For years now, I’ve been making silent fun whenever I see one of the young folk paying for something that cost, say, $1.49 with a debit or credit card. I really just don’t understand why someone would not just use cash for small purchases. I’m all for prepaid Dunkin cards and my T pass. I’m all for credit cards. I’m all for the ATM. I’m all for ordering online. I’m all for paying for my groceries with my debit card. So it’s not as if I don’t go in for electronic transactions. And I’m not advocating for a return of the gold standard. It’s just that I can’t stand the idea of trusting all things financial to the miracles of technology and science. It’s good to have some cash around. (Isn’t it?)
Oh, I know, I know, if the entire digital infrastructure crashed and burned, it probably wouldn’t help to have four twenty-dollar bills and a change bucket full of pennies. I suspect that, if all systems were no-go, chaos would reign and it wouldn’t matter it you had a roll of quarters on you or not. Someone would soon be breaking down my door for a couple of cans of soup and a jar of peanut butter.
Yet it remains unsettling to see one more part of the realm become ever more incrementally taken over by the non-cash world.
Just the other day, I got to see for myself how much I’m going to like it. Or not.
I was in Boston’s Back Bay, walking past a CVS, when I remembered that I was out of milk. Of course, I could have gone to a grocery store, but most of them were out of my way. And the one that wasn’t so much out of my way – a small shop just around the corner, a 20 second walk from my home – is one that, for a variety of reasons, I just plain don’t like. I will occasionally make a desperation purchase there. And it is easier to lug an 8-pack of Diet Coke from 20 seconds away, rather than from 10 minutes away. But mostly I avoid this store like the plague. Come to think of it, one of the reasons I avoid it is fear of catching the plague…
Anyway, there I was needing milk. And there CVS was, with, I was pretty sure, milk for sale.
So I went in and grabbed a pint, and headed to one of the self-check out kiosks to self-check out.
The first clutch of kiosks all had signs that said “Debit/Credit Purchases Only.” So I went to the next pod. Same deal.
A helpful CVS employee came over to tell me that, if I wanted to pay cash, I had to go through a register manned by a human being.
I’m all for human beings (mostly). But there was a line. And I really didn’t fell like waiting in line to purchase a pint of milk for $1.49. In fact, I liked the idea of waiting in line to pay in cash even less than I liked the idea of not waiting in line, but having to pay with a credit or debit card. Thus I found myself at the self-checkout register, self-checking myself out, paying with a credit card. (Although I do have enough in my bank account to cover a $1.49 purchase, for some reason – possibly the idea of using my pin – I just didn’t want to pay with my bank card.)
There’s plenty that we’re going to have to answer to the millennial generation for- college debt, the environment, decaying infrastructure, not to mention developing the foundation for all the glorious technology they’re so smitten with – so maybe this ‘just say no’ to cash annoyance is their little way of getting back at us.
Me? This is one aspect of our changing world that I’ve got a feeling I’m not going to like.