A CASHLESS SOCIETY
I said to the teller when I collected my new bank card: “If you see it used for tap ‘n’ go payments, consider that my card has been stolen and cancel it immediately. I will only use it with my pin.”
She clearly thought I was a geriatric technophobe. “Don’t worry,” she said, brightly. “You can use it easily. Just tap where you see the sign and it’ll register payment.”
“You misunderstand me,” I replied. “I don’t want to use it that way. I know I have to have one of these cards, but I will not use it without identification. You can easily register suspicious change of use – so if it’s used for tap and go, please assume it has been nicked.”
She nodded in a vague, humouring sort of way, and I now realise I should have written to the bank to reinforce my instructions because they took no bloody notice. When an over-enthusiastic waitress at Côte Brasserie took my card and tapped it for me (naughty) before I could shout, “STOP!”, the card was not only accepted but the bank failed to cancel it. Grr.
I find the prospect of a cashless society deeply sinister. Yes, I use my Visa card and my bank card, both regularly. But I am still wedded to cash. And I hate the idea of a future without it.
Without cash, you will never, ever make an un-tracked purchase again. Every store, every coffee bar, every train operator, every website you use will know who you are, what branch you shopped at last and what your preferences and regular habits are.
Without cash, you’ll never have a jar on the dressing table where you throw your loose change of an evening. Mine mounts up surprisingly quickly and softens the financial hammering that Christmas brings.
Without cash, some joys will be forever lost. You will never be able to slip a twenty pound note into your goddaughter’s birthday card, or see a child empty out his piggy bank and have all that fun piling coins and counting his loot – learning basic numeracy and the point of saving at the same time. Heck, even the tooth fairy will die for lack of employment.
Without cash, you will never again be able to make sure the wait staff get their tips because you’ll be forced to put the gratuity on the card. We all know that there are publicans and restaurant owners who don’t pass the tips on to the people who earned them, God rot their hornswoggling arses.
Without cash, you will always have to pay VAT where applicable, and the tax man will know every transaction you ever make. You’ll never be able to bung fifteen quid to Jobless Dave Down-The-Road for mowing your lawn, or buy a shirt off a friend in a quick easy exchange – here’s your shirt, here’s my tenner. Neighbour Molly won’t be able to supplement her paltry pension by giving friends occasional lifts to the airport.
Without cash, the Government will know ALL your spending habits. Do you trust the Government?
Without cash, we are sleepwalking into financial enslavement.
Sure, the tap ‘n’ go system is quick and convenient. Who hasn’t fumed and chafed behind one of those infuriating old biddies whose arthritic fingers struggle to retrieve 5p coins from her purse?
But how convenient is it really? If you know you have a certain amount of spending money per week, it’s much easier to go over the limit when you’re not handling the actual moolah because it doesn’t feel like spending!
Skinny vanilla spice latte grande plus a ham and cheddar croissant? That’s £6.54. Purchase that 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year, and you’ve lashed out £1,602.30. Did you really mean to spend all that? Did you know it’ll get you two weeks all inclusive in a pretty 4* hotel in Turkey with nearly £300 spending money left over?
Business loves contactless payment, because you are so much more likely to make those kind of small, unnecessary, spontaneous purchases you never did when you had to use your last tenner. Those spontaneous purchases nibble away at your income while businesses thrive on them.
“You could have your wallet stolen!” cry the devotees of a No Cash Life. Of course. And you can have your card or phone stolen too. Tap ‘n’ Go means you don’t have to sign or provide a thumbprint. No ID required.
Come on, how safe is that when you can spend up to £30 a go? Yes, you might have all your cash stolen, but the most that any of us can usually take out in one go is £250. A pickpocket could spend £250 on St Pancras Station concourse in twenty minutes. A nonchalant reliance on the card’s reliability is woefully misplaced – research has shown conclusively that not all cards refuse payments larger than £30 – a payment over £100 was accepted in one case. Now do you feel secure?
A criminal can take payment from your card when you’re distracted by something else – an accomplice who drops their bag, perhaps. All they need is their own mobile payments machine. Yes, they would have to use a different terminal to avoid the bank’s fraud detection, but clever fraudsters will know how to get round that. Now do you feel secure?
Or perhaps they might use a mobile phone to take a payment reading from a credit card. They can send the data to another phone and make a payment on that second device. All that’s needed is proximity – the fraudster needs to be near the victim. Now do you feel secure?
