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Food editor Laura Hayes’ piece last week about the nascent trendamong fast-casual restaurants to renounce cash entirely in favor of plastic (“Cash, Out,” June 30) inspired prolific comments and debate, some of which predictably trafficked in the wearisome and familiarly derogatory rhetoric about the poor and disadvantaged.
As City Paper reported, the District has one of the highest percentages of unbanked and underbanked citizens in the country—people who spend only or mostly in cash because they lack bank accounts entirely or don’t have adequate access to them. That means restaurants such as Sweetgreen and Jetties, which have gone cashless, aren’t options for such potential customers. Nor would vegetarian taco shop Chaia be, if it too decides to go that route, as its owners have been contemplating.
The story sent chronically cantankerous commenter NorthEazy, who apparently believes income level is the only predictor for being unbanked, into a censorious meltdown. “What the fuck are you doing ordering artisanal tacos in Georgetown if you are ‘disadvantaged and disenfranchised?’” the gremlin wrote. “If you do not have the requisite $50 to get a debit card or the awareness to get a pre-paid debit card with 20 bucks on it for emergencies, then you should not be eating $3.50 tacos when you can source those ingredients and make it your damn self for 20 cents.”
Ubuntourist and others were quick to point out that there are myriad reasons why some people don’t use credit or debit cards. “Not having a bank account is not the only reason to avoid cards,” he wrote. “Card companies make money from more than interest payments. The legal buying and selling of data relating to consumers habits is big business.”
Not that it should really matter why someone only uses cash. “I’m one of the people described in the article who lack a credit or debit card,” BP wrote. “I work hard, save money, and occasionally like to splurge on a nice meal out. Sometimes I treat people whose financial situations are worse than mine. I was humiliated recently to find that the fast-casual restaurant to which I had planned an outing wouldn’t accept my cash. There wasn’t any mention of this on the restaurant’s website, so I was blindsided. It is frightening to think of this practice becoming more widespread.”
Another reader, who was once unbanked, cautions against making assumptions. “Why judge those who prefer cash or want to save and enjoy a nice or healthy meal?” CaribDC wrote. “It is none of your business how and why others spend their money. It is a mindset that contributes to further dividing this city by just throwing out any stereotype that fits.”