Cashless buying helpful, not always accessible for shoppers

The pandemic may be nudging society more quickly toward going cashless.

Economic experts said consumers are ordering more online and turning to cards or contactless payment in person to avoid touching anything.

Tampa Bay restaurant and bar owner Stephen Schrutt, founder and CEO of Hunger Thirst Group, said he’s switching to an online order system after he was forced to temporarily close his businesses this month. He believes the contactless option is a better draw for consumers.

“It’s something that now with everything we’re dealing with makes even more sense,” said Schrutt.

Other circumstances are also accelerating change. The Federal Reserve announced a coin shortage in June because of the pandemic. Some local businesses posted signs asking for exact change or card payments.

“Think about the people who take in cash, they have to do something with that at the end of the night,” said Barbara Caldwell, professor of economics at Saint Leo University.

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Caldwell said going cashless has pros and cons.

“It’s easier on an operating standpoint for a business as well, cuts down on theft, cuts down on having to make changes and keep money on hand,” said Schrutt.

It’s convenient but not always accessible to consumers.

“And in order to do that, the people who can’t have credit cards are going to have to have some type of electronic card of which the money that they do get is available,” said Caldwell.

While many know cash is still king, cards and digital wallets are taking over many transactions.

“Well, when you order, you pay. I can’t give you cash because I’m not there physically with you. So, I do think that part of it has changed,” said Caldwell.

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Business owners said they are doing what they can to adapt.

“I think we’re all doing what’s best for the guests right now,” said Schrutt.

The CDC does have guidelines recommending the use of contactless pay whenever possible. Before COVID-19, the Federal Reserve completed a study showing an increase in card payments in person and online.