Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Good ol’ Days of Cash & Carry

Remember the good ol’ days when there used to be a thing called money? No, that’s not right. There is plenty of money these days, all of it in the form of flickering digits on computer screens. And a lot of those electronic flickers have been created by the Federal government’s over-worked IOU machine. National debt? Hey, what’s another ten trillion at this point?

Nowadays, people can go years at a time without using cash. Paychecks get direct-deposited into bank accounts. All purchases and payments are transacted electronically with debit cards or smartphone apps. Even many parking meters these days don’t take dimes and quarters. Instead you swipe a credit card.

Anyway, what I remember fondly are the days when people had cash. You recall the days of cash, right? It was called “legal tender” or “currency,” and it came in the form of rectangular pieces of paper bearing the pictures of former presidents, except for the most sought-after denomination, which had the picture of that bifocaled kite-flier from Philly.
Back in those days, you could walk into a store, select an item, give the cashier cash (hence the name “cashier”), and walk out with your new purchase. It was a nice, simple, and convenient arrangement. 

Nowadays, when you arrive at the cashier’s workstation with your selected item, the first thing you hear is, “Are you a Rewards Club member?”

“Um, no,” you reply.
“Would you like to join our club?” the cashier asks.

“No thanks,” you say. “I just want to buy this Red Sox tee shirt.”

“OK, what is your phone number?” the cashier asks.

“Uh, why do you need that? Are you going to call me tonight? Let me remind you that I’m a happily married man!”

“No no, we just want to keep track of your purchases so we can send you special offers,” the cashier says.

“I really don’t want any special offers. I just want this tee shirt.” Then, with the same slow-paced cadence you might use while reading a children’s book to a toddler, you say, “You see, I have this thing called mun-nee.” Then you pull a 20-dollar bill out of your wallet and continue. “And I want to use this mun-nee to buy this shirt. Isn’t that great?!”
Then the cashier says, “I’m sorry, sir. But this is a cashless checkout line. We only take credit or debit cards.”

“So, that makes you a cashless cashier. Hmm, that’s quite oxymoronic.” Then you quickly add, “Relax, I’m not calling you a moron, nor an oxy. It’s just that, well, I wanted to wear this new shirt to the beach this afternoon, but we’ve been standing here so long it’s now dark outside and I guess I don’t need the shirt anymore. Goodbye.”

Many retail outlets stopped accepting cash because of the pandemic, even though the odds of contracting the virus by touching money are the same as winning the lottery — even if you don’t buy a ticket. Let’s see if these stores go back to taking cash when the pandemic finally is over. I’m guessing no.
Earlier this summer, I went to a Hartford Yardgoats game and everything was cashless. I bought a hot dog, and later a bottled water. Then I bought a bag of popcorn and completed the night with another hot dog for dessert. I had to use my credit card four times and the total cost was only about $22. (If I was at Fenway, it probably would’ve been 80 bucks. And don’t forget the $75 for parking.)

I’m waiting for a black-clad, growly-voiced singer to step up to a microphone with his acoustic guitar and say, “Hello. I’m Johnny Debit Card.” 

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