HIGH street chains opting to go cashless are causing a headache for hard-up people desperate to budget more.
The Post Office this week reported a 20 per cent rise in the number of customers withdrawing notes from its branches compared to last year.
A spokesman said: “We’re seeing more and more people increasingly reliant on cash as the tried and tested way to manage a budget.
“Our latest figures clearly show that Britain is anything but a cashless society.”
We went to three cities and found some of the biggest chains – including Pizza Hut, Prezzo and Cote brasseries – have gone cash-free.
Of the seven venues visited in London, six would not take notes or coins.
London – 86% didn’t take cash
OUR first stop in London was pizza and pasta favourite Prezzo in Islington, where signs immediately made it clear it was card only.
The whole chain went cash-free when reopening after Covid.
Staff told us the decision was initially a “health and safety thing” but people frequently ask if they can use cash.
At nearby Pizza Hut we were told that all its restaurants no longer take cash either.
The Shoreditch branch of sushi chain Itsu is also cashless, like the rest of its shops nationwide.
A worker there told us how one customer was so enraged he shouted at them: “It’s against the law to refuse my money.”
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Coffee chain Pret A Manger in Shoreditch was one place that did accept cash — although some of its other 300 London restaurants no longer do.
Croydon’s Korean-Japanese restaurant Kokoro stopped taking cash after the pandemic.
But Tajamal Hussain, who owns cash-only sweetcorn stall Majic Corn in the town, said: “I probably lose 45 per cent of customers because they can’t pay by card.”
Harvey Woolgar, manager of The Butchery in Spitalfields Market, which is card-only, was happy to get rid of cash.
He said: “It’s safer, easier and it stops us having to go to the bank all the time.”
Martin Foster runs The Indians Next Door, selling Indian snacks nearby. It has also gone cashless.
He said: “We use contactless because of security with staff.”
Birmingham – 50% didn’t take cash
FOR most of the past 150 years, Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade has been full of cash-spending customers.
But change is in the air.
James Morris, 29, who runs Morridge, a card-only coffee and porridge shop there, said: “It’s more convenient for our accounting software, we don’t have to pay for cash to be delivered, phone payments are far more efficient, and we don’t have to spend 15 minutes cashing up at the end of the day.”
In the same row, Ashley Johnson, 23, at Miss Macaroon, which sells sweet treats, said it was a question of hygiene when serving and packaging goods for customers.
At nearby bakery Bread Collection, assistant Jurate Senauaitiene agreed, saying: “We have always only taken cards rather than cash because of the hygiene factor.”
But Adrian Gale, at speciality sandwich cafe Gupshup in Colmore Row, said cash and card purchases were still what customers expected.
He added: “Considering how much businesses struggled during lockdown, I would have thought everyone would just be glad to take money any way they can.”
Daisy Nyamie, 36, of The Hat Shop in Great Western, said it was mostly tourists who liked cash after exchanging currency.
Tara Gahir, 53, at sweet shop Mr Simms in Great Western, said: “I can’t understand traders saying no to cash. You have to earn your money any way you can these days.”
Newcastle – 43% didn’t take cash
IN Newcastle, the number of places taking notes still outweighed cash-free shops and restaurants — but only just.
When our reporter went into Japanese lunch chain Yo! Sushi and asked to pay for a drink with cash, they told her it was not possible and there was no money on the premises.
But McDonald’s has installed many remote ordering screens which only take cards and had only one open till for cash.
When asked if they accept cash at Cote brasserie, an employee responded: “We don’t, I’m sorry. It’s a company-wide policy. We don’t keep cash on the premises.”
None of the restaurant’s 500 branches take cash now.
Local bakery Cake Stories refused to accept cash.
Declan Tinsley, the general manager of the shop in Jesmond, said: “It’s easier to keep track of the money and there’s less room for human error.”
In coffee chain Caffe Nero, cash was accepted.
Last year, a branch in Canterbury, Kent, enraged some locals by going cash-free but that has yet to be rolled out nationwide.
Our cash was also accepted in KFC, as it would be at all 800-plus of the fast-food outlet’s premises across the country.
A staff member said: “It’s about giving people options.”
Law says shops don’t have to accept cash
MOST people think it’s their right to use cash to pay for goods at the shops. But the reality is, that’s not the case.
Even though our pennies and pounds are often referred to as legal tender, it is actually the business owner’s right to decide what payment methods they want to accept.
After an online petition was launched to make it unlawful for shops to refuse cash, the Government confirmed in April that it does not plan to mandate cash acceptance.
Cash transactions remain important to millions, particularly the vulnerable and elderly, but it is the choice of individual businesses.
As we move ever closer to a cashless society, I worry about the elderly and those who are most vulnerable, as many rely on cash for budgeting and it’s easy to overspend when you are using a card.
With so many people still reliant on, or keen to use, notes and loose change, it really does make sense for businesses to continue to accept it.