Philadelphia bans cashless companies seeking to protect "non-bankers": NPR


Philadelphia has just become the first big city in the country to ban cashless businesses in the city, partly to protect people like Dwight Tindal, a construction worker who has no credit card or credit card.

Kimberly Paynter / WHY

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Kimberly Paynter / WHY

Philadelphia has just become the first big city in the country to ban cashless businesses in the city, partly to protect people like Dwight Tindal, a construction worker who has no credit card or credit card.

Kimberly Paynter / WHY

Last December, the Philadelphia City Council passed the Fair Workweek legislation, joining a growing national movement to give retail and fast-food workers more predictable schedules and, by extension, lives more predictable. Residents and low-income unions lobbied lawmakers and put the issue on the radar. Similar laws are in place in New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

That's usually how it works. Defenders illuminate a problem. A bill is introduced.

That's not how it worked with another new law in Philadelphia. This law can be attributed to a man: Councilman Bill Greenlee.

Last fall, Greenlee introduced a bill banning non-cash businesses – traditional stores and restaurants where customers can only pay by credit and debit cards.

"I've heard that there were institutions in the downtown area, something just did not satisfy me," Greenlee said.

Mayor Jim Kenney signed the bill last week, making Philadelphia the first major city in the country to ban cashless stores. It comes into force on July 1st.

But advocates of poverty say that cash-free businesses were not a concern before Greenlee introduced his bill. Many support the bill, but they did not report the problem to Greenlee, nor did they lobby.

The seasoned legislator felt that it was discriminatory for businesses to deny low-income residents who do not have a bank account, a population collectively referred to by the term "unbanked."

"It seems unfair to have this separation – it's almost as if it were" us "and" them, "said Greenlee.

According to federal banking data, nearly 13% of Philadelphia's population of nearly 200,000 do not have a bank. This is more than double the regional average.

Dwight Tindal, a Philadelphia construction worker, is one of them. He had a bank account a few years ago. He closed it because his balance never stayed above zero for a very long time.

"I have a little baby – a son, and bills too, so it's all right," says Tindal.

Nowadays, this 24 year old man uses only money. He keeps all his money in a secret place that he does not share with anyone. He counts his reserve two or three times a day, every day. And only take what he knows he needs. The rest remains hidden.

Tindal said that it was a stressful system.

"I'm worried every day … I just think," Good dang, I should move it here "or" I should do it here, "said Tindal.

Still, he is not offended by the handful of companies in the city that only accept cards, including Sweetgreen and Bluestone Lane, fast and casual chain stores selling salads and coffee on demand, respectively.

That's a problem for Otis Bullock, executive director of Diversified Community Services, but not because he thinks unbanked Philadelphians should be more outraged. For him, the silence shows that the city council has missed the target.

"I would have liked to see a measure that would have a more direct impact on the poor to lift them out of poverty.You know, a measure that increases their income.Or, at a minimum, a measure that attacks at the real problem, namely those experiencing financial insecurity become impossible to finance, "said Bullock.

Greenlee admits that the genesis of his bill was unconventional. He sees nevertheless value.

"We can do this bill much faster than I think, we are going to solve the unbanked people problem," Greenlee said. "If in a few years everyone has the same ability to use credit, a debit card, or some other kind of plastic, then that's fine, that law may not be necessary. But this is not the case anymore. "

The law not only requires existing cashless companies to change course, but also prevents new ones from following this path in the future.

Kerry Smith, a lawyer with community legal services, said the safeguard was essential for the future. She fears that retailers offering basic necessities, such as toiletries and food, will start sending people away with money. "This will have a significant impact on low-income people in Philadelphia," Smith said.

Amazon, for example, is deploying a network of cashless stores called Amazon Go, which sell "ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options," as well as "essential groceries". .

A spokesperson for Sweetgreen declined to comment. Nicholas Stone, founder and CEO of Bluestone Lane, has not responded to calls or e-mails seeking comment on Greenlee's legislation.

In an interview last year, Stone told NPR that he had released Bluestone from his money as the majority of the company 's clients had never paid in cash. Stone also said that the lines moved faster when employees were not forced to make change for cash paying customers.

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill by complaining in a letter to city council that banning cashless businesses could discourage local entrepreneurs from moving to the city.

"The adoption of such a measure will allow the local government to dictate how entrepreneurial business owners work compared to customers who decide not to buy their products," wrote President Rob Wonderling.

New York and San Francisco, which each have dozens of businesses without money, are considering adopting similar legislation.

New Jersey needs the governor's signature to join Massachusetts as the only state to ban cashless businesses.

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