There’s been a particular Visa commercial on TV lately that really freaks me out. It’s the one that shows a Starbucks-like establishment, churning out transaction after transaction, like some kind of well-oiled machine. Why? Because everyone is paying for their lattes with a credit card. Then along comes some lame-ass customer who needs to pay with cash, and presto! All the perfect little cogs in the mechanism come to a screeching, ass-crunching halt. Excuse me? Since when did paying with actual money put a kink in the wheels of industry? Since when is it better to swipe a card (or swipe it several times if the machine can’t read your magic magnetic strip) and sign your name, than it is to pull some bills and change out of your wallet?
Visa wants you to believe that cash is the new enemy of society.
Twenty five years ago, when I became aware of the possibility of the cashless society in the future I said “No way.” No way was I going to succomb to the digitalization of my money. No way was I going to pay for purchases with one of those newfangled check cards. No way was I ever going to surrender my right to pay with cash. Back then it was nearly impossible for the average working stiff like myself to get a credit card, and you could completely forget about getting one if you were a college student. Now the offers come pouring in, sometimes 3 or 4 per day. Many are addressed to my college-age son. It seems it’s easier to get a credit card than it is to wipe your ass. And it probably takes less time.
But look at me now. Due to the fact that several of my mailed bills never arrived at their destinations, resulting in my mortgage company and the holder of my car note to send me hate mail, I have resorted to online bill paying. My paycheck is deposited into my account automatically. I use my debit card for almost every purchase I make. I haven’t ordered new checks in two years. I even get some of my bills online.
I’ve not only embraced the cashless model, I’ve got both arms and legs around it and I’m giving it a big ol’ French kiss.
But along came that Visa commercial and I said “Whoa, Nelly. What’s up with this shit?” It’s a bit scary to look back and see just how easy it was for me to get hooked on card swiping and online banking. I hate to admit that it’s a lot easier to deal with money when there’s no tangible cash actually involved. Still, the Visa commercial takes the villification of cash to a level I find distasteful and scary.
I have no answers. I find myself tapping my foot when the elderly woman in front of me at the grocery store pulls out her checkbook and painstakingly writes a check. Or when someone spends in inordinate amount of time counting out their pennies to pay for their purchase. But I will rue the day when cash becomes obsolete. That’s when we’ll all lose total control of our money and become exactly like the consumer model Visa shows us in their Orwellian nightmare of a commercial.