A hearing was conducted this week on the bill, which has gain support from legislators, unions and the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. Amazon, which runs a number of cashless bookstores and one four-star store in the city, didn’t affirm and declined to comment. Some restaurants, involving the vegan chain By Chloe and taqueria chain Dos Toros oppose the bill and say running a cashless business protects the safety of their employees from robbery and theft.
As consumers move to pay with their credit cards, some restaurants and retailers opt to eliminate cash payment method. Ritchie Torres, the New York City councilman who introduced the bill last year, aims to protect populations who don’t own bank accounts or who want to use cash to protect their privacy, as well as senior consumers who are used to paying in cash.
The FDIC recorded a survey in 2017, the unbanked population in the U.S. has dropped to 6.5% and 18.7% of U.S. households are underbanked, meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account but also gained financial products and services outside of the banking system. The rate is even higher in New York City, where one in four households are underbanked, as per the study in 2015.
“Even if we’re moving in the direction of an increasingly electronic economy, why we can’t have options?” stated Torres told Yahoo Finance. “If I don’t have the money, it’s fair to discriminate against me. But if I have the money, then I should be able to purchase a good or service.”
“Not keep cash in our stores is an easy way for us to help our employees feel more comfortable at work,” expressed Annamaria Ferencz, operations manager at by Chloe, a restaurant chain that went cashless in its 11 locations in New York and Los Angeles in 2017. Ferencz pledges to “make reasonable accommodations” for consumers with only cash.
“I’m willing to concede that a cashless business model could add to efficiency and productivity. The question is, at what cost?” adds Torres. “If you want to ensure an equitable and inclusive marketplace, then cash has to remain an accepted mode of payment.”
New York City is not alone in proposing a ban on cashless stores. Massachusetts is the only state with a 1978 law that requires businesses to accept cash. Last week, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill to ban cashless stores, which the governor is likely to sign into law. In Philadelphia, Amazon threatened to change plans to open an Amazon Go grocery store there if a cashless law gets passed.
“Philadelphia was on a list of potential cities. They didn’t confirm how many others or which ones, but did say the legislation would impact decision making,” a spokesperson for Philadelphia Department of Commerce spoke with Amazon.