I’ll be blunt. I’m having money troubles. It’s not what you think, so there’s no need to start a GoFundMe page or anything like that. You see, I have enough money to get by, I’m just having trouble spending it. That trouble starts when I attempt to purchase something with actual, folding money, perhaps augmented by some metal coins.
For example, the other day I found a great deal on a humidifier that was priced half-off…$60 down to $30. Who could resist? With 6% tax the total cost would be $31.80. Awesome. I always carry a pocketful of change to make it easier all around, so I presented the 20-something cashier $31 in bills and 80 cents in coins. Exact freakin’ change! But instead of thanking me for making her job so easy, the poor young lady’s eyes grew wide with a combination of confusion and contempt as she hollered to any co-worker within shouting distance, “I need the cash box! Where’s the cash box! Someone is paying in cash! Hurry!”
Me being the unsympathetic wiseass I am asked her if the store was now converting to a barter system. If so, I would be happy to take back my $31.80 and exchange some beaver pelts I happened to have in the trunk of my car for my item. Rather than chide me as a creepy old man she spat back, “what the hell’s a pelt?” When I explained, the horrified cashier resumed her high decibel plea for the “cash box.”
Someone who, I guess, was a supervisor, finally came over with a little gray box with a variety of bills and coins, and explained to the cashier, that this was a cash box and that some people (he kindly didn’t use the adjective, “old”), might be presenting the archaic form of payment popular way back in the 20th century, called “cash,” which is pretty much how the job title “CASHier” was derived. “Heh,” the CASHier replied. “Whatever.” She then took my combination of currency and coins, stashed it in the cash box then hid the thing for fear others might be tempted to pay for their items in a similar manner.
My daughter, who is in her 30’s, explained to me that I should not continue to embarrass myself by shoving actual money in the faces of CASHiers since “who does that anymore?” in lieu of just tapping, sliding or inserting a credit or debit card and having intangible dough just magically disappear from my bank account. I could go online, I was told, to monitor my account’s activity and check its balance. That’s nice, but what the hell would I keep in the part of my wallet where valuable slips of paper with photos of George Washington, Abe Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton normally go? And no, I’m not stashing my shopping list there. That’s right, she said. No one has shopping lists anymore….they put it in their freakin’ phones! No wonder kids have crappy handwriting. They have no practice.
It reminded me of a story I covered in 1986 for CNN. A group of Cambodians who had assisted members of the U.S. armed services during the Vietnam War, were coming over to live in North Carolina. They hadn’t been exposed to some modern conveniences including an ATM. One of the sponsoring service members showed a mystified Cambodian gentleman how it worked after an account at a local bank was set up. He was told to just insert an envelope with his deposit into the ATM’s slot. The man gave it a little push, and whoosh! It disappeared into the machine. “Where my money!” the man shouted. When he was assured it was safe in the bank, he was not convinced and vowed to return some day soon to reclaim his cash. The service member didn’t have the heart to tell the man his lucky five-dollar bill was gone forever.
But this thing about a cashless society works both ways. In a delicious turnabout, our favorite frozen custard stand only accepts cash. There are plenty of signs warning customers of this, but apparently some, mostly Millennials, refuse to believe it. Whether they’re illiterate, arrogant or one of those people who don’t believe what they read on a sign, they step up to the window to order, whip out their debit cards, then act aghast when told the signs didn’t lie…no cash, no cream…there’s an ATM in the convenience store across the street. They generally just step away, speechless, shell shocked, and return to their cars and leave. In all the years we’ve been going there, I’ve never seen even one chastened Millennial return with actual cash, having made the decision that a luscious, creamy dessert was not worth a quick trip across the street to grab some liquid assets to pay for it.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I use credit cards for many different purchases. It only makes sense for lots of things, but there are times it makes more sense to me to just pay with cash and be done with it.
And just think of what we lose if we go totally cashless. What are you gonna do, stick your debit card under your kid’s pillow when they lose a tooth? Believe me, the Tooth Fairy doesn’t fly around with a card swiper although I’m a little scared she has a Venmo account. That would be disturbing.
I kinda stick with the way Steve Miller ended his song “Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash” with the lines: “Your cash ain’t nothin’ but trash…But I’m sure going to get me some more.” Cha-ching!