Or the criminal might nick your card, load it onto their iPhone and use Apple Pay to spend spend spend and in much larger amounts than the £30 per transaction limit. How much do you really trust your bank to check verification and monitor the possibilities of fraud at every level? It transpires that Apple Pay is by no means as safe as you thought, and an efficient crook can do terrible damage to your finances.
Now do you feel secure?
Business, government and hygiene fanatics.
The advantages for government are obvious.
- Minting coins and notes is expensive
- Money can be forged
- Money can’t be tracked
- Your every transaction – in or out – can’t be tracked
Similarly, the pluses for business are clear. Sales increase when consumers pay with a card. People are less likely to make small purchases if they don’t have much actual dosh in their pocket.
Businesses love going cash free because the accounting is infinitely simpler when the software does all the hard work. Yea, I say unto thee, go cashless, ye businesses, sack thy bookkeeper and minimise on staff costs! Tough if you’re the bookkeeper, of course…
You can’t blame them. Who wants to trek to the bank with bags of money and cheques every day? But that’s their problem. I’m concerned about the rights of the individual.
We are only at the beginning of the technological revolution. Yet already giant companies know far too much about us. Have you watched “The Great Hack” on Netflix? You should. It describes how a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, harvested deeply personal data through Facebook and manipulated enough of the population to change their mind about their vote through targeted “advertising”. Targeted lies, more like.
If companies such as Facebook already know so much about us that they can focus advertising on an entirely personal level, just wait until governments have the same information.
Governments know too much about us already. We are a watched society. Already, there is approximately one surveillance camera for every eleven people in this country.
In the Uighur autonomous region of Xinjiang, China, a new form of Big Brother is being trialled with chilling success. The Uighurs are Muslim, you see, and apparently some governments think that all Muslims are potential terrorists who need constant monitoring. Facial recognition technique, biometric information, patterns of behaviour – all these are used to build up profiles to identify potentially restive citizens.
It’s estimated that there may be as many as a million Uighur people in detention camps. For what? Not turning up for flag-waving ceremonies, or being a little too fervent at Friday prayers, perhaps. Even having a relative abroad brings suspicion.
So think of the Uighur region as being the first really enormous laboratory for complete population control, This is achieved by means of behavioural prediction and algorithmically-assisted surveillance.
Remember this: we are only at the beginning of the technological revolution.
But I only bought a book…!
Ah, but what kind of book? Or books? History books covering the rise of the labour movement? The purchases are registered in your history. Dangerous.
Never mind that, we’re not quite there yet. Where we have already arrived at is what has been described as “surveillance capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff, the Harvard scholar and writer.
Basically, every time we do anything online, whether we’re buying towels from John Lewis or playing “What Your Colour Choice Says About You” on Facebook, those companies log everything they can glean:
- looser connections
- political leanings or lack thereof
- purchase records
- magazine subscriptions
Everything that constitutes our lives, in other words. How? Because we handed over the information free of charge.
Think of those Amazon emails you get… “Based on your last purchase of orthotic insoles, you might be interested in these bunion correctors.” Amazon aren’t interested in your wellbeing, your flat feet or your painful hammer toe, they just want to sell you stuff. They remind you when you didn’t buy something, and they remind you of what you looked at last. It’s not to help you, it’s to train you into buying from them without you realising what they are doing.
Shoshana Zuboff sums it up. “It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us. These processes are meticulously designed to produce ignorance by circumventing individual awareness and thus eliminate any possibility of self-determination.”
In other words, commerce wishes to control and direct your desires and your spending. Commerce doesn’t care if you get horribly into debt. Commerce yearns for you to buy that extra pair of shoes, or that miraculous sticky tape that makes power tools adhere to walls, or that set of cheerily coloured storage boxes that mean you can stash yet more unnecessary purchases away in your overcrowded home.
And commerce uses third party trackers
It is scary stuff. And when Governments get their act together, as in the Uighur province of China, we will be little more than completely controlled cogs in a rapaciously capitalist society.
Cash is freedom
We have to go on using cash. All of us.
Mind you, there is no guarantee that the demand for cash will ensure its preservation. Governments around the world are beginning to move against cash in a big way.
The moment we become entirely cashless is the moment governments have as much, perhaps even more, access to our life profile than Facebook, Google and Amazon. Government will monitor everything its citizens do, and by abandoning cash we are sleepwalking towards totalitarianism. God help us.
