SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5/AP) – San Francisco supervisors unanimously approved legislation requiring retailers to accept cash for payment.
San Francisco on Tuesday followed Philadelphia and New Jersey in banning cashless stores, saying they discriminate against low-income consumers who may not have access to credit cards.
Backlash against retailers who only accept payment by credit card, debit card or smartphone is growing nationally, as is recognition by cashless stores that the policy shuts out customers.
Some cashless retailers have said it’s safer and more efficient not to handle cash.
“I just felt it wasn’t fair that if someone wanted to buy a sandwich in a store, and they had cash, that they would be turned away,” said Supervisor Vallie Brown, who introduced the legislation. “We also have our homeless population. They’re not banked. They cannot afford to have a bank account.”
In many ways, the legislation is an easy call for San Francisco officials, who strive to make life more equitable in a city with an enormous wealth gap.
High-paid tech workers who flocked to San Francisco to work for Facebook, Google, Uber and Airbnb may like the ease of paying by credit card, debit card or smartphone. But many low-income people, including more than 4,000 who sleep on San Francisco’s streets every night, likely don’t have money to sustain bank accounts.
According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 17 percent of African American households and 15 percent of Latino households had no bank account.
Some people also prefer to use cash because they don’t want to leave a digital trail of where they have been and what they have bought.
San Francisco residents KPIX 5 talked to liked the convenience of the Amazon stores.
“It’s great! Super convenient,” said San Francisco resident Paul Klausing.
“Come in, grab something, walk out; it’s perfect,” agreed San Francisco’s Madhuri Kapoor. “For me, it’s more convenient to use cashless. I always use a card. So if it were to lose that [no line], this would lose its attraction for me.”
“I don’t have a lot of time on my lunch break, so I like that I can just run in and run out,” said San Francisco resident Jordan Lewis. “It makes you feel like you’re not spending money. Even though you are, which is another thing I like.”
San Francisco’s legislation requires brick-and-mortar businesses to accept cash for goods and some services. Temporary pop-up stores and internet-only businesses such as ride-hailing companies would be exempt, as would food trucks, which say they lack the resources to handle cash.
Philadelphia and New Jersey passed similar laws this year. Legislation requiring merchants to accept cash also has been introduced in New York City.
The efforts come after the rollout last year of cashless Amazon Go stores, which require customers to scan an app to enter . Whatever items customers take are automatically tallied in a virtual cart and charged to a credit card. The retail giant bowed to pressure last month and agreed to accept cash at more than 30 cashless stores.
Amazon opened its first cash-accepting store Tuesday in a high-end New York City shopping mall frequented by office workers.