FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
UNUSUAL FORM OF CURRENCY SUPPORTS LOCAL MARKET
4 April 2020
San Francisco, California -- Your correspondent is excited to report that after a months-long investigation, rumors of a bizarre alternative currency can be confirmed. I have seen it with my own eyes -- a small, radical group of people in San Francisco, California, are actually using paper currency to secure goods and services. After weeks of building trust among the group, I received an invitation to visit their Community Market, and you will not believe what I saw. I was fortunate enough to interview some of the shoppers, and here is the story in their own words.
Marlena is a young mother of two living downtown. She says, "The market is so different. Instead of using my mobile to pay for things, like I do everywhere else, I actually carry these pieces of paper called 'cash.' When I want something, the seller tells me how much of the cash they want in exchange. If I have that much with me, I can buy the item I want. If I don't, I can't. It's pretty simple." Marlena still uses her mobile to pay for expenses elsewhere in the city, like buses, movies, and restaurants, and of course she must still use its texting function to pay household bills and expenses like the rest of us. But in this market, she says, "I don't have to worry about whether I charged my mobile before I left the house. Even if I forgot, I can still pay with cash. It never needs charging, and if there's no cell coverage, it's no problem."
One of the vendors in the market, Bill, tells me why he likes the system. "I bring my vegetables here, and when I am done for the day, I have something to show for it," he explains. "I have a little stack of cash and I can go use it for other things in the market. It gives me a feeling of connection with the people who buy my produce, and also with the other sellers here that I buy from. It's nice to hand these papers to someone instead of just scanning the item with my mobile and pressing 'OK.' And I like talking to my customers while I get their change. It's more personal. You never do that with mobile payments."
Some readers may remember when cash was a very common way to purchase goods and services, but for those who don't, here's a little crash course. Cash comes in different amounts -- called 'denominations' -- and each piece of cash is worth that many credits. So there's a 'one,' a 'five,' a 'ten,' a 'twenty,' and so on. Unlike mobile payments, which can be made in any decimal amount, cash payments in the Community Market are always incremented by wh*** numbers. As one seller explained, "You can't just tear a piece of cash into pieces to make change -- you have to have the right amount." The cash used at San Francisco's Community Market features landmarks from around the city (see photo).
Actual "cash" pieces from the Community Market
Not everyone is happy with the new system. Brenda shops at the Community Market from time to time but says she still prefers to go to stores that take mobile payments. "I keep forgetting to count how much cash I have with me," she says. "It can be very embarrassing to ask for something and then discover you don't have enough cash. With mobile payments, that never happens -- all my credits are in one place, and if I don't have enough, I have the option of borrowing the extra from my bank, or owing the seller if they allow advance purchases. It's just more convenient." Adds Sam, another shopper, "I can only use Community Market cash here in this market. If I go to the Community Market down in San Jose, they have a wh*** other kind of cash and mine isn't good there." Still, they admit, cash does seem to be better in some ways. Says Brenda, "I never have to pay interest when I pay with cash, so that's one advantage, I guess."
Will the cash craze catch on? Opinions differ. For now, your correspondent intends to keep her mobile handy.
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San Francisco photo credits
(all photos licensed under Creative Commons and used according to licensing terms)