80% of all Sweden’s financial transactions are now cashless.
Hong Kong’s Octopus card, once merely an RFID (Radio Frequency ID) transport payment card like the London Oyster card, can be used to pay for:
- The MTR (Hong Kong’s subway system)
- Vending machines
- 7-Eleven (and its competitor, Circle K)
- Fast food outlets
- Car parks
It is predicted that Australia will be entirely cash free by 2022. (Ironic, really, when you consider that Australia produced Pat Cash.)
The cashless society is coming and we must resist it.
Cash is our last freedom. Let’s not give it up without a fight.
And if you are stuck behind me in a queue in a few years time and you cluck in annoyance because my arthritic fingers can’t fish out that tiny coin, don’t curse. Thank me for sticking with the inconvenience.
Cash is freedom. I cannot emphasise it enough.
What you will save…
- The last scraps of your privacy from predatory commercialism.
- A noggin of freedom from government surveillance.
- Your ability to earn a buck on the side.
These pieces are of necessity a great deal shorter than they could be, because I’m trying to distil a ton of information into a fairly brief piece. So I sometimes skim over certain subjects and try to avoid tangents wherever possible. I can address these in the comments section afterwards if they’re raised by readers.
But I thought it worth mentioning that I’m obviously in favour of some degree of underground economy and when I was preparing this piece, I wrote a long defence of it. In the end, I cut it, for your sake as much as mine. So I will say just this; I know that the underground economy diminishes the Revenue’s tax intake. However, I believe it is a necessary freedom from control, and this has to be balanced against the social obligation of the tax system.
In addition, I don’t think cashlessness will stop racketeers, extortioners, pimps, drug peddlers or any other kind of felons from going about their vile business. They’ll extort your property instead of your money, and they’ll store their ill-gotten gains in gold and other valuables, like crypto currencies. Viz; Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s astonishing act of state overreach when he recalled India’s two top banknotes, giving that mammoth population just 50 days to cash in their notes. He was convinced that a vast proportion (33%) of the notes would never be returned because they were being hoarded by criminals and cartels. In fact, 99.3% of the notes were returned, proving that criminals are smarter than he thought.
The irony is that I am now going to ask you to follow me (!!!) if you’re enjoying these pieces. All you have to do is enter your email in the box at the top of the page and click the follow button. You will then receive an email every time I publish a new piece (every two weeks). Nothing more. No targeted advertising. I won’t try to sell you anything. And I don’t make any money from this at all.
But without Piper…
… life would be a good deal drearier. She sits in my office all day, my little pal. What would I do without her?
43 thoughts on “A CASHLESS SOCIETY”
You are, as usual, absolutely right. For me, one of the worst aspects of the cashless society is the fact that the banks (the retailers, the baddies, the hornswogglers(!) ) will all take a percentage of every transaction you make. It’s another way for the already rich to get richer still, what with the cost-savings they will make when they no longer have to handle cash.
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Indeed. I wish I’d thought of that. I might have to do an edit later and credit you of course.
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Thank you, Dillie. On the money (!) as ever.
I believe there’s something to be said for bartering.
Yes, I agree. It still happens.
I couldn’t live without cash so I am 100% with you on this. I know people think I’m mad when I say I prefer cash but I shall remain mad as long as we have filthy lucre folded in our wallets.
We can be mad together then!
Great post. Just thought what on earth would people do at a Bootsale without cash? Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and all the other sites where they sell any old shit! And charities would lose out on all that small change thrown in their buckets. It certainly makes you think.
Love Piper by the way, I have a Patterdale too, and as you will already know, life is merrier, with a Terrier!
Yes indeed, the car boot sale would be impossible, especially as there are 4 million people in Britain living in deep poverty. Car boot sales are essential for them.
You really opened my eyes… I’ll draw some cash out for sundries immediately! Joking aside though. I have started having some cash on me, so I’m not using my card all the time.
Another issue is where the ‘cashless society’ leaves those who can’t get a bank account – they’re already excluded from online transactions, and pay more for utilities, etc. Over 1million adults in the UK can’t access banking services… (I’ve just googled it and it’s between 1.23 and 1.7m depending where you look)
Yes indeed. Good point.
Great point. My theory is that governments want to force everyone to have a bank account. No-one will ever be able to live off-grid again, or at least, it will be even more difficult to do so.
