A Cashless Society
This weekend our Boloco restaurant on Federal Street in Boston was robbed. Unlike the famous burglary at our store at 1080 Boylston Street in 2012, this one wasn’t captured on video. Apparently the back door was forced open, the safe was removed from the office, and they high tailed it out of there. Inside of the safe was about $1,000 in cash. The safe has a price of around $400 and some damage that needs to be repaired. All in, a $2,000 hit. About the same as a standard HVAC or refrigeration repair and maintenance issue from a cost standpoint.
As I thought about it this morning, I couldn’t help but think about cash, itself, and its declining value to so many in our society. If we stopped accepting cash, there would be less incentive to disrupt, to break, to harm, to steal. Those with any reasonable amount of income can go days and even weeks without cash. I’ve done it myself for nearly a month, and only had to succumb for a parking spot in a smaller town whose meters didn’t accept cards. In a few years time, perhaps we’ll be able to go without credit card for a month at a time, relying only on our phones instead.
I put the question of cash out to the Twitterverse… after saying what happened, I posed the question: “For safety and practical reasons, do we have permission from our guests stop accepting cash?”
While the poll shows that we do have that permission with a 20% margin, the comments of a few say otherwise. And as is often the case, I’m inclined to listen to the few before making any decisions (which, by the way, since it’s illegal NOT to take cash in Massachusetts anyway, there won’t be any decisions regardless, so this is now just an exercise in what ifs).
I think the most important feedback came from @TheDrewStarr who wrote: “absolutely not. Not only would it be illegal, it disenfranchises those who can’t afford to access the banking system or choose to not have their life data-mined.” Drew also shared an important article on the subject by The New Yorker from 2013. One new thing I learned from that is that the cost of banking when you consider overdraft fees, which will happen when one is living paycheck to paycheck, is higher than the cost of payday loans and check cashing shops. I had never considered that.
It got me thinking further though… what about our less-than-perfect Loyalty program… the Boloco passport by Level up – which only rewards people who use their Level Up account, which requires a credit card. In some cases, the very people that need the discount most in return for their frequency would not sign up for Level Up for the same reasons they’d only pay cash in one of our restaurants. It makes no sense. If we are going to accept cash on a regular basis (by choice or by law), why would we not reward cash users for their frequency like we reward Level Up users?
I ended up getting a call from NBC and did an interview and a story which you can find here. And while almost none of this got captured in the story or the edited interview, my main “aha” was that at tomorrow’s meetings, instead of belaboring the pains of accepting cash once again, I will bring to the team the following thoughts.
1) Since we have to accept cash, how do we reward our best cash users, like we do our Level Up users and like we did pre-2014? Perhaps cash loaded onto a card that has a benefit for use (discount) might be a better idea
2) Let’s find out how many of our own team members fall into the category of not using credit cards or debit cards for purchases and understand the reasons for that.
3) Don’t ever, ever go on camera on a holiday when you haven’t shaved or had a haircut in 6 weeks (because your wife is out of town and can’t help you look presentable) and have a 4-year old tugging at you from below your desk throughout the interview.
Break-ins are never fun. They put another dent in our collective trust in each other… not to mention Boloco’s bank account. But today, we took advantage of the situation and learned a lot about important issues as a result of asking questions, being transparent, and keeping an open mind to all points of view. Most importantly, nobody was hurt.