Just as we've been promised a paperless office for decades, we're also still awaiting a cashless society. While it's true Visa (V), Mastercard (MA) and Bank of America (BAC) are among the many who have made a pretty penny peddling debit and credit cards, the swipe-to-own approach is still not leading us to a world free of crumpled bills and germ-saturated coins.
The centerpiece of our hard currency dependence is the cash register. Even with debit cards, we have to get in line, have a cashier scan our purchases and punch in needed PLU numbers.Even the growth of supermarket and pharmacy self-checkouts really just shifts the burden even more to the customer. Apple stores and toll booths alike have found a way to bypass the usual get-in-line approach to transactions. Yet the reign of the cash register continues. Apple took a hit in May for refusing to sell an iPad to a woman in Palo Alto, Calif. -- Apple's backyard! -- for cash, since they had those sleek card readers carried around by each sales rep. The store backed down the next day, even giving the woman a free iPad by way of apology. And toll booths are getting downright punitive to boost use of devices such as the E-ZPass. This month, New York announced price hikes for users of the area's tunnels and bridges: 5% for E-ZPass users, 18% for people paying cash. That might just do the trick. -- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.
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