Debate rages over cashless bakery

A country bakery has sparked debate after making the decision to go “cashless” for the foreseeable future.

The Heritage Bakery, located in Milton on the NSW South Coast, put a sign on display in early January 2024, thanking customers for going cash-free, stating it is more clean and accurate.

According to the sign read “Australia’s first cashless bakery. Cashless is quick… cashless is clean… cashless is accurate. Thank you for being an early adopter.”

Bakery owner Bryan Wareham told the business had been cash-free for more than six years due to a spate of break-ins.

“We have been cashless for more than six years, which means we can offer our staff a safer workplace,” he said.

“We realise that our choices won’t suit everyone, but there are a lot of advantages. It works for us.”

However, the move has been met with backlash from The Cash is King Facebook page, which encourages businesses to prioritise using physical currency over electronic payments.

Some of group members suggested boycotting Heritage Bakery until the move was reversed, while others raised concern about the potential issue the move could face due to natural disasters or outages.

“And when natural disaster such as fires of 2019 hit south coast there will not be eftpos or atm machines working, surely these businesses have learnt from past??? Guess not,” one user wrote.

Is the future cashless?

The Heritage Bakery’s move comes ahead of predictions that Australia could technically become a cashless society in as little as two years.

The move towards electronic payments over cash took off during the COVID pandemic, when consumers and retailers alike became reluctant to handle potentially infected noted and coins. In October 2023 the Federal Government unveiled necessary reforms to regulate digital payment providers.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said, “As payments increasingly become digital, our payments system needs to remain fit for purpose so that it delivers for consumers and small businesses. We want to make sure the shift to digital payments occurs in a way that promotes greater competition, innovation and productivity across our entire economy.”

This move towards a cashless society has also been supported by a report by the Australian Banking Association, which showed the explosive expansion of the digital payment industry. The use of digital wallet payments on smartphones and watches across the country has increased from $746 million in 2018 to more than $93 billion in 2022. In fact, cash only accounted for 13 per cent of consumer payments in Australia at the end of 2022, when compared to 70 per cent in 2007. In fact, Australians have been placed among the top users of cashless payments globally, surpassing the US and European countries.

However, the move doesn’t come without its risks.

According to although there are benefits of phasing out cash, including increased convenience, transparency and safety, the transition to a wholly digital economy risks excluding some sections of society. This includes disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities and those who live in remote and regional areas and may have difficulty accessing digital financial services.

“In the absence of cash, they are going to really struggle,” RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub director Dr Chris Berg said.

Image: Cash is King Australia

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