OPERATIONS

The first major U.S. city to ban cashless stores is…

BY Marianne Wilson

Stores in Philadelphia that do not accept cash will be fined when a new law takes effect this summer.

The city of Philadelphia has become the first major U.S. city to officially require most businesses to accept the legal tender. The law, which takes effect on July 1, could lead to fines of up to $2,000 on businesses that do not take cash.

Under the law, many transactions will be exempt, including those at parking lots and garages; businesses that sell goods through a membership model; rentals that require security deposits; online, telephone or mail-in transactions; and goods sold exclusively to employees.

The backlash against “cashless” stores is growing as some retailers and fast-casual eateries, including Amazon Go and Sweetgreen, tout the advantages — ranging from speedier transactions to decreased theft — of not accepting cash. But critics say that cashless stores discriminate against lower-income people who might not have debit or credit cards. Philadelphia Councilman Bill Greenlee, who introduced the bill, said in a Tweet that nearly 10% of Philly residents lack access to any credit. (Twenty-six percent of Philadelphia residents live below the poverty line.)

“It just seemed to me unfair that I could walk into a coffee shop right across from City Hall, and I had a credit card and could get a cup of coffee,” he told the New York Times. And the person behind me, who had United States currency, could not.”

Lawmakers in New Jersey in February passed a bill banning cashless retail, but it not yet been signed by Gov. Phil Murphy. The cities of New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington are considering similar bills. To date, the only state that requires businesses to accept cash is Massachusetts, which passed the law in 1978.

According to a Pew Research Center study, those with a household income above $75,000 were much more likely to say they did not typically use cash, the study found. The study also found that African-Americans and older people were more likely to use cash.

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