Are contactless payments really the order of the day?
The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, July 12
Cash is king. Or it used to be, but not any more.
I went to the Kia Oval cricket ground recently and decided on a bacon baguette and coffee as a pre-match snack, only to find I could not pay my £9 in cash and a card was required.
The same was true for the beer, fish and chips and everything else in the stadium.
The whole ground is now a card only zone. I had reached there on London Underground where contactless payment is also the order of the day, and if you think this is just for the city types, I can assure you that a cash free bar will be heading your way soon.
To understand why I had a conversation with a guy who acts as the finance director at a large beer festival. Security is obviously a big issue. With cash behind the bar, his staff have to go around regularly to take it to the secure room.
Too often and they may be observed and become a target, while too infrequently allows worryingly high levels of cash to accumulate behind the bar.
Ensuring security of the central location is also necessary, a particular difficulty if the festival is held in marquees, such as Cambridge and Peterborough. Once collected the proceeds must be banked.
Think of the time when you emptied the piggy bank and had all that change weighing you down and multiply it by hundreds. At a festival, it will be counted and reconciled by volunteers, but in a pub, it will be paid staff.
When it arrives at the bank, you cannot just take it to the till. They will charge you to deposit the money, and again for the change you will need for your float the next morning. Add in the possibility of mistakes and fraud and the decision to change to card transactions becomes more understandable.
Not that this is without problems. At a temporary festival wiring in the terminals is not easy, and you don’t want staff wandering around fields trying to obtain a signal by waving them in the air.
There is the capital outlay in the equipment and the cost and trouble of training staff, more so if they are infrequent volunteers.
So, card payments are normally just an option, though one that is being encouraged and becoming more common.
I have held out against it for a long time, but the aroma of the bacon baguette was so enticing that I christened my contactless card, though I must admit that I headed out at lunchtime and found a community café in the crypt of a nearby church with a daily special of goat curry, comfortably less than half the price of the fish and chips at the ground.
Still, I shouldn’t complain as my first experience of the cashless ground had come a few hours earlier. I had arrived at the gate and asked the steward where to buy a ticket. He said to walk round the perimeter about 150 metres and a guy behind finished his sentence… ‘or you could use this guest pass’. So, if you ever read this, my grateful thanks.
Thanks also to Anna and Kim. Back in Lynn, I decided on a quick pint in the Fenman. What could I tell the Barwife? Train late again? That might be plausible.
As I walked in the two young ladies informed me they were former pupils of mine around 25 years ago and insisted on buying me a beer. Maybe this cashless lark isn’t so bad after all.