Thursday, September 10, 2009

Got Change for a Nickel?

Cash is dead. Am I the only one mourning? These days, I always seem to be pouring out a little liquor for the once-almighty dollar. It seems in this plastic world we live in, hard currency gets zero props.

I like physical representations of things. For music, I like CDs and LPs. For money, bills and coins please. However, since debit cards arrived on the scene and ATMs became ubiquitous and VISA and Mastercard started handing out credit cards to the unwashed masses, cash has steadily been losing its cachet.

If people want to use plastic to make all their purchases, I'm cool with that. What burns me up though, is when my neighbourhood barista looks at me funny when I want to pay for my coffee with a hundred dollar bill. "Sorry, we can't break that. Do you have anything smaller?" They've got nerve telling me they can't break a hundred, when they've probably done a thousand in sales before 10 AM. Then again, maybe all their customers paid with credit or debit or pre-paid cards, in which case they really can't break a hundred.

Coming from Japan, where I spent half of the last decade, I find this near-contempt for cold, hard cash in Canada galling. Japan is still a cash society (although that is changing as people start using their mobile phones to pay for all kinds of things). I could pay for a $2 beer at 7-11 with a $100 bill, and the clerk wouldn't even blink. You can put a ¥5000 bill ($50) in a vending machine for a soda and you'll get $48.75 change with your refreshing drink.

I get the convenience factor of using plastic to make purchases. I understand that by not carrying cash you have less to lose if you were to ever get mugged. But for the minority of us who like to see how much we're spending, please don't diminish my customer service experience. My cash helps to pay your salary. It makes no sense to refuse it. If my money (the paper kind) is no good in your establishment, I will take my business elsewhere. I guess you are recession-proof and don't have any problem watching would-be paying customers walk out the door empty-handed.