I am old enough to remember only using pay phones and only interacting with human bank tellers. I remember when wallets could only fit in your back pocket because people had to carry cash on them. I remember when credit cards were only for really big purchases and quite a novelty.
Times change of course and with new eras, come new ways of conducting commerce. Over the course of our history we have seen bartering, an exchange of coins or precious metals, and eventually currency. These days there are all kinds of ways to conduct commerce electronically from cryptocurrency to payment processors to using apps on your cell phones.
An interesting thing I have noticed has been some establishments outlawing the use of cash altogether. Specifically, where I live in Los Angeles, a restaurant chain "Tender Greens"no longer accepts cash.
I was taken aback when I went to pay with cash only to find out I needed to find an alternative method to pay. Even after a few financial stumbles, I now have credit cards, so I bought my coffee and went on with my day. Retailers that ban cash are still the exception and not the rule, but I began to wonder about whether this was in some way discriminatory.
According to a study published by Bankrate in 2016, only 33% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 say they have a credit card.
The Bankrate study also claimed that credit card ownership was at 62% of consumers between the ages of 50 and 64, and 68% of consumers 65 and older.
I assume that trend has accelerated.
An article in The Nest says: "The Census Bureau estimates 183 million Americans have credit cards. Of those Americans, 104 million have Visa cards, 83 million have MasterCard, 99 million have a store card, 56 million have an oil company card, and 36 million have an American Express card. There are 1.27 billion cards in use. In general, the older you are the more likely it is that you have at least one general purpose credit card. Of Americans 35 and younger, 58.9 percent hold credit cards. The percentages gradually go up through the 65 to 74 age bracket, in which 79.5 percent hold credit cards. After 75, the percentage dips to 66 percent."
The laws of our country clearly state that as a business you cannot discriminate against certain protected groups.
If I can only use cash, am I a protected group?
There are plenty of establishments that only accept cash. But cash is what is used to pay credit cards, not the other way around. I can have cash without a credit card, but I cannot have a credit card without cash (at least that is the way it eventually works for people)
If I look at just Los Angeles, there is a significantly rising homeless population to well over 55,000.
It is probably fair to say that most of those homeless operate with cash only. So if any one of the 55,000 (and growing) homeless people, with only cash, wants to eat at "Tender Greens" they would be denied service.
Of those Homeless nearly 10% are Veterans. Clearly it would be bad PR if a homeless Veteran were declined service at a coffee shop and that story made the papers or nightly TV.
But I wonder, is it even legal?
It is legal for a restaurant to ban using precious metals to buy their goods. But precious metals can be converted to cash quite seamlessly. The same applies to crypto-currency. Establishments may accept it, but they are not paying their employees or suppliers in bitcoin. They are converting the crypto to cash before they operate their businesses.
I don't know the demographics of the people whose only option for commerce is cash, but I imagine its those who are here illegally, the homeless and others in lower income brackets who cannot get a credit card or don't have a smart phone.
So I return to the question: Should those people, given that one fact, be considered a protected group?
I don't know the answer and perhaps I am just some "Gen Xer" who yearns for the past.
But something just doesn't feel right about it to me.
Let me know if you have any thoughts on the matter as I am curious what people think.