Blog

Mixed Metaphors

November 5, 2020

By STEVE WHITTINGTON, CFA

This year has been dominated by a few large headlines, but even with an election upon us, I think it is fair to say that 2020 has been ruled by the coronavirus, both in the United States and around the world. As has been mentioned in this forum before, the pandemic has changed a lot of behaviors for people, in particular Americans. One such way we have changed is how we conduct financial transactions, or in other words how we buy something. Buying behavior was already trending towards online adoption, but sometimes, you still want to go buy a cup of coffee at your favorite local corner shop, or you need to go get a haircut, right?

I have recently experienced two completely different scenarios when it comes to this, one involving a strict cash-only store policy, and the other being a strict card-only policy.

Yesterday, I went to the barbershop to get a LONG overdue chopping. At the conclusion of the cut, I shuffled around to the register and absently whipped out my debit card and handed it to the lady at the counter, and sort of stared off. After 10 seconds, I felt like something was off and I looked at her, and she in turn was looking at me and pointing to a sign that said “CASH ONLY.” I was sort of surprised by this, and luckily, I had the cash on me, but I asked her why that was. She said that because each stylist rings up their own clients, everyone was touching the card reader all the time. Plus they wear sanitary gloves and didn’t want to take them off and put them back on…so they shifted to this cash only policy. And finally, going to all cash means they no longer have to pay fees involved with running a credit or debit card, and that’s a life saver for a small business owner I would imagine.

Cash and CardThe previous weekend, I went to a package store (don’t we all these days?) and, in addition to not even letting their patrons in the store, they had a strict card-only policy. I asked them why, and the owner said that cash is essentially paper, and can absorb oils from the hands that handle it, and dollars get handled a lot. He simply didn’t want to expose himself or his workers to handling cash multiple times a day, so they did away with it. I mean, in this contactless world, it is a form of contactless payment, isn’t it?

To cash, or to card? That is the question. And the beauty of the transaction is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, business owner.

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