Philadelphia is one step closer to eliminating cashless businesses. On Thursday, the City Council passed a bill that would require all businesses to accept cash as well as debit/credit. The bill is now on Mayor Jim Kenney’s desk for signing.
Consumer advocates argue that cashless businesses are discriminating against poor people and the elderly. Low-income citizens are often underbanked, meaning that they don’t have access to traditional banking services like checking accounts and credit cards, so using plastic is not an option for them. Older Americans, on the other hand, often do not trust banks and prefer to utilize cash because they trust this form of payment more.
Right now there are several Philadelphia businesses, including cafe chains like Sweetgreen and Bluestone Lane, that won’t accept cash as a form of payment. Their argument is that cash is unwieldy to handle, plus accepting it makes the store more vulnerable to robbery. These businesses would be compelled to accept cash as payment if the bill passes into law.
One wrench being thrown in the works is the possibility of an Amazon Go storefront coming to Philly. A partially automated convenience store, Amazon Go would employ no less than one hundred Philadelphia workers. Amazon Go is cashless. If the city passes the anti-cashless law, Amazon has already reached out and said that they will not come to town. That’s leaving behind one hundred jobs that are badly needed.
Councilman Bill Greenlee has mentioned that there might be special provisions built into the law that exclude membership clubs like Costco and BJs from the cashless ban, and that Amazon Go might somehow be grandfathered in as well. But that is uncertain, and right now the issue is hanging in the air. For the time being, Amazon has said that they do not believe they will be able to bring Amazon Go to the city.