Consider this old saw: "In God we trust, all others pay cash."
Some businesses have found that cash -- the old-fashioned green paper wadded up in your wallet, next to your well-worn debit and credit cards -- is the stuff that profits are made of. For these cash-only or cash-and-checks businesses, plastic isn't fantastic.
Spalding's Bakery, the emporium of Lexington, Ky.'s legendary chunky doughnut, has never taken anything but cash for its baked goods. A sign near the entrance notes that the bakery accepts neither credit nor debit cards nor checks. The store directs those without cash to the ATM at the BP gas station nearby.
The fees that card-processing companies charge appears to be the major deterrent.
Great Wall Chinese restaurant takes cash and checks, but no cards.
"They take so much in fees," the manager, Sharon Jiang, said of credit cards. "I have so many people call me about credit cards. I say, 'I don't need a credit card service.'"
Central Kentucky Microwave accepts cash or checks. Owner Annette Owen said that's because of "the fees, and you have to wait so long to get your money, and it's frustrating. I'd rather keep it cash-only and not have to deal with the other stuff."
Other Central Kentucky businesses -- often small restaurants and bakeries -- also take cash only. Some also take checks, and one bakery in Richmond even lets patrons run a tab.
Planning on renewing or replacing your driver's license? Take cash. Fayette County's driver-licensing office is a cash-only operation.
The U.S. Small Business Administration notes that cash-only payment policies have pros and cons.
Cash-only businesses get their money immediately, have simpler bookkeeping and don't have to worry about card-processing fees.
On the other hand, credit and debit card acceptance is so nearly universal that customers might walk away from a purchase at a cash-only business. Also, keeping large amounts of cash on site can be a security risk.
Businesses that accept credit cards risk consumer charge-backs when a product or service is deemed unacceptable.
Cash-only businesses have declined in number during the past few decades, but there was a time when you needed to carry cash for a number of items. Liquor stores in Kentucky were cash-only outlets before 1986, when Jefferson Circuit Court ruled that credit cards were the legal equivalent of cash.
Before Ticketmaster came to dominate Internet ticket sales, concert tickets often were cash-only.
Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins recalls the days when the office that issues vehicle registrations took only cash and some checks, but those days are long gone.
Now, the trouble, Blevins said, is figuring out how to equitably distribute the fees customers generate for a business by using their plastic money.
"A couple of years ago, our credit card fees over a year's time came out to $70,000 to $80,000 a year, and I can't raise my prices," Blevins said. "I'm not Wal-mart. In a tough economy, that's two employees."
So while pulling out the plastic and collecting the card points might seem convenient to consumers, it's a headache for those who deal with processing fees.
"The consumer public has no idea how credit cards operate behind the scenes." Blevins said. "It's inflating prices on everything."
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