This evening I deserved a fast-food burger combo. Thus did I sally forth to Corporate Burger Restaurant X, navigate the drive-through, and order one hamburger, some fries, and a drink. The voice in the kiosk informed me that I owed $9.50. I pulled forward to the payment window and handed the cashier a crisp twenty-dollar bill.
The cashier looked in the till and said, “I don’t have fifty cents. Is that OK?”
This has been happening more frequently at more restaurants. At first it was mostly local joints, but now it’s spreading to bigger places like CBRX. When it happens, the cashier is usually just a few pennies short, in which case I don’t mind forgoing my change. I might even let a dime slide if I’m in a good enough mood. But fifty cents is pushing it.
I get that there’s a whole lot of upside to going cashless. I love being able to use my phone to pay for bills, gas, and groceries, and the feds love being able to use Alexa MMT Edition to pump trillions of dollars into circulation instantaneously.
If you’re not too busy burning cash for heat, you can guess the downside.
It used to be that paper money was the most dangerous currency due to being the most inflationary. You could increase the face value of paper money merely by printing higher numbers on it. But my God, these last few years* have reminded me that ink and cotton fiber have nothing, inflation-wise, on plain old electrons. Without a whole lot of the fiscal and monetary discipline that our leaders aren’t exactly known for, those electrons are not going to hold their value. At least not compared to bills and coins.
So I’ve decided to start hoarding more cash and coins. When Putin launches the nukes and the EMPs set us back a few centuries, and when nobody remembers how to print US dollars or mint US coins because the instructions were online, my coffee cans full of change might just be valuable enough to buy a decent-sized fief and hire an army.
And that’s why, when the cashier asked, “Is that OK?” I said, “No.” I got my twenty back and paid with a card. Shouldn’t have offered cash in the first place. Kid gave me a dirty look, too; might’ve figured out my plans. Better bury the change in the backyard.
* I know I should have written “last several decades,” but [A] I wasn’t alive for the whole process, and [B] there’s a difference between a ramp and a wall.