Paper or plastic?

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.  cashless.gifOr 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. 

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7 Responses to “Paper or plastic?”


  1. 1 poseidonsmuse June 13, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Wow! I’m with you on that one – I saw that commercial a few months ago and thought of how ridiculous it seemed – then I went to Starbucks and witnessed that very scene. It’s really quite entertaining to pay with cash from time to time and watch the cashier fumble for change – some of them with that incredibly disgusted look on their faces like, “do I actually have to count change back to you?” Ha! Yeah. I agree that it is rather Orwellian (we all thought that concept far fetched back in the day….) to say the least. I don’t really want to know what kind of information Big Brother is accumulating about me. We leave traces of ourselves everywhere (or at least, that’s what one little bird told me anyways – grin).

  2. 2 poseidonsmuse June 13, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    Ok. This might be non-politically correct – BUT, is wordpress’s system of commenting RETARDED or what? I hit the submit key and the bloody thing told me that I just sent a duplicate comment….arrrggggg…..Reminiscent of a certain “back” button issue that you had not too long ago. Breathe PM, breathe….

  3. 3 observantbystander June 14, 2007 at 6:11 am

    Yeah, the fact that teenage cashiers can’t count change is pretty sad…although I’m not a math genius by any means! There are actually a few websites that claim Visa predicts a completely cashless society by 2012. Just in time for the end of the Mayan calandar. The end is nigh! Repent! (Said with a smirk on my face).

  4. 4 prisonmike June 14, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Here’s one for ya. Parker Brothers is affiliating themselves with Visa and is going to offer Monopoly with no more play money. Everone gets a Debit/Credit plastic card and I suppose there’s a swipe terminal included with the game.

    I love cash and checks. It helps me to feel a part of the process.

    The House of Ronald began accepting CC’s in their stores a few years back after they did a study and found people with plastic will buy on average 17% more hamburgers or happy meals when paying versus those with cash.

    Have you noticed the screen at the Price Chopper checkouts? Not only does it give the cashier the correct change amoung to give the customer, it offers a visual representation of the cash drawer on the screen with the areas highlighted and the correct amounts to pick out of them listed. Sheesh!!

    I remember in the 60’s when House of Ronald employees wrote down your order in pencil on pads, added it longhand and made change mentally. How many 16 year olds could jump right into that job today. Thank you Baby Jesus for our Public School System!

  5. 5 karen June 14, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Mikie: Yeah, and they also have pictures of the items people ordered so all they have to do is punch a button of the food. No wonder the new crop of blue collar workers aren’t really worth a damn…

  6. 6 RubyShooZ June 15, 2007 at 7:26 am

    I’m one of the cash payers and I’m proud to be so. Yes, I’ve got a debit card but I’d much rather pay in cash. It’s alot easier than playing with my checkbook when I get home.

    That commercial freaks me out as well.

  7. 7 writerchick June 16, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    I’m half and half. I like the convenience of my debit card for stuff like gas and department stores – so much easier than carrying around vats of cash in my pocket. But I draw the line at online banking and bill paying. Knowing how easily banks can screw up or one wrong stroke of the key can mess you up for months gives me pause. Also, there’s just a certain feel to having real cash in your hands. It’s something. YOu can feel it, smell it, hold it. A debit card is just a piece of plastic. And ah yeah, that commercial was creepy.
    WC


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