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French Town Tests Cashless Society 302

Posted by Zonk
from the didn't-know-you-could-drive-a-city dept.
SamiousHaze writes to mention a Silicon.com article about an attempt in a French tourist town, Caen, to do away with cash in some locales. From the article: "Among [the locations in the trial] is an underground car park; the town hall; a bus stop which can transmit timetable information; a cinema poster which downloads video trailers to users' mobiles; a local supermarket, where people can pay for their groceries with a mobile phone, and a tourist information sign outside the historic Abbaye des Hommes. By touching the mobile against the 'Flytag' logo at each of these locations, users can pay for services or receive information straight to their phone."
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French Town Tests Cashless Society

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  • Damn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by taskforce (866056) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:58PM (#15197903) Homepage
    I read the headline thinking it might be some kind of experiment into anti-materialist anarchism... then up on reading the summary I realised that by "cashless" they meant "physically cashless, so you don't have anything that can be traded for goods and services if they decide to pull your card".

    Somewhat different I must say.

  • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:59PM (#15197916)
    Even if it isn't the government-sancationed variety. I don't know of too many people that would willingly create a transaction record of payments for various of their habits.
  • Loss of privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by misleb (129952) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:59PM (#15197919)
    Talk about opportunities for loss of privacy. In a truely cashless society, there would be no way to have private transactions. Everything would be accounted for. Maybe it is one of those things where if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about, but still. I'd like to keep the option of paying my dealer^H^H^H^H^Hbookie^H^H^H^H^Hfriend without some kind of electronic trail.

    -matthew
  • Interesting irony. Debit and credit cards were used to stop burglars from taking your cash, but right now the electronic frauds are becoming popular so it's MUCH EASIER for someone to steal your identity (and then buy goods using your money) than to steal your cash.

    Now suppose a natural disaster (earthquake, hurricane, who knows) took out the power lines. How will you buy the goods you need?
  • It'll fail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by igb (28052) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:05PM (#15197978)
    Just like Mondex failed. ian
  • Panhandling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maddash1946 (969486) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:08PM (#15198001)
    I wonder what this will do to the beggar population in that town. I've notice that I almost never carry cash anymore and as such I have no money to give to beggars.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:10PM (#15198041) Homepage
    The legal tender system was created in order to unify a medium of exchange for goods and services. The money moving businesses were an unfortunate growth from that invention. (Money moving such as savings, checking, loaning and related services) But if monetary value exists without portable and anonymous tokens, then you really have to TRUST the value managers and the systems it operates from. If a government (assuming the controlling entity is official government... if it's not, it soon will be) or a ranking official of a government decided someone was to be harmed for some reason, it would then be [more] trivial to strip a person of their assets and means of survival. Forget about cancelling credit/debit cards and freezing bank accounts, once they strip you of cash, there is no longer any way out.

    That makes people EXTREMELY vulnerable to abuse by the system. (And if I hear "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you shouldn't be afraid" crap again, I'm going to throw a chair! "wrong" is always defined by whoever is in power and always a subjective notion. It's "wrong" to kill innocent people... unless your president orders it... hrm...)

    The cashless system will work as nicely as expected, but the tests will not include the abuse that can and will happen.
  • Re:It'll fail (Score:2, Insightful)

    by doofusclam (528746) <slash@seanyseansean.com> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:13PM (#15198069) Homepage
    Just like Mondex failed.


    Probably. I lived in Swindon (UK) when they were trialing it ~10 years ago and it was crap, though to be fair this was mainly down to the implementation. It took 20 seconds for it to take your money on the bus, as you can imagine with loads of passengers waiting it was a bit irritating.

