Tuesday, January 05, 2010

bags of money

I was ready to off and run on using cash versus card fees this morning when I stumbled upon this in the NYTimes. Usually, I feel like they steal ideas from me but I didn’t get on the ball fast enough to claim any sort of misdemeanor on their part. This all blends into a local-area thing I’ve been on over the last months: cash money. When you read the piece you’re clued in on what goes on beyond just the fees and percentages and stumble into things like interchange costs. I’d read about the process awhile back and when you realize that the “percent” paid isn’t actually the “percent” paid then you get frustrated. It seems like we’re talking about nickels and dimes but it isn’t; they estimate it costs the average family $427 per year and brings in $45 billion to the issuers and banks - not just nickels and dimes anymore. My initial change from card to cash was based on local businesses more than chain stores and national retailers. If I can save myself and my computer repair shop, auto mechanic, co-op, local bookstore, local CD shop, or small restaurant a few bucks here and there, I’ll do it. I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that there isn’t a need for plastic – whether debit or credit – but we can limit what it costs us and our merchants. Clearly there’s a need when shopping online for big ticket items like plane tickets and hotels but I know I’ve been able to limit my use of my even my debit card when buying around here. It certainly takes some planning on my part: stopping at the bank and withdrawing cash to pay bills (I even avoid the ATMs as much as possible) in advance can be a bit of a hassle, but not anything I’m not willing to do.

In the words of William M. Sheedy, VISA’s president for the America (nice title, BTW), “At times we have a perspective problem.” I don’t think it’s perspective, Mr. Man.

Speaking of hassles. D.C. implemented a $.05 charge on plastic bags starting on January 1, 2010 and apparently the apocalypse is upon us. Once again, a pretty simple life lesson (even beyond the enviro-screaming): if you’ve never been one to use reusable bags then I will guarantee if you give them a go you’ll never go back. If you need to load up three bags of chow and haul them to the car, the hemp or reusable bags with actual handles are so much better. You keep them in your car, you carry them into the store, just like you do with your wallet, your keys, your head, and your feet, and you shop. This is not some cultural overhaul; think of it as a functional change to your life. If, after you’ve done that, you want to further consider the benefits of not having a bunch of plastic bags flying around the planet, feel free. If you want to keep using plastic bags, feel free, I’ll merely add you name to the column under ‘simpleton’.

I have a Capitals game tonight so I’ll be in my seat and drinking a beer.

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