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The other day I was exploring a neighborhood where I was considering buying a condo and found myself in a BBQ restaurant that looked like something out of an episode of In Living Color. As I stood in line I read all the crazy signs and looked at the random junk they had tacked to the walls, and noticed a sign that said, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.” and somehow I read this sign and yet it just didn’t click in my head that it meant no debit or credit cards. To me, “cash” means money that you actually have as opposed to money you are borrowing, but in this case, obviously, ‘cash’ meant old fashioned paper money. Fortunately I realized my mistake before they started my order, but I was pretty disappointed because the place smelled delicious and I was in the mood for a dripping pile of meat on a bun.
Just a few days earlier I was eating lunch with some coworkers and at the end we all busted out our debit/credit cards and the waiter commented that we were “card guys”, which we all found odd, since a few of us couldn’t remember the last time we’d actually used paper money for something. This is perfectly normal as far as I’m concerned. I’ve met numerous people who never carry paper money and all things considered, debit and credit cards are probably used more often in our society than paper money. As a society, we’ve decided that electronic currency is now the standard form of currency, kind of how we decided at some point a couple hundred years ago that gold and silver nuggets would be replaced with paper notes.
So why do these rare businesses refuse to accept our standard, most basic, and most convenient form of currency? Well, something many people forget when they’re paying for things with their cards is the fact that these businesses are paying a fee for the right to accept our currency. They pay something like %1 on the purchases made with those cards, and they don’t see that as fair. They could simply charge a %1 fee to their customers to use their cards, but of course they are not allowed to do that because the credit card companies don’t want the public to be aware of just how much they are scraping off the top, so all of the business’s customers must pay this cost in the form of slightly higher prices, even if they pay cash every time. Some business owners don’t think this is fair, and I can’t blame them.
All the credit card companies are doing is facilitating a system to allow transactions, a system which is almost completely automated, and the cost for them to do that is a tiny fraction of what they are charging for the service. It’s no different than if you wrote up a contract for a home purchase and the printer company that made the printer that printed that contract demanded %1 of the purchase price.
Back in the day when paper money was first replacing the old gold and silver currency, our governments took over the process for the benefit of the people and provided the service of printing money and preventing counterfeiting essentially at-cost. Granted, we still have sales tax, which is kind of the same thing, but at least in that case, theoretically, that money is going toward the benefit of the people instead of into the pockets of wealthy businessmen.
So why is it today that the government has not stepped in to facilitate our more modern form of currency? They continue printing an inconvenient, outdated and expensive form of currency instead of keeping up with technology and trends and providing the people with the form of electronic currency we obviously expect.
To me, facilitating our system of currency is one of the most fundamental expectations of government. Instead, they have been manipulated by the big credit card companies and have allowed them to get their hands in the pockets of almost every person on the planet.
Now big-business controls our currency and our ability to exchange goods and services on a global scale in a situation where no one but the fat-cats have a vote. I can’t understand why more people don’t see this as, first of all, unfair, and second of all, dangerous.