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Would You Want to Live in a Cash-Free World?

When asked if they'd ditch bills for good, Canadians replied with a resounding "yes!" But for some, a cashless world is bad for business.

Imagine a world where you didn't have to go to the corner store ATM and pay an extra $2.50 just to pay someone back. Or where no matter what restaurant you stepped into, you'd be able to pay with a swipe of a card or a flash of your phone.

When presented with that prospect in a survey conducted by PayPal Canada, more than half of Canadians said they would be happy to never see a dollar bill again. PayPal, a company clearly invested in the future of what they call the "digital wallet," touts the benefits of being able to pay for everything "from a latte to an iPod" (guess what demographic they're catering to!) with a mobile phone.

I'm one of those people who never has cash, so I'm always excited to see that Visa decal on the door. I do wonder about efficiency, though, especially in food service. Words can't express how annoying it was to get six credit cards back when I was a waitress and have to swipe every single one. Six phones doesn't seem any easier. Using cash also cuts down on the amount of steps for a transaction; once you swipe, won't you have to give back a receipt for the customer to sign or leave a tip? A few more people who would get screwed: strippers, panhandlers, bartenders, bellhops, babysitters, kids at lemonade stands, hot dog truck owners, cleaning ladies, and a whole hell of a lot of undocumented immigrants.

Not to mention that it costs merchants money to use credit cards, sometimes up to ten percent or more of the purchase cost. That's why so many bars and restaurants go the cash-only route. Anyone who lives in a big city knows that every cab driver hates the advent of the taxi credit card machine; that's because they're forfeiting five percent of their fare. (Then again, some have suggested that people take more cabs and tip more when paying with plastic.)

I'm happy that the use of the credit card has become ubiquitous, and I'm rooting for startups like Square that are trying to make transactions even easier for everyone. But on behalf of cash-only employees everywhere, I'm not willing to completely part with bills quite yet.

first photo (cc) by Flickr user borman818, second courtesy of PayPal Canada

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