An Outright Revolt Against Mobile Payments in the Works?

February 13, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

In the time that I’ve been writing about mobile payments, I’ve seen a lot of different reactions. I’ve seen some people who love them, some who hate them. Some who are convinced they’re the next great advance in human civilization and some who think it will destroy same. But I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen plans for a direct revolt against mobile payments, and a new report sent our way from the Retail Action Project (RAP) suggests that something of that nature may be in the works.

The release sent our way noted, highlighted in yellow too, that the advisory was “for planning purposes only,” which means we may never actually see this happen. If the plan proceeds to reality, however, a “coalition” of the unbanked in New York City will be proceeding to the Amazon bookstore in Herald Square with one plan in mind: to attempt to buy a book using a cash payment.

This should be pretty much impossible, especially given the way these stores are set up, so they’ll likely be denied at the checkout point. But this is designed to draw attention to the notion that some people use cash almost exclusively, whether from personal preference or from necessity, as is the case with the unbanked. This comes a day ahead of a new bill from New York City Councilmember Richie Torres, which will require New York City merchants to accept cash.

It’s hard to disagree with such an action on its premise; after all, those little slips of green paper do say “legal tender for all debts, public and private.” While there’s been some wrangling over that set of terms in the past, the point here is that a purely cashless operation isn’t a good plan. Not only is it illegal in some places, it also deliberately cuts out potential market share. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me; even Amazon needs all the business it can get, and if it voluntarily hands the competition—yes, Amazon has competition—a dagger like “We’ll take cash,” it can’t be surprised when that dagger ends up in its own back.

The fallout from this action won’t be clear for a while, but for now, it’s going to throw a wrench in somebody’s gears.