A trial plan allowing customers to pay for street cart food with credit cards rolls out next month. It's the biggest switch from "cash-only" since taxis allowed plastic in 2008. But is it progress or an annoyance?
Obviously the move will benefit people who insist on never carrying cash on their person and aren't embarrassed to pay for a $1.98 Dunkin Donuts coffee with a Visa. But street meat is meant to be obtained and consumed quickly. And no matter how advanced Century Payment's swipe machines are, whipping out a card and waiting for approval will always slow down a line, just as it does at Dunkin Donuts and Metrocard machines where people idle over the menu options as if choosing a life insurance plan.
The increasing futility of cold hard cash also compounds the frustration of having a bank branch on every single corner of the city. If no one needs money, couldn't some of those sterile, often empty ATM centers be turned into buzzing bars or cafes? They'd take credit cards, of course.
More importantly, the ability to pay for anything with a credit card chips away at the allure of those items--a cab ride, a so bad but so, so good gyro--that required a more tangible greenback handover.
What opportunities do we still have to make those old-fashioned transactions? Reserving a two-hour room at the Liberty Inn? Shopping sprees at Bergdorf we need to conceal from our hedge fund husbands? Meeting up with your dealer?
As long as we still have the choice, things should be OK. But you might want to take a tip from Wayne's World and start asking NYC vendors, "do you accept...cash?"
Photo via JohnHRitter