Allegan County News & Union Enterprise Commercial Record Courier-Leader & Flashes

Life as Performance Art

  If anyone knows where you can find one of those ugly little soft rubbery-like coin wallets, please let me know. If it is before Christmas, bring it over to our place and let my wife know so she can wrap it and put it under the tree. I haven’t seen one for a few years. In fact, the last time I saw anyone using one was a decade ago.  A nice old geezer (or maybe a geezerette) was using it to count out the coins for a small purchase.
    I sort of smiled at the sight of the old-fashioned device. Then, the other day I realized I really should have one.  I was at the checkout counter and the person on the opposite side of the counter from me was a bit put-out that she was going to have to make change from a ten dollar bill for my purchase. “A credit or debit card would be easier. Plus, you can leave a tip right on the computer screen,” the clerk told me in no uncertain terms.  I didn’t say anything, but I sure thought plenty:  Really?  A tip for ringing up a purchase? And it’s easier for you or for me?  I went straight into Boomer Mode, thinking that  learning how to make change is not one of those life skills taught in school,  right along with shop,  home economics, and cursive writing.  No wonder civilization as we know it is coming to an end!
     Apparently, as with so many other things,  some of us who still prefer to use cash for our smaller purchases, are falling behind. The western world is moving into a cashless society.  Many parts of northern Europe, especially the Scandinavian countries, anticipate being completely cashless within a decade or less.  Meanwhile, communist China is embracing some sort of ‘social credit’ economy that relieves on electronic payments while preventing the naughty boys and girls from buying certain items, because  they aren’t worthy of the privilege.
     I have decided not to participate. At the very least, I am holding out if possible.  I’m holding on to the old school of financial transactions of reaching for my billfold, letting a moth or two fly out, and then passing across the counter the oblong pieces of paper of dead Presidents and the first Secretary of the Treasury.  And if you want to have some real fun, get some two dollar bills at the bank and try spending them.
      This is more than being just another grouchy old Luddite. Overall, I have been wary of credit and debit cards right from the start.  With cash, one has to stop shopping when the billfold is empty; with a credit cards, a person can keep buying goods and services based on a somewhat nebulous promise of paying later.  The problem comes with the arrival of the statement from the credit card company that they want their money.  If the payment is late or a partial payment, then the spender is adding considerable money to the company’s coffers.  Anyone listening to the news the past few months has heard that the interest rates continue to rise, which means more and more money is needed to pay off the debt.
     To paraphrase the late Will Rogers, we will be the first nation to drive to the County Poor House in a Tesla, at least until the power is shut off or the car repossessed.
     Overall, that just does not seem like a winning proposition to me. I’m not tumbling for any of it.  I don’t need to buy something to make me feel better, and I am perfectly comfortable with the archaic concept of Delayed Gratification, as taught by The Olds.  They believed that if you want to buy something, save money until you can afford to pay for it in full. By the time you have the cash in hand, maybe that glittery object is no longer appealing. That doesn’t apply to the truly big-ticket items like an automobile or house.
     Of course, the credit card companies, and Really Really Big Banks do not see things my way. They want us to pay interest and fees because it is good for their bottom line.  No thanks.  If a bank needs money that badly they can tighten their own belt and fire a few extraneous vice presidents, such as the one who picks out the color for the waste paper basket.
    The government doesn’t see things my way, either. They seem to think that if we pay cash for something, we’re just opening an inroad for the underground economy.  Let’s say I hire someone to plow out the driveway and pay in cash. The government is suspicious that might be an under the table maneuver that keeps them from getting a little more income tax money. What it really means is that the government doesn’t trust us.
    Besides, I don’t think it is my responsibility to scrupulously inquire if the fellow excising snow and gouging the lawn is really going to report the income.
    The authorities love to warn us that carrying cash is dangerous.  Sure, it is we all know that.  The billfold can fall out of my pocket, a pickpocket can boost it, or I might get mugged.  Guess what?  One good solar flare, a really big one such as we have not seen since the 1850s,  and all of that electronic financial data is going to evaporate or otherwise be scrambled and destroyed.  The card machines and the automated teller machines are not going to work.  Why, it won’t even take a solar flare, as some of the folks in the hurricane zone find out every year.
    The new Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has also caught on to this situation and has proposed major changes in the next budget. Currently, Italian merchants can refuse to accept credit and debit cards for any purchase over 30 Euros.  She is raising it to 60.  And the old limit for cash purchases of one thousand Euros is being raised to five thousand.  Cash, she contends, is legal public money;  credit card transfers are some sort of private exchange.
    Many small Italian businesses welcome the change because they are getting tired of being dinged between three and five per cent of their sometimes very small sales to the credit card companies.  When the bankers object and claim it is merely a ‘transaction fee’  and ‘part of the cost of doing business,’  the merchants see it as an old fashioned shakedown.
     There is another good reason to go back to cash payments.  If you walk into a supermarket and use a charge card, the store knows exactly what you bought. From now until charcoal sprouts and battleships fly you will be besieged by someone’s electronic advertisements.  But that information is also valuable to other businesses such as health insurance companies, advertisers, and others. That makes it a marketable asset by the merchant because others will pay for the information about you.  There is a real possibility that someday an insurance company, the medical industry, or even the government will look over the list of what you bought and make a decision that is not likely to be in your favor.  ‘Oh,’ someone will say,  ‘you seem to eat a lot of high calorie and unhealthy food; not much kale and greens on that receipt, and you appear to buy a couple of bottles of wine every week. That raises your risks, so your policy is going to cost a lot more.’  Or, they might say they can’t afford keeping us in the health system anymore.
     Pay cash, and no one will be any the wiser.
     Time  for all of us  to find those rubbery little coin purses and stop by the bank to stock up on two dollar bills as we stand up for our economic independence.

Leave a Reply