The other day I met with an articulate advocate for social justice, equity and diversity. We were to have a coffee, and the advocate suggested a popular venue in Capitol Hill.
When I got there, I found the establishment accepted only credit cards or “Apple Pay” but not cash. Without the former, the server said unapologetically, I was free to cancel my order and go elsewhere.
In a prior job, I worked at a clinic for new immigrants and was sensitized to the fact that many of the most vulnerable among us — the undocumented, the homeless, the working poor — may not even have bank accounts, let alone credit cards or sophisticated phones that can be linked to them. Businesses that don’t accept cash are by design or ignorance excluding a broad class of potential customers and making the neighborhoods they serve hostile to the underprivileged.
States and cities have the power — and many have taken it — to require that cash be accepted. Seattle’s cashless coffee shops create mini gated communities within which the privileged can hang out but others can’t. Barring a law, the least we can do is take our coffee business to places that truly serve the public.
Larry Wissow, Seattle