What's with stores and restaurants refusing cash payment? Cashiers these days wear plastic gloves, so it's not about the germs. Cash is simpler and doesn't charge swipe fees—and given the risk of credit card scams, cash is safer. What's going on? —Legal Tender Lover
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, Tender, you don't absorb coronavirus through your fingers. If a cashier touches her eyes, nose or mouth after handling a contaminated bill, she's at risk, gloves or no. And what if she gives you that bill as change? You know you're just going to stick it in your nose and do cocaine through it later. Boom—now everybody's got COVID. Way to go, Typhoid Mary.
These days, you can find people who say that going cashless doesn't actually do much to stop the virus, but no one really knows for sure.
Either way, though, that's why we started doing it. A World Health Organization spokesperson made a statement March 2 that many people interpreted as a warning to avoid handling money. That was right around the time stores were cooking up their pandemic protocols.
Of course, there are many non-epidemiological reasons merchants might prefer electronic transactions. Cash means making change, counting the day's take, and going to the bank every night, all of which sucks up labor hours. Cash is also easy for robbers (and your employees) to steal.
Having said all that, electronic fund transfers are only practical if you have some electronic funds. For the estimated 4 to 5 percent of Oregonians who don't have bank accounts, cashless businesses represent a real burden.
As usual, that burden falls on the people least equipped to bear it. (I don't have statistics about why people go unbanked, but it's probably safe to assume it's not because they have so much money that no bank can hold it all.) This is why progressive states like Massachusetts have started passing laws requiring most businesses to accept cash.
In fact, Oregon was just about to pass one of our own! House Bill 4107, making it unlawful to refuse currency as payment, was passed out of committee Feb. 28. Unfortunately, that was just two days before the WHO started telling us cash was lousy with COVID. You win some, you lose some.
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