By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
Just a short post, conveying some good news in a skirmish in the ongoing war on cash: a victory for all us who buy things in New York City.
The New York City Council approved legislation on Thursday that bans stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments from refusing to accept cash.
Businesses that don’t comply will be smacked with fines ranging from $1000 to $1500.
According to USA Today :
“No longer in New York City will brick-and-mortar businesses have the right to refuse cash and effectively discriminate against customers who lack access to credit and debit,” Ritchie Torres, the bill’s chief sponsor said in an emailed statement. “The marketplace of the future must accommodate the needs of vulnerable New Yorkers.”
There was little dissent over the measure that Torres introduced in November 2018 and which was approved by a 433 margin. according to the Daily Mail.
By making this move, New York joins other cities and states that have prohibited cashless businesses, including New Jersey, Philadelphia, and San Francisio. Massachusetts has long set the standard here, with a provision dating to 1978 that requires business to accept cash, according to The New York Times. Chicago is now mulling a similar measure.
New York is resisting what USA Today extols as a growing trend:
A growing number of restaurants and other retailers have stopped accepting cash in order to speed up transactions, reduce the risk of theft and accommodate the increased use of credit and debit cards, as well as digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, to buy services and products
No Bills Larger Than $20
The measure allows businesses to refuse to accept bills larger than $20.
The measure will take effect ninety days after city mayor Bill deBlasio signs it. de Blasio has thirty days in which ti decide whether or not to sign the legislation, and he has said he supports the bills intent, and intends to put it through a review process. Given the overwhelming support for the measure in the city council it is extremely unlikely he will veto the bill.
As the Daily News reports:
Mayor de Blasio’s administration expressed support for the “cashless ban” during a February 2019 hearing on an earlier version of the bill. The legislation was since amended to allow stores to refuse larger bills after the administration noted some businesses worry about accepting them because they can put the store and employees at risk.
Casey Adams, then an official with the Department of Consumer Affairs, said during the hearing that a restaurant owner estimated that “accepting cash would force him to increase prices at least 10%.” But the administration still supported the essence of the bill.
We believe that businesses should accept cash,” Adams said during the hearing. “They shouldn’t send the message to underbanked and unbanked New Yorkers that they can’t access goods or services at those businesses.”
Cash Bans Disproportionately Hurt the Poor
Many press accounts mention the exclusionary impact of the move towards cashlesss transactions on those who lack access to a bank account, a credit or debit card. According to in the Daily Mail:
In the introduction for the motion Thursday morning, Rafael L Espinal, chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, said he wanted to ‘draw attention to some unintended consequences of cashless technologies’.
‘In a modern financial hub like New York City it might be easy to assume everyone has easy access to banking facilities and technologies that allow cashless transactions – unfortunately this is not the case,’ he said.
Espinal said that cashless-only stores are marginalizing disadvantaged groups, because many residents in New York don’t have access to a bank account.
‘Across the city there are large populations who are disconnected from formal banking institutions. In 2013 close to 12% of the city’s population were completely unbanked,’ he said.
This is not the only service for which the City Council wishes to ensure access by the underbanked. According to the New York Times;
But New York City officials have also targeted ride-sharing and meal-delivery apps, as well as facial recognition for building entries — all in an effort to blunt the impact of advancing technology on those who are unable to use it because of financial circumstances, unwilling to for philosophical reasons or vulnerable to its darker aspects.
Another problem with cashless payment systems mentioned by the New York Times is their vulnerability to hacking by cybercriminals who steal personal data.
Cashless Transactions Benefit Banksters, and Allow Monitoring of Our Economic Lives
Yet I’ve yet to see anyone unpack two insidious aspects of the war on cash: to see the monster glowering, smacking its lips, and chowing down on each and every cashless transaction.
First, by insisting on cashless forms of payments, businesses allow those glowering banksters to siphon off a small portion of every transaction in the form of their fee for using these cashless payments systems. They already get their pound of flesh from me in so many ways, why should I also allow them a bite – even a tiny one – out of my bagel? But this aspect of the creeping financialization of everything isn’t mentioned in the press accounts discussing the New York City move.
Second, by forcing us to go cashfree, businesses and restaurants make our preferences apparent to financial overlords. and other who hoover up financial data. (Mis)use of same is not the exclusive purview of cybercirminals. Why should my sushi habit or or my coffee preferences be yet another thing that can be assessed and analyzed, and monetized behind the scenes? Shouldn’t these be secrets that can be limited to me and the businesses that I patronize?
Kudos to the city Council for requiring New York City businesses to accept cash.