Sadly I am one of those infuriating old biddies whose arthritic fingers struggle to retrieve coins from her purse – but equally I struggle to extract my credit card. I still prefer cash for the same reasons you discussed, but also so that my dear husband doesn’t know exactly what I spend my money on, both small and larger sums – then so much easier to disclose an adjusted amount. Certainly one of the factors contributing to a long and happy marriage.
Ha! There’s a lesson there for all of us!!!
Hi Dillie, you can ask not to have a contactless card when you get a new bank card. I did , I get some strange looks when I use it but I think they just think ” poor old gal”. (I’m 62).
How interesting! I particularly asked for a non-contactless card and was told I couldn’t have one. Ho hum. Back to the bank!
I agree with everything you say Dillie, but there’s a rather large fly in the ointment. With the impending launch of the Alan Turing (hooray!!) £50 note, all out banknotes will be made of plastic. The move to plastic banknotes, whilst saving a huge amount in printing new money, is environmentally unsound. “Micro-plastics” is a relatively new concept to most people, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that their environmental impact is inversely proportional to their size. They are now found in almost everything we eat and, most importantly, drink. We are now all, to a very small extent, made of plastic.
Sure, it’s wonderful to find that one can still spend the fiver one forgot to remove from one’s trouser pockets before “podding” (ridiculous concept) the washing machine, but small quantities of plastic will still be etched away and will enter the ecosystem. The friction of everyday use, will make tiny airborne particles, which are then inhaled and permanently embedded in our lungs. Unfortunately, we still don’t adequately understand the long-term impact of micro-plastics.
Just going back to that “podding” comment. The next time someone asks “Do You Pod?”, just say “No!”. Detergents are bad enough for the planet; encasing them in so-called “soluble” plastic is a thousand times worse.
What could be worse than life without a dog? Life without two dogs, of course!
Great comment as usual. My response is to say that there’s a fly in every pot of ointment that’s going. Whichever way we go, we do some harm. I’ve read enough about micro plastics to agree with you that we have no bloody idea of the ramifications and dangers lurking therein. Plastic banknotes, however, seem to me to be a price worth paying in the short run – people keep banknotes unlike clingfilm or packaging. And there is a piece pending on detergents!
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Not trying to virtue signal here, but I really feel bad when I never seem to have cash for a deserving busker or homeless person. Having said that, I saw a busker in the underground with a contactless terminal and a suggestion of a “£2 minimum donation”.
Yes, I’ve heard of buskers having contactless payment terminals. I might be being a little judgemental here, but my immediate thought was, aha, the rise of the middle-class busker…
I use cash all the time. You know where you stand and it helps prevent debt as when it’s gone it’s gone. My Bank offered me a ‘lesson’ on internet Banking. No thank you. Well said Dillie.
What of the charities standing at supermarkets hoping for donations? I’ve been known to head back to my car just to get change from my parking meter purse so I may give something to them. Those people must feel so dejected when everyone goes past and say’s “Sorry I only have a card”.
Yes, I suppose chuggers would have to go out with iZettles… mind you, I’ve got an iZettle myself because I’m losing sales of my DVDs after gigs… so I’m contributing to the move towards cashlessness… I do tell people I prefer cash though. It’s really difficult to fight.
Coming to see you on December 15th at Q.E. Hall so I shall pay with cash as I always do…just a thought- what of the after service collection in churches? There is going to be a change there from the people shaking their purses on sticks at the weary congregation. I now have visions of a person using a card machine and hoping the wi-fi is working.🙂👿. They will make a killing as the devout will be embarrassed into giving more as they have to vocalise how much they are willing to give rather than tipping half a crown into the bag!!
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Wonderful blog. I love cash to the point of always stopping and picking up dropped 1pence pieces, carelessly left on the street.. These and my daily small change ( but not £1 coins )are then all put into a drawer and left for a month or two. In due course I take it all to the bank in a weighty bag and pour the lot into the amazing Swiss made coin sorter. This whirls the coins about internally with a lovely cascading sound and eventually stops,having rejected all foreign coins, and leaves me with a summary slip which I take to the teller and the sum is put into my savings account. Voila ! I accept these are modest savings, but that’s not the point. It maintains the principles of care ,saving ,and numeracy. All the aspects you so brilliantly summarised .
