impulsive spending, the lure of the card tap can be your undoing. It’s just so damn convenient; it’s like buying without spending money – until you check your bank balance the next day.

To me, cash is still very much king. But its reign is under threat on a number of fronts. The current criminal trend across Northern Ireland to scoop out ATMs with stolen diggers may result in them not being replaced in some towns that have been targeted. Ultimately, this will drive more and more consumers down the cashless route.

I suspect that businesses throughout the island of Ireland will be monitoring the situation closely and reviewing the provision of ATM facilities in the face of this criminality.

But even the humble ATM, which revolutionised how we accessed our money, has its faults. Is it just me, or do people not know how to use them anymore? I regularly find myself in long queues while customers take an eternity to withdraw money, squinting at the screen as if they’ve just discovered a black hole. And most annoying of all are those people who have the audacity to then take out a second card and start the whole sorry process all over again! 

I refuse to believe, however, that transactions by card are a quicker way to pay than with cash. I often see queues forming at a till while a vendor waits for a cashless receipt to print (or apologises for the delay as they can’t get a signal).

I’m not a huge fan of technology when it comes to shopping. I have yet to use a self-service till at my local supermarket without requesting assistance. I hate the direction we’re being pushed in as consumers and yearn for a simpler, more traditional approach. And it doesn’t get any simpler than cash.

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