Move towards cashless economy could shutout lower income shoppers: Dalhousie prof

By Megan McPhaden

CANADA (660 NEWS) — As the percentage of people paying for food with cash declines, businesses like Walmart are considering going cash-free. There are many benefits for grocery stores to go cashless including shorter checkout times, heightened convenience and a reduction in theft and human error.

“No one wants to really wait to pay for their food items and that’s why the cashless food economy is becoming an attractive proposition for both the consumer and the industry as well,” explained Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. He says cashless stores have prompted some backlash with San Francisco lawmakers even considering a ban.

A recent survey by Payments Canada, 42 per cent of consumers use cash fewer than four times a month when purchasing food. A year ago, it was only 20 per cent.

“Almost a million Canadians don’t have a bank account, or a credit card, or a debit card, and so that’s problematic,” he pointed out. “So, if you are to go cashless, 100 per cent you are excluding a segment of the population that has less means.”

While it definitely offers benefits for consumers and businesses alike, opponents argue it discriminates against low-income shoppers who may not have a bank account.

“You can basically go in and out of a grocery store without seeing anyone, without talking to anyone, and the money will be withdrawn from your bank account or will be applied to your credit card in an instant,” he said.

He also pointed out that digitizing food transactions allows food service companies to increase food prices, partly because it will go unnoticed by consumers who don’t visualize money physically leaving their wallets.

Amazon has said its go stores will accept cash eventually, and it also intends to launch a program that will allow anyone to go cashless regardless of their socio-economic status.

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