    I only ever used it in anger when Mackenzies Bar were offering 1/2 price drinks if you paid with Mondex...
  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by no reason to be here (218628) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:14PM (#15198073) Homepage
    I would say very naive. most tax-evasion is done by the extremely wealthy and by mega-corporations, who fully disclose all their holdings, then avoid paying taxes on as much of it as possible through completely legal tax loopholes that their lobbyist bought for them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:20PM (#15198132)
    Furthermore, if you will, your dollar bills have unique serial numbers attached to it, so whoever spends the dollar bill can be traced.

    How, exactly, could this be accomplished? The teller doesn't keep a record of who got what bills, nor do the grocers, nor my barber, nor my bartenders.

    Now, when they imbed RFID chips in all your money that would be easy to understand, but please enlighten me as to how serial numbers can be used to track you?
  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordNimon (85072) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:36PM (#15198295)
    Do you actually use cash in this day and age?

    All the time. My minimum for credit card purchases is $20, and I never write checks unless I have to.

  • Re:Damn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JediTrainer (314273) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:43PM (#15198363)
    physically cashless, so you don't have anything that can be traded for goods and services if they decide to pull your card

    Sounds more and more like a real-life version of PayPal, right? The scary part is when they arbitrarily (and unilaterally) decide to freeze your funds and make it next to impossible to get them back, even if you did nothing wrong.
  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ahnteis (746045) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:44PM (#15198371)
    Where do you shop that a credit/debit card takes 2+ minutes?

    I live in a fairly small town and it takes about 10 seconds. Much faster then waiting for you to find those last 3 pennies.
  • by Wudbaer (48473) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:48PM (#15198419) Homepage
    While you are basically right I wouldn't call a city with a population of more than 100000 and being a district capital a village.
  • by SABME (524360) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:49PM (#15198437)
    "We were afraid of the State, 1984-like, maintaining huge databases, monitoring us all.

    "We - all of us, States, citizens, one and all - are not in control of the direction (I can't say decisions, because deliberate choice is not occuring) our society is taking."

    I think a better analogy is Brave New World instead of 1984. We are creating a society where those in power are ensnaring us because of the innate human tendency to seek comfort and convenience.

    We choose this state of affairs because it makes sense to our internal logic of getting the most return from the least effort.
  • by Fareq (688769) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:50PM (#15198442)
    Question: How do you buy a phone?
  • Re:Been and done (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jtheletter (686279) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:31PM (#15198798)
    Given the choice of inferior products with greater risk, or superior products with little or no risk, societies always choose the inferior path.

    While your observation seems to be generally true it completely ignores the reason for this behavior, which usually somes down to cost & convenience. Society is not choosing the riskiest and most inferior path because that is somehow a Good Thing, it "chooses" these paths because the riskier/inferior option is often cheaper and/or more convenient. That is the problem. People in general do not understand how to do a risk analysis or long term cost analysis on their everyday choices. We want it now and for $10 less than that guy paid for it, regardless of whether that is the best choice in the long run.

    This is the same reason many consumer products have woefully short functional lives, they are made with thin and cheap plastics and designed to take the minimum amount of abuse. You want a good quality product? Well, it will cost you more, pehaps twice as much as the Walmart version, but if you look at expected lifetimes and quality etc you'll see the higher quality product will last longer and eventually end up saving you money when it doesn't have to be replaced. The same goes for these new methods of payment, people want to be able to just carry their phone and not six credit cards, they want to be able to swipe the phone over a pad, not have to wait to sign or remember a pin, and they really don't care about what kind of privacy concerns this may raise because they got their instant gratification.

    Looking ten years down the road and thinking about what it really means to give the government or a corporation a minutely detailed list of your every transaction is mroe effort than most people care to exert. Society is following the path of least resistance, sloth I suppose, and as the saying goes: Fast, Cheap, Good - pick any two!

  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OldManAndTheC++ (723450) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:47PM (#15198950)
    Tax evasion is hiding income, lying on your tax forms, and otherwise cheating by illegal means. Tax avoidance is using legal means to avoid taxes, like tax shelters, transfer prices, profit laundering and other tactics used by the mega-rich and large corporations. The impact of tax avoidance is greater than that of tax evasion, because tax avoiders have more money and better accountants and lawyers.

