Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cash or Nothing

Yesterday I had occasion to make copies at Staples, an office supply store.

To my consternation, copy machines there no longer take cash.

They take credit cards.

I am not a fan of plastic. I am a cash-and-carry kind of girl. I also have a thing about electronic fingers reaching into my accounts and having access. I just don't like it.

The helpful salesclerk told me the only way I could pay cash was to go to a machine that converts cash into a plastic card, like a gift card.

It only took dollar bills.

So I ended up with a plastic card with 87 cents left on it, which they would not refund into cash.

What a racket for the company, eh? Because they know most people are going to toss the card with less than a $1 on it. So they get my 87 cents for doing nothing but insisting that I must use plastic and not cash.

So my choice for making copies was to allow a machine unlimited access to my credit card, lose change on their plastic, or go elsewhere.

Next time, I will go elsewhere.

Did you know that in 2006, companies raked in over $8 billion in unused plastic gift cards? Using these plastic cards is like walking into a store and handing them a $100 bill just for fun.

Scrip, is what they used to call it, and it once had a bad name in our history. Companies, particularly mining and logging companies, would issue scrip instead of cash for employee wages. The scrip would be redeemable at the company store for goods. The company would mark up prices, keeping the employees poor and in a terrible economic cycle. Neighboring places that were not company owned rarely exchanged the scrip at a 1:1 ration. It is a form of economic enslavement.

This still goes on. I was in a large corporate retail store one day and an employee told me they are paid with a credit card that is only good at the corporate stores, and you can convert it to cash only if you pay a fee. How are these people supposed to pay their other bills?

The company store fell into disfavor in the early 1900s because of child labor laws and other regulations that helped workers free themselves from this type of entrapment. Companies have not abandoned the practice, though. They've just grown more creative with their euphemisms. Call it a gift card if you want; it's still scrip. And it doesn't do a darned thing for you.


  1. You should use the copy store just north of Lord Botetourt High in Daleville... You make your copies and then pay cash at the counter. Just used them earlier this past week. Very nice and friendly place.


  2. I never use cash. Everything is paid for with my debit card. If a place doesn't take plastic, I go somewhere else. Hubby carries cash in case we want something out of a vending machine.

  3. Excellent blog. How appalling that companies are even allowed to pay their employees in that way. I wonder if I can guess which one it is...

  4. I use the ups store by kroger for copies and I just pay at the counter when I'm finished, with cash!

    Ohhh, Dave Ramsey would not be happy with this stores practice!

  5. Oh and another thing, I've always been a debit card kinda girl but we started listening to Dave Ramsey a few years back and have really switched to cash...there's like a little warning system that goes off in your brain when you use cash rather than plastic, therefore you spend less...I use all cash now on my grocery shopping and do so much better!

  6. Perhaps some employees don't have that option - perhaps they have to use the company store and don't even get cash as change!

  7. Great post! People should know about this. You're exactly right. Write an article about it Anita!


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