The New York City Council is considering a proposed plan to ban businesses from using a payment model that refuses cash and only accepts electronic payments. Supporters of the bill say it discriminates against low-income customers.
But the ban also has critics. Michelle Gauthier owns the Manhattan based fast casual restaurant chain Mulberry & Vine. She says the cashless payment system has only benefitted her customers while improving employee workflow.
“It saddens me that a decision that was made in the best interest for my employees could be misconstrued as classist or discriminatory,” she said. “Many of my employees are the same people I am supposedly discriminating against, yet they whole heartedly agree with my decision to go cashless.”
Jillian Grossberg is an employee at the vegan eatery By Chloe. They transitioned to a cashless payment system in 2017.
“We have had incidents at By Chloe where one of our employees even ran after someone when they tried to steal cash. It was dangerous for them, it was dangerous for us, and we also wondered what would happen if a customer tried to run after them.”
Bill sponsor Councilman Ritchie Torres isn’t convinced.
“If cash were so dangerous or a prohibitive burden, how do we explain the fact that the vast majority of businesses continue to use cash?”
Torres says a cashless business model puts underbanked New Yorkers at a disadvantage.
“We have low income New Yorkers who have no traditional banking options in their neighborhoods who are susceptible to entanglement with predatory financial products. So while I respect that you are clear eyed about the benefits of a cashless business model and I will concede those benefits, those benefits are real. But I hope you can also be equally clear eyed about the barriers that low-income New Yorkers face in accessing credit and debit.”
The bill has likely supporters, including Mayor Bill de Blasio. Casey Adams is with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
“We think that the acceptance of more payment options is good for low and moderate income New Yorkers. Because there may be people who prefer credit or debit cards over cash for different reasons than why someone might prefer cash. Our general position is that we value consumer choice. We think that more payment options are always better.”
If the cashless business ban becomes law, violators would face a 250 dollar fine for a first offense, and up to 500 for additional violations.