    This report [dissentmagazine.org] has an excellent discussion of legal tax avoidance schemes by the rich and their impact on society.

  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @03:12PM (#15199151)
    Credit may not be evil, but I'd rather avoid it just the same.

    Fear of debt is the beginning of financial wisdom.

    Or, as the bard said:
    Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

    -- Polonius to Laertes, Hamlet
  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SenorCitizen (750632) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @04:36PM (#15199950)
    Do you actually use cash in this day and age?

    All the time. My minimum for credit card purchases is $20, and I never write checks unless I have to.

    A better question would be - you write cheques? You *have* cheques? What the hell for?

    I remember my dad used to use cheques in the 80's, and he was considered old-fashioned.

  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mattkinabrewmindspri (538862) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @05:13PM (#15200301)
    Using credit cards doesn't have to mean going into debt. If you are responsible, if you pay off your credit card at the end of every month, and if you have the right card, you can come out ahead.

    For example, Citibank has a card which gives 5% back on groceries, gas, and prescriptions, and 1% back on everything else, which comes out to a fair amount of money you get back. You don't get money back if you stick to cash or checks.

    The key is to find a good credit card and use it responsibly.
  • by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @05:46PM (#15200541)
    For example, Citibank has a card which gives 5% back on groceries, gas, and prescriptions, and 1% back on everything else, which comes out to a fair amount of money you get back. You don't get money back if you stick to cash or checks.

    This money mostly comes from a cut of the merchant fees embedded in every purchase; credit card companies have basically forced retailers to pass the surcharges on to everybody and not just credit card users.

    It's a Prisoner's Dilemma scenario. Everyone who uses credit cards drives up the prices for everybody. Only people who use credit cards can get a discount for using credit cards as companies give back a cut of what they demand from retailers.

    If no one used credit cards, prices would be lower since the merchant's fees wouldn't be spread out across all goods. However, if people use credit cards, then prices are pushed up for everybody except credit card users who get a discount relative to the others even though they still pay slightly more too.

    Assume that a spread-out merchant's fee is a surcharge of X on goods, that a cashback card gives back 80% of that, and that the price on goods responds instantly to changes in cost:
    ........... | B uses card ......... | B uses cash
    A uses card | A pays 0.4X surcharge | A pays 0.2X surcharge
    ........... | B pays 0.4X surcharge | B pays 1.0X surcharge
    A uses cash | A pays 1.0X surcharge | A pays no surcharge
    ........... | B pays 0.2X surcharge | B pays no surcharge
    Naturally, prices don't change that fast in the real world, but the aggregate of merchant fees do get applied to prices eventually.

    At any rate, credit cards are also evil because they give a third party information that tracks your purchases and locations, and if you get sick or find yourself suddenly unable to pay, you may get hit with suddenly increased interest rates and unable to declare bankruptcy thanks to tougher laws passed on the behalf of credit card companies. Welcome to legalized usury -- predatory lending to the financially disadvantaged.
  • by MSZ (26307) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @07:31PM (#15201244)
    Money goes into my bank account, why should I have to muck about turning it into cash before I buy things?

    Most of the time, plastic is nice and convenient. Unless you want to buy something without leaving traces... All these cashless schemes tend to have tracking as either feature (advertised... rarely to users) or side effect (tracking service not offered but possible).

    <tinfoil hat>
    You can have problems if the transaction logs fall into wrong hands - governement, marketers, etc. I'm not saying about buying anything illegal, some perfectly legal purchases can be construed to be evidence against you, like "ever bought beer? pay double health insurance you alcoholic!" or "bought quran? send this terrorist scum off to gitmo!" or maybe "ordered "dvd-backup" software? let's raid his house, he's probably infringing copyright!".
    </tinfoil>

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