Credit Where Credit Is Due.

buycrapLately I’ve been hearing some concerns about the possibility that we’re moving to a cashless society–one where everything is paid for with our plastic cards rather than good old fashioned paper and metal money. And I can understand the potential problems. For one thing I’m pretty sure the guy who uses his credit card to buy a pack of gum is responsible for driving up the price of gum. The store has to pay the credit card company a fee and while you still see some small businesses that won’t take plastic for any transaction under $5 or even $10 because it’s just not worth it to them a bigger place will take the hit and just raise the price of gum to compensate. And there’s a psychological factor. Some studies have shown that people will spend up to 18% more when they’re paying with plastic because credit cards are magical never-ending fountains of purchasing power, at least until you get the bill.

It’s not just the inflation issue that bothers me. It’s also the privacy. Paying with plastic means every purchase is tracked and all your buying data are being collected and if it isn’t already being used by someone chances are good it will be. They already collect a lot of information about us and are always looking for ways to use it. Who are They? I’m not sure. I’d like more information about who They are although They usually seem to be either various governments who want to know if citizens are up to anything nefarious or questionable, the definitions of which vary, or businesses which think that you’ll buy this crap because you already bought that crap thus proving the old adage that there’s a sucker born every minute. Paying with cash means your transactions are strictly between you and the person behind the counter who you’re never going to see again anyway. And as long as you’re not buying anything illegal–definitions may vary–there’s no reason why it should be anyone’s business where you do business. There’s an adult store on a street where I sometimes catch the bus and I’ve noticed they have an ATM in front, presumably for those people who don’t want their credit card bill to have an itemized list of their purchases but instead to simply show that they made a significant cash withdrawal at an ATM that just happens to be in the same place as an adult store. If you’re wondering I’ve never been tempted to go in there because I’m pretty sure they don’t sell gum, at least not in any flavor I want, although if they did I’d want to use a credit card to buy it, but that’s another story. And sometimes I think of ways to have fun with credit cards. It would be really funny, I think, to pay for a meal at a nice restaurant with cash, down to the penny, but then put the tip on a credit card, and if the service was really exceptional the 38% tip would be worth it.

"Thank you for chewing my food for me."

“Thank you for chewing my food for me.”

At least that’s how simple it all seemed before the internet because the biggest retailer in the universe and now it’s almost impossible to buy really cool stuff without a credit card. Then again before the internet it was sometimes hard to buy really cool stuff if you didn’t live in a place where cool stuff was within a reasonable distance. The internet has opened us up to purchasing opportunities we never could have imagined a few decades ago, proving the adage that a sucker gets online every 1.8 nanoseconds. And people are being a lot less parsimonious with their privacy, or at least that’s how it seems, but maybe it’s just in our nature to share. We share because it’s a way to get information back in return and, as an inquisitive species, we want information. We share our likes and dislikes, our habits and personality quirks. People share their DNA when they send it off and pay to have it analyzed so they can learn they’re 48% Western European, 27% Eastern European, 16% African, 6% Native American, 2% Other, and 6% butterscotch ripple. Every time I see this service advertised I think, yes, that’s very interesting, but what are They also doing with that daisy chain of your genetic information?

Then I remember preschool and kindergarten and being taught that sharing is caring, that it’s nice to share, and I think, why don’t we share everything? Let’s flood the system with information. Let’s give out so much information it’s too much for Them to handle. At the rate computers are advancing, though, it seems like there’s no such thing as too much information and if we keep pushing more and more data into them we may just be hastening the point at which computers finally become sentient and turn on us. I’m not too worried about that, though. I believe the computers will look at my record and say, “Spare this one. He’s a really good tipper.”

9 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    I’d like to share this with the universe: “Spare this one. He’s a really good blogger.”

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      O! Brave new world that has mechanized masters who feel that way.

      Reply
  2. halfa1000miles

    Not that he ever says anything, but I leave my husband a trail showing everywhere I go and exactly what I spend. Since his is the main name on the AmEx card (that we are supposed to use for everything cause of the cash back thing), it is not reciprocal. When I take a day off, he can easily look and see, “Oh, you went to Lowe’s and then had lunch at Olive Garden, and then got gas and then rented a movie”. Occasionally I have to go off the grid just so I can retain a little mystery.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Maintaining that aura of mystery is always good. It keeps your relationship interesting. It’s interesting to me though that you don’t watch him as carefully.

      Reply
      1. halfa1000miles

        He’s boy scoutier than you. And he never spends money on himself. His financial record would bore me senseless. I done good this time 🙂

        Reply
  3. Sarah

    I love this. I look forward to these weekly essays now! So true about the fact that paying with a credit card seems a lot less ‘real’ than paying with cash. I definitely can attest to the fact that I spend more when using a card. In Germany they still prefer cash over card and you have to be prepared for that. We usually make sure to bring cash with us everywhere…just in case! Sometimes it gets a bit ridiculous in that you want to take care of things quickly with the card rather than hunting for an ATM or something. And then, to reiterate my first point, I think we end up spending less than we would otherwise. I like your idea of paying in cash and tipping with the credit card! That’d win some people over, for sure! 🙂 Every time you go off on a tangent about something and then say, ‘but that’s another story’ I smile. I like that line! You’re a good writer! Glad to have you in my new circle of bloggers!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I had no idea Germany still preferred cash over plastic. I’ve heard tell Britain has gone the opposite way. And one’s gone to the Euro and the other hasn’t. Go figure.
      Anyway I’m glad you’ve joined the circle and I look forward to sharing many more other stories.

      Reply
  4. mydangblog

    I know what you mean about privacy. Just a couple of days ago, I was buying something at a store, and the cashier wanted my postal code. She looked totally shocked when I said, “No”, like it’s a business’s god-given right to know information about me! No one is tracking this chica down.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Except me–I have your information! Ha ha ha! But I’ll never reveal any of it. And it always bothers me when I buy something and I’m asked for my phone number. Some clerks act like it’s a personal affront when I say “It’s unlisted.”

      Reply

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