For many of us cash is king; in London it’s a goddam orphan

Aug 1, 2023

Call me old-fashioned, but I like cash.

I’m currently sitting at Heathrow Airport in the UK after spending 11 days in London. I was here writing my book, an expose about the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, and absolutely loved touring about the city. I walked for at least an hour a day, determined not to ride the underground when I didn’t have to, and taking in the history of this place.

For all its architecture, museums, and interesting people, I have one takeaway of London that I wasn’t expecting. At least half of the restaurants I visited, or tried to visit, refused to accept cash as payment.

Disclaimer: I do not believe a cabal of evil-doers from the World Economic Forum are trying to enslave humanity via the forced adoption of digital currency. I am not a conspiracy theorist and have basically no time for people who rant about such things. That’s one of those disclaimers I hate writing, but we live in an era where if you nibble the edges on something one side strongly believes in, the other side ignorantly labels you.

No. For me, the blame rests on the retailer or restauranteur who is somehow legally allowed to force consumers to use a digital middleman when paying for something. Last I checked, cash was still legal currency. Moreover, cash is the only thing that makes the digital middleman relevant. Without cash, there would be no debit cards or credit cards.

Sure, I know a ton of people who almost never carry cash, but why do we have to be rendered helpless if, say, something goes wrong with technology? Why should convenience be prioritized over legal tender?

And most of all, why is it even legal for businesses to refuse currency?

The flat I was staying in was in proper East London, near Canary Wharf and Canada Place. It’s a great little enclave, like a trendy version of a financial district, but with some charm. There are rows of little restaurants that offer everything from jerk chicken to Indian food, Greek and Italian. There are also Asian fusion restaurants, and all of these establishments are mostly set up for takeout.

I chose Asian takeout.

I bought two dishes and some side rice. It came to 18 pounds. When they handed me the bag, I dropped a 20 on the counter and began to walk away.

“Sir? Excuse me, sir?” the cashier said.

I turn around and notice she is marching towards me, a perplexed, anxious look on her face. I felt like a shoplifter.

“Sir, we do NOT accept cash!” her voice was stern, almost like an angry first grade teacher.

I just stood there and waited for her to complete her march towards me. I tried to explain to her that I was from overseas, and that using my card was proving to be more costly because the exchange rate was fluid. She replied by redundantly informing me that they do not, in fact, accept cash. So I did what any hungry, frustrated tourist would do – I doubled down and began to argue.

“Let me just see if I understand this,” I said as I pulled out 600 pounds from my pocket, “You’re telling me that if I wanted to use this cash to buy meals for everybody in this restaurant, you would say no?”

“Sir, we do NOT accept cash,” she replied, as if someone had pulled a string on her back.

“Well then,” I said, “There’s my money, and here is me leaving.”

And I walked out. I was almost disappointed when I took a look behind me a block down the road and found that the cashier was not following me. Although, I did chuckle when I imagined helicopters chasing me to my flat for trying to use the legal currency of the United Kingdom, which is clearly an affront to any sensible British person.

The trend is clear, and more and more businesses in cities around the world are trying to modernize by eliminating cash as a viable option when making a purchase. The thing is, it’s way too soon. If you think the gap between rich and poor is bad now, wait until cash is eliminated. Some people rely on not having to pay interest on their purchases, those assholes. Others simply can’t afford bank fees. The only truly reliable way for some people to manage the expenses in their lives is through making cash payments. Some people only want to be paid in cash, don’t forget.

Won’t anybody think about the strippers!?

So while the rest of us bask in the glory of our own convenience, maybe taking legal tender and getting tough with it is just a tad premature.

James Di Fiore

Blackballed isn't just a podcast name, it's a lifestyle for James DiFiore. James has garnered a massive following in the digital space for going against the grain. He says things no one else will.

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