Harry’s Ramblings. Cashless Society
by Harry Pope
We went to Brighton marina recently, sharing a pizza on the restaurant terrace. It was delightful, sitting in the spring sunshine, and at the end I asked for the bill. As well as the pizza we shared a portion of chips, two soft drinks, so as the service and ambience had been so agreeable, as well as a £20 note left four one pound coins to cover the £21 bill. I disappeared inside to use the facilities, and when I came out Pam told me that they didn’t take cash, so she had settled by credit card. My £20 note disappeared into her purse, and then she asked if they accepted cash as a gratuity. Unsurprisingly the tip could be taken this way. Strange, that.
But the point I am making is that the financial institutions are getting their way via the back door because of Covid. As a humanity we are becoming accustomed to using our cards, thereby giving the banks what they have wanted for a long time. Making us become used to carrying little or no money, needing the services of a high street branch become redundant, making them more profits and the customer dependent on plastic.
It’s a generation thing, really, where those under say fifty are quite happy to be treated in this way, accepting progress. Those over fifty are more used to a face to face transaction, for example in a mini-supermarket or store the self service section is encouraged to the detriment of the store staff. Hello, if the machine takes your money, you won’t need so many people to work, those staff left have to work harder to compensate for the confusion when the machine malfunctions in any way at all. The person serving you as a face to face customer has to leave you to correct the machine. That is a definition of the old saying the tail wagging the dog.
Now that we have the freedom in the UK to shop again as we please, the pizza lunch was my first experience of not being able to pay by cash. Which is asking what lies ahead for future generations of shoppers, and civilisation as we know it. I am sufficiently pragmatic to acknowledge that we have to change as progress is made, but at what cost to speaking to people. It is lovely going into a shop, chatting to the assistant as long as there is no queue, or even if there is one. The interaction is good for the customer of course, because a lot of people don’t get to talk or see anyone else all day. Mental health is a topic of great interest these days, but that is one drawback not anticipated, or even cared about, by the institutions in their attempts to draw greater influence on our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those conspiracy theorists who see intrigue in every degree of progress. In my lifetime I have seen so much occur for the good, from computers to cars that are not continually breaking down. Or should that be the other way round. No, I might be in the category of older white man held in such contempt by so many, but I am not in the way of progress, rather that it should be controlled more. I don’t like being told what to do, so losing cash is a retrograde step as I see it. It is the loss of yet one more choice or option. And who pays for the credit card transaction. In theory, it is the retailer, as they are charged quite a disproportionate percentage for the privilege of using their system, but of course this cost is passed onto the consumer, who is being duped at every stage.
I took some photos of my local Eastbourne high street before writing this article. You will see that there is a lack of shoppers in the spring sunshine. You would usually expect to see a lot more people about. But there is another strange side-effect of the cashless society. We still have a proliferation of people asking for change towards their sustenance, but people just are not carrying any cash or change. The street people must be suffering, unless those kindly souls are providing them with food instead of money. So they are being treated better this way.
However, I have just made an appointment to see an osteopath. They don’t take cards, only cash. Hooray!
My dear old dad, who has been gone for many years, used to quote something he read once in the Peterboro column in the Daily Telegraph. Improvement equals deterioration. How wise.
Harry Pope has written a series of short ghost stories called Ballygobackwards Castle. Set in rural Ireland, the Castle is the setting for souls to transfer from this life to the next. Amazon at 99p. for e-books.
Harry’s latest writing successes: Buried Secrets, sold over 5,000 copies on Amazon, £2.99 e-version, or £6.99 printed.
Hotel Secrets (don’t buy that hotel) £3.99 e-version, £5.99 Amazon
Six long ghost stories all about Ballygobackwards Castle. A series of ghost stories also audio. Find on Amazon, very reasonable 99p each.