I don’t think you touched on Bitcoin, that flame for moths. Nobody should go there.
Glad you like it. I did actually mention cryptocurrencies (of which Bitcoin is only one of many examples) as a way that criminals can store their ill-gotten gains. It’s a fascinating subject, but not one for this particular blog other than as a tangential reference.
Totally right and led by the banks who are making as hard as possible for small businesses to deal with cash. Charging for change, having machines that don’t accept small change when paying in – I could go on!! Let’s keep the cash.
I generally have around 78p in my purse, but recently I’ve been withdrawing £30 a week in an effort to stop the tap and dash malarkey. I’ve found that actually handing over cash for little purchases (like the coffees you mention) really does make me refocus on my spending habit. It’s also reduced the amount of single use plastic I’ve used.
As far as I’m concerned I don’t want to live in a cashless society. I like the twopenny shovers in seaside amusement parks too much to let them become obsolete! (And plus I get to keep all the change I find in my husband’s pockets… his contactless card is not so appealing)
My beloved’s loose change is similarly appropriated. I’m going to count it up next week and put it towards my holiday spending money!!!
Thank you Dillie for another thought-provoking piece which i was nodding along to very enjoyably – until the last paragraph.!! Reading the heading ‘but without Piper’ gave me a terrible shock. I thought the worst. I am known for my catastrophising so it may have just been me… of course jolly relieved to realise my mistake and read nothing dreadful had happened to the little dog… but really… I could have done without the jolt…
Anyhooo here’s to cash – my part-time gardening business depends on it, and here’s to many more lovely Piper photos x
Hmm. This post stuck with me more than I thought it would! Brought everything with cash today and am currently eyeing up an empty jar to stick 5ps in. I’d forgotten how much I loved counting the family change jar out when I was little.
Oh, I am delighted! The more we use cash, the more likely it is that it will stay in circulation.
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Late to the party on this one but, given that I did a massive, overland trip across Eurasia inspired at least in part by the contents of the family Foreign Change purse, count me in for cash! Currency is such a fascinating and emotive topic. I kept small change from (almost!) every country I travelled through, hopefully one day my collection might inspire someone else’s voyage.
I also refused to have a contact payment card – thankfully, my building society acquiesced.
I asked for one from Lloyds, they said they didn’t make them… Your overland trip sounds amazing. I’ve got an old cash box in which I keep all the change left over from various trips abroad. They’re all in envelopes with the name of the countries, when I have to dip into it because I’m returning somewhere, it conjures up a host of memories!
Hi Dillie, I’d keep an eye on Julie Birchill’s column in the Sunday Telegraph if I were you. Her article today is on this precise subject and reaches some scarily similar conclusions.
It wouldn’t be beyond a struggling Fleet Street hack to plagiarise something they found on the web for their own benefit and self-aggrandisement.
How interesting, thanks for the heads up. Going to look for it now.
The thing I will really miss when cash goes is going to my local shops with my dog Max (who always patiently waits outside as he doesn’t have a mask). I can buy most of my little bits without getting in the car, and I have developed a personal relationship with a few people. It’s so important to have these little interactions. Humans need that stuff!
Replacing cash with cards and cashiers with machines takes away our humanity. And the bored shop assistant who has to deal with six or eight of these machines has had a bit of their humanity taken away as well. There’s a lot of talk in technology at the moment about “centaurs” – humans are augmented by a machine so they can do things neither the human or the machine could do as well on their own. The best chess players, for example, are now humans who use computer programs to get further insights into their playing as they play.
The poor shop assistant at my local co-op who stands by six till machines and whose job is to put a code in every time something goes wrong for eight hours is a “reverse centaur” – a human who has had some of their capabilities **removed** by a machine. It certainly isn’t more convenient for the shoppers. These shops do it so they don’t have to pay for as many humans, which means the prices drop and it’s harder for businesses that employ humans to keep going. I find it all really depressing.
I was going to upload a picture of Max behaving himself outside a shop but it seems I can’t. Never mind. Thanks for the blog post!
What an interesting – and humane – point of view. I’m entirely in agreement. Give Max a friendly pat and possibly a biscuit from me. Piper stays in the car when I go shopping and guards it for me. I don’t think I could train her not to pop in and check that I was making sure to remember to buy her some chews.
In the meantime, I notice that cash is hanging on in spite of the pandemic… Quite a number of us are quite fond of it really.