Monday, November 29, 2010

"Sorry, we don't accept cash"

"Sorry, we don't accept cash"

That's not a phrase that you hear often. It is certainly not a phrase that you hear when you are at a store trying to purchase a good or service. I certainly had not encountered a situation like it until today. I tried to buy gas from a Sam's Club gas station today but the attendant told me they did not accept cash. I couldn't believe it at the time. Luckily there is a Shell station right across the street so I just went there and got gas from there.

For those of you don't know, Sam's Club is a wholesale retailer (similar to Costco and BJs) owned by Walmart. Sam's Club gas, like pretty much everything at Walmart is significantly cheaper then the other brands. A customer buying gas across the street at the Shell station pays on average 10-15 cents more per gallon then a Sam's Club customer. As gas prices have gone higher a lot of companies have started posting two separate prices for gas. One for customers paying cash and one (usually anywhere from 5 to 15 cents per gallon more expensive) for credit card customers.

I thought about the words printed on every American bill that say "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private" but, there is no federal law that requires businesses to accept cash as a form of payment. The following is from the Federal Reserve website,

However, no federal law mandates that a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as payment for goods or services not yet provided. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills.
Some movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations as a matter of policy may refuse to accept currency of a large denomination, such as notes above $20, and as long as notice is posted and a transaction giving rise to a debt has not already been completed, these organizations have not violated the legal tender law

 I checked with a friend who works for a State Senator and she told me that the State of New Jersey does not have a law requiring merchants to accepts cash as payment.  In some ways it does make sense. Not accepting cash certainly eliminates the possibility of the attendants working at the gas stations getting robbed. People like me take shots at Walmart quiet frequently for their practices but this is actually something they should be applauded for, unless of course there is a sinister motive that we just can't currently figure out. Like I mentioned earlier, I pay by credit card most of time I get gas so I likely won't be affected by this in the future.

Have you ever encountered something similar?

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