Wednesday 22 October 2014

The end is nigh as banks roll out their fiendish plan – the cashless bar

Published 26/08/2013 | 17:00

Mel Brooks: it's enough to make your head spin

IT STARTED off in York. Armageddon, that is. This week, at the Ebor race meeting, I was there. In York. Working. In a free bar with lobsters where I had to write about Frankel the super horse. Beats breaking stones. Had I known, though, that the world was about to end in this place I would have marched about bearing a placard reading "the end is nigh".

Every now and then when newspapers are stuck for copy, up comes the old "end of the world" story. Some lunatic will sell his house, tell the boss where to stick his job and inform the wife he still loves her but he's leaving. Nostradamus blows the money on a big holiday and waits on the due date for a meteor strike like the one that killed the dinosaurs.

But the York story is real. Cash is gone since York. Touching money, like fivers and fifties, will disappear forever. So when the young nephew is down home on holidays, there's no slipping him a tenner. You have to ask the nephew if he accepts cards. It's the end of piggy banks. The safest banks of all.

Mel Brooks said one time "the world keeps on spinning and it makes us dizzy". Which accounts for all the madness.

This lad from a part of Dublin where they eat hummus for the dinner came into the bar lately and asked if we took cards. Credit cards, that is.

"Yes" I said, "we do and we shred them up into slivers and feed 'em to the chickens." It's not such a bad idea if you think about it. On two counts. Firstly, card-fed eggs wouldn't break when they fall.

The second reason is that cards were the start of all our troubles. The card companies told us a cashless society was a wonderful idea. There would be no more robberies or muggings. The magic card would pay for everything. So that's it. That's what they said about 35 years ago. I swear it, because I remember well. Cards are safe as houses, they said. Well, we all know what happened to houses. No more robberies they said. Credit card fraud has only been responsible for the robbing of billions every year.

So we have come to the conclusion, after many years of figuring it out, that what's good for banks is bad for us. Banks exist to make profits for their shareholders. Well sort of, but it is also the case that banks make profits for bankers. The days of the commission for bringing in business are not over. So it is in York they came up with the most fiendish plan yet: the cashless bar.

It's win win, they tell us. No fiddle behind the bar. No worrying about if you have enough for the price of a round, or searching for purses in cluttered handbags .

So here I am, a publican, in the last days of the bars, passing up an opportunity to get rich.

It's a well-known fact that drink loosens the pockets but what happens when you leave the card behind the counter and the gorgeous girl who finished fifth runner-up in the best-dressed lady contest flutters false eyelashes? "Give her a bottle of pop", you shout. Men are desperate eejits.

Later, herself, the herself at home, goes nuts when she sees the credit card bills and asks, "who is this Dom Perignon and what's he doing spending all our money?"

The cashless bar is the start of the end. I'll never put one in. Anyway, the mother loves counting money. Putting it into bundles and sitting on it to make it flat. I suppose after years of ironing, there's a terrible compulsion to take the wrinkles out of things.

The other side is that when you pay cash you actually see there before you in a physical manifestation exactly what it is you're spending. I curse the day I ever got a credit card. There's no paying them off.

The recession was caused by us too. And not just the bankers. Fools like me. I don't even know what I spent the cursed thing on. Although, the other day I found a box set of 124 spanners hiding in the garden shed. Me, the great handy man who has to call an electrician to put in a bulb.

So here's to the banning of cashless bars.

One of our customers, a lovely lady, used to keep her money in her bra. It was lovely and warm. Cold they are, cards, and cold comfort too.

Irish Independent

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