October 2, 2018
The first cashpoint was introduced in the UK in 1967, but due to a myriad or technical, cultural and legislative reasons it wasn't until the 1980s, the success of the ATM as we know and use them now, was assured. Prior to the widespread introduction of cashpoints, you got cash by a trip during office hours to the bank or post office, secreting the crisp notes in your wallet or purse. At the weekend or after 3.30pm, there was no way of getting cash. Imagine that?!!
Back in those sepia tinted days, handing a note over in return for goods was a mental debate between the loss of the note and the acquisition of what you were after. The question in your head begging, is it a worthwhile trade?
Fast forward to today, the arrival of the cashless society is hailed as inevitable and a formidable revolution.
A trawl through endless Youtube videos on the subject reveals justifiable geeky pride in the technological achievement of removing cash from our wallets and the temptation it gives to muggers to part us from it. We are told in the liberal land of Sweden, cash is all but eradicated.
Like a newly extinct animal being removed from the food chain the consequences of a new glitch in the Status Quo are not always obvious.
Imagine you are a smoker, trying to quit. The government have made the packaging as unattractive as possible, added terrifying messages and images to every pack and banned all advertising. They have removed the pack of ten – the ultimate addict’s temptation for just one last fix. They have raised the cost to way north of ten pounds.
They have educated the populace, particularly the young, to see smoking as the pariah habit it should be. In short, they have put up every barrier possible – and contactless payment has knocked them all down.
You don’t need cash, or to wait awkwardly while the shopkeeper hands back your change. You can be in and out of the newsagent in 30 seconds, a new pack of death firmly in your grasp. For anyone with a mildly addictive personality, contactless payment is the gift that keeps on killing.
The same argument can be made for alcohol. It’s 10.30 in the pub, you’re out of cash, one-for-the-road, tap! How much did the drink cost? It doesn’t matter.
Or what about a first-time parent? Exhausted, hormone-ridden and wanting everything for the new baby. Packet of sweets - Tap! Yet another cuddly toy - Tap! A cute top - Tap!
Whatever your go-to when in need of a little pick-me-up, Moccha Chocca, MacDonald’s Breakfasts Hello Magazine, Dairy Milk or nail varnish the temptation of tap, tap, tap is the soundtrack to your hard-earned money leaking from your account.
Pyrrhic is a great word. It means: A victory won at too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor. For all the good and ease of a cashless society the insidious contribution it makes to the terror of the UK’s £300bn unsecured personal debt mountain must be recognised.
Contactless payment is the leaking tap of your bank account. Next time - try not to take a tap lightly.