You Know What Grinds My Gears? ‘Cash Only’

Cash is dead. Unless you’re a hitman, a drug dealer, or a brothel creeper with a shared savings account, bank notes these days are about as handy as tits on a proverbial bull. The kind of proverbial bull that has no interest whatsoever in looking sexy, mind you. That is to say: not very handy.

Of course, implying that any form of currency is ‘not handy’ or without worth smacks of first world privilege. I hear you. But let me assure you that my lack of respect for cash doesn’t stem from my being an opulent, unappreciative spendthrift. On the contrary: I detest cash because I like to think of myself as frugal and financially savvy — and what physical currency represents in my eyes is the fact that someone, somewhere, has extorted me into making a withdrawal and paying an altogether unnecessary ATM fee.

Yes, I’m talking to you, you dastardly cash-only vendors.

In this, the age of Paypass and the ten-second transfer, it’s becoming an all too commonplace scenario. You walk into a vendor, merrily greet the shop keep, order your desired goods, and promptly produce your bankcard so as to quickly and conveniently reimburse them for their troubles. At which point you are redirected to a small, taped-up piece of paper scrawled with the words ‘CASH ONLY’ and ushered in the direction of the nearest ATM.


Honestly, fuck that. By the time I leave your store, slog it down the street to the teller machine, cop the $2.50 ‘transaction surcharge’, slog it back, slip you the note and receive your jangling handful of change to weigh down my pockets, I’ve paid significantly more than the advertised price for that so-called ‘lunch special.’

Nor am I a fan of that system where the vendor prepares the food before pointing out the ‘CASH ONLY’ rule, thus morally blackmailing me into the act of withdrawing money where I otherwise might have (but also probably wouldn’t have) refused and gone elsewhere.

The most obvious question is why? Why cash only? Why can I not pay by card here when it’s perfectly acceptable at every other transactional point of service this side of 2009?

And the common answer seems pretty straightforward: because if you were to pay with Eftpos then we as a merchant would need to pay the service charge on that Eftpos transaction. And that would be unfair.

The same generally applies for ‘minimums’ on card purchases, where your transaction needs to be of a certain value before it’s deemed, in the merchant’s eyes, worth the charge it incurs. A purchase of less than ten dollars, for example, promises too little profit to justify the cost of processing the payment. Or so the story goes.

A few things here. First of all, Eftpos transaction surcharges are dogshit. What most merchants are no doubt referring to is the service charge that comes from paying with credit cards, where the bank can tack on a certain small percentage of the transaction amount (say 1-3%) to charge the business owner. Since I currently pay for precious nothing with a credit card, least of all five-dollar sandwiches, this fee is irrelevant to me.

The basic fee for an Eftpos transaction, on the other hand, is usually as negligible as 10-50 cents.

Hence, the idea of sending me off to an ATM where I’m forced to pay a surcharge of $2.50 because it would be ‘unfair’ for you to have to incur a twenty-cent transaction fee is for the fucking birds. Just openly add that twenty cents to the price and I will happily pay the excess, secure in the knowledge that I’m not being swindled and that you’re not having to pay for my convenience.

And finally, if you’re one of those absolute pieces of work that enforces ‘cash only’ or card minimums with an iron fist, only to point me in the direction of your own venue’s ATM — from which you yourself gain a certain percentage of the withdrawal fees — then you, good sir, are absolutely kidding yourself.

There are people who will call this a first-world problem, and it is — but what I’m offering is a suitably first-world solution. Embrace the incredibly convenient and time-effective piece of technology that is the bankcard. Hit me, the customer, with the negligible surcharges if you need to. And please stop sending me to a fucking ATM every time I want to buy a Chiko roll.


Feature image: Sydney Morning Herald


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