I could have smacked the “bitch” that held up the line at my local coffee shop this morning. He dug through his pockets, a jumbled mess of cards, lint and failure while humming Maroon 5 (and asking the Barista, “Who was Jane and why so many songs about her?”). My need for caffeine was a steady drumbeat sounding like, “stab, stab, stab.” Eventually he produced the credit card he was looking for and swiped it for his $3 coffee. Then my memory went blurry.
Everything that happened this morning was infuriating, pathetic and I was justified in my actions. This is what I explained to the officer as he removed the handcuffs, agreeing with me whole-heartedly. Officer Friendly and I laughed as the ambulance carried this loser to the hospital while I yelled towards the EMT, “I think he is allergic to all painkillers.”
OK, paragraph 1 is true and while paragraph 2 is untrue, it would have been just. I know the cost of my morning espresso at several different places around town. Furthermore, I know the cost of my espresso combined with the alternating lattes that I may be tasked to pick up for Michelle. I know this not because I am a math whiz second only to Stephen Hawking, rather because I complete this transaction every god damn day.
If you are going to the same coffee shop everyday, think of all the time there is to be saved in handing cash over and walking away. Think of the other patrons behind you thanking your cool resolve as you toss down cash and say, “keep it.” You kept the line moving, it makes you a hero and it keeps others from stabbing you when you run a card for $3 and being all like, “Oh but wait, that card is expired, I have a new one, but where did it go? Did you see American Idol last night?” Don’t be that idiot.
The same works for the bar. In the fast paced bar atmosphere bartenders will gravitate to those with cash. The cash holders are more likely to be ready, for example, they will often have cash in their hands and that does work to get people’s attention. Cash users can complete transactions much faster than the credit card user. However, the best move to make in these situations is hand over a card while saying the following, “I’d like to start a tab on this card, but I’ll close out with you in cash.” This super advanced move shows the most speed, the easiest interaction and lets the bartender know you are planning ahead, in his interest. This will make the bartender look out for you.
As for tipping, cash is the only way. Tipping is the memory enhancer of the service world. A cash tip, even a modest one makes you memorable. Cash is important for the tip because of the true purpose and origin of tipping: drinking. A probable origin for the word “tip” is the French word for the act of tipping, “pourboire.” This word means, “a gratuity,” but literally translates to, “for a drink.” The concept being, the patron’s gratuity was meant to buy the bartender a drink. Ideally, with said drink you are to toast the health of the patron that left you a tip, I really like this, “circle of life,” concept for drinking. So you see, it is a weak substitute to tip on a credit card receipt. What then happens is: perhaps someone might recall to toast you at a later date sometime after the credit card company pays the business that payroll goes through, after the employee deposits a check minus the IRS’s cut into the tip you left (it’s like you paid taxes on the same money twice). Your server can’t thank you as much then.
I won’t even get into splitting the check. Always try to avoid spitting the check unless the stakes are very high, (over $200) then understand again why cash is so important when dining with a large party.
Speed and grace aside, what is truly the most important part about using cash is supporting small business. A small business can lose up to 2% of profits paying credit card companies for the use of their services. Credit card companies provide services for small businesses such as those listed below:
– Taking 2% of profits
– Providing a sticker for the window of a business pronouncing that their card can be used there
– Holding on to funds charged for up to a week before paying a business, they don’t need liquidity
– Ensuring that businesses need costly POS systems to use credit cards
– Providing jobs to call centers because said POS systems break a lot*
– Allowing businesses to take more time for every transaction
– Creating records that make tax paying easier (OK, they got one)
Credit card companies are like, “Big Fat Bernie Gayle**,” from the great film Safe Men. They need, and will get their disproportionate cut for doing so very little. Don’t run out and throw your cards away, just take into consideration that cash provides more for small business. Granted, my last place of employment sold bottles of wine that cost over $2,000, and in that case, credit cards are fine. But most places, from cab drivers, to bistros, to bars would do fine with just cash. Cash looks out for people, cash is responsible, use cash to take care of what you indeed care about.
If you don’t buy my rant, and want a more academic view on why using cash makes you more of a man, read Why Dealing with Cash Makes Us More Honest by Dan Ariely who was the Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT Sloan School of Management. His research backs up my rant.
*I want to go on record to say that I hate every person that has every worked on, or created, a POS system. I will never brag about taking a shit as they should never brag about making something so shitty.
**But seriously that is Michael Lerner, an awesome character actor that the film world couldn’t live without.