Fear of a cashless society
Among the shops beneath London’s Old Street roundabout is a cafe that proudly denounces cash. You can pay by card or contactless systems like Apple Pay and Google Pay, but cash is a no-no. The view the cafe puts across is that cash is old fashioned and it’s time to move on.
This is hardly an unusual view. Much has been made of Amazon Go since the concept was unveiled in 2016. These stores in the US require an Amazon account to use and allow you to pick up items and leave without paying. In-store tech tracks what you take and charges your Amazon account directly.
Other retailers have rushed to take a similar approach, but banning cash has side-effects. Most important of these is that it excludes the unbanked and underbanked. If you rely on cash, stores that simply won’t take your money create a two-tier society.
Few would have expected Amazon, with its ruthless focus on efficiency, to compromise its vision for Go and accept cash. But that’s what it’s going to do
Amazon is getting out ahead of potential laws that may force retailers to accept cash. Going cashless is an example of something that businesses shouldn’t necessarily do just because they can. I’m sure that eventually physical banknotes and coins will be museum relics, but we’re a long way from that. Low-cost digital wallet devices, biometrically linked to an individual owner is one possible future way of ending our need for cash.
Until it’s possible for every person in the country to get by without physical cash, cashless retailers are going to be the gated communities of the high street, and that’s enough to make many people feel uneasy supporting them.