US cities push back against businesses planning to go cashless

Global Business

US cities push back against businesses planning to go cashlessUS cities push back against businesses planning to go cashless

Much of the world is going cashless. A growing number of businesses say they prefer the efficiency and safety of cashless transactions.

But in the United States, some cities are pushing back saying cashless stores unintentionally discriminate. Philadelphia has taken the lead in this backlash.

CGTN’s Karina Huber has more.

Philadelphia, like many U.S. cities, has stores that don’t accept cash. Fast casual restaurant chain, Sweetgreen, is an example. It’s part of a global trend that is growing.

Many businesses say cashless stores make transactions faster and safer.

But as of July, Sweetgreen, along with most other stores and restaurants in Philadelphia, will have to let customers pay with legal tender. If not, they could face a fine of up to two thousand dollars.

That’s because Philadelphia just became the first major U.S. city to ban cashless establishments.

City Councilman Bill Greenlee co-sponsored the bill.

“I think it’s a form of discrimination,” Greenlee said. “Some people don’t have the same access to buy a basic product that others do.”

The mayor’s office says 26 percent of Philadelphia residents live below the poverty line. Some, mainly minorities and immigrants don’t have bank accounts and don’t have access to credit.

But Sylvie Gallier Howard, who opposes the ban, thinks it could make Philadelphia less competitive.

“If lots of businesses are moving to this model and decide we’re going to close, we’re not going to open more,” Howard, who’s also the First Deputy Commerce Director for Philadelphia said. “That becomes a concern because then we start to lose jobs.”

The ban comes as Amazon Go – a cashless store chain – was considering opening in Philadelphia.

The new bill has an exemption for establishments that use a membership model. But Amazon’s lawyers say it wouldn’t qualify because you don’t have to be an Amazon Prime member to shop at Amazon Go.

Gallier Howard and others are concerned the ban sends an anti-business message.

“I would say, what message are we sending that somebody can’t go in to get a cup of coffee because they don’t have a credit card,” Greenlee said. “I think that’s a worse message.”

Greenlee says the ban could be temporary. He says it may no longer be necessary once Philadelphia solves its challenge of providing access to the unbanked. But other cities including New York and San Francisco are considering similar bans.