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French Town Tests Cashless Society 302

SamiousHaze writes to mention a 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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  • by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:00PM (#15197930)
    ...for now there will exist databases which will show exactly where you were, when and what you were doing.

    The State will be able to access these databases when it feels compelled to do so.

    We were afraid of the State, 1984-like, maintaining huge databases, monitoring us all.

    Instead, we have private companies maintaining these databases and the State accesses them when it needs to.

    Either way, we have sacrificed true freedom for convenience - and we have done so without ANY meaningful public discourse upon the matter.

    There was in fact no choice made; this situation has simply come upon us, through market forces.

    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.

    This is deeply worrying and ultimate stems from television, which is responsible for the lack of meaningful public discourse in our society.
  • Why Cellphone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:00PM (#15197931)

    I don't want to get a 700+ phonebill each month for my expenses, I would never consider my cellphone Provider as my banking service. (because they en effect become your "banking service" if you only use your cellphone)

    Proton [] has been around for a decade in Belgium already with the same philosophy. It's very convenient, and you can almost use it everywhere and where I can't I use my Credit Card.

  • by s0l3d4d ( 932623 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:03PM (#15197953) Homepage
    200 people in a village in France test this "cashless society" - no cash itself, just pay with a mobile phone.

    At least 250 million people in US, Europe, Asia, use widely credit cards, and don't need to use cash.

    Probably giving a tip with a mobile phone is not essentially different from giving a tip with a credit card either...
  • silly me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:08PM (#15197999) Homepage
    When I read the article, I immediately thought that the town was going back to a bartering system.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:10PM (#15198037)
    It's interesting to see how different attitudes regarding the use of cash can vary between countries. Here in Germany the only thing I use a credit card for is buying stuff from die bahn and the rare order on Germans are the country that insisted on a 500 euro bill(though I have yet to see one). Meanwhile in Britain, while they aren't as wild about credit cards as Americans, a lot more places seem to accept plastic compared to Germany. What exactly causes the difference in attitudes towards cash?
  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xiroth ( 917768 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:10PM (#15198038)
    This would definitely create a niche for banks which specialise in short-lifespan Swiss-style anonymous accounts that are easy to create and allow easy transfer of control (by giving a card or something). Unfortunately that anonymity could be legislated out of existance by government regulation for security purposes, so you'd need the banks to be in nations with a good track record of allowing privacy.
  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:15PM (#15198082) Journal
    Do you actually use cash in this day and age? About the only time I use cash is when I am buying a sandwich or a coffee at lunch time, or when I am getting a drink in a pub and cards charge too much per transaction for it to be available (why credit cards have a minimum commission I will never understand. It surely can't cost them much to move a small number from one location to another, and those 50p transactions add up to large numbers very quickly).

    For private payments I always use direct bank transfers; that way I have a record that I've already paid, and it's less effort since I can do it anywhere I have an Internet connection, while cash requires me to find a cash machine.

  • Been and done (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:24PM (#15198169) Homepage Journal
    I think it was Swindon, in the UK, that tried the Mondo cashless card over a decade ago. The card actually held the electronic cash, so that absolutely nothing went to or from any kind of central database. This had the massive advantage that it was extremely private. It had better privacy than cash, as there were no serial numbers or denominations involved. The cards used public key encryption and although I believe they never used long keys due to problems in generation, they were quite capable of handling keys equal to the strongest PGP/GnuPG can support today.

    To me, this is the kind of electronic cash that should be the future. Total privacy, total anonymity, total freedom to use your own money as and how you like, absolute security against identity theft through reckless banks or merchants, hard limits to card misuse if stolen (and none of it attributable to you), relatively proof against electronic attacks such as keystroke monitors and viruses.

    So why aren't these cards in widespread use? Merchants don't like extra card readers if no customers have the cards. Customers don't want cards they can't use. Neither like systems where most faults can be pinned on them and not the vendor. Banks hate systems that keep cash in the hands of consumers, as they make a lot of money speculating on the side (even in countries they're not strictly allowed to, they just do it overseas). Governments hate it because they can't track individuals and freezing accounts has less impact when you can carry a small fortune in your wallet.

    The problem, then, is social and not technical. The French experiment uses inferior technology, for the purpose of satisfying some of the social requirements at the cost of placing all parties at greater risk.

    (For some reason, humanity has all the attributes commonly associated with lemmings, when it comes to technology and risk. Given the choice of inferior products with greater risk, or superior products with little or no risk, societies always choose the inferior path.)

  • by powerlord ( 28156 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:33PM (#15198265) Journal
    Oddly enough, if the power is out, having cash may, or may not, help you.

    I was in New York City during the blackout a few years ago. I had cash, on the other hand there wasn't much you could do with it.
    Some restaurants were open, but most were closed (no workers, no lights, no ability to ring up registers).
    The major stores (supermarkets and the like) were closed. No registers, no lights, no refridgeration.

    Good luck finding a taxi ... the streets were crowded and the traffic lights were out as well, but I suppose you could go somewhere by taxi.

    All in all, the only store I know of that was open and doing business was the local hardware store, and the only thing they were selling was batteries.

    Face it, our society has already become so dependant on electricity that in a lot of cases, if the power is out, having money may not help, there might be bigger issues to worry about.
  • Cash...What's that? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IDontLinkMondays ( 923350 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:46PM (#15198397)
    I'm an American that lives in Norway. Since moving here 7 years ago, I don't recall using cash very much at all, much to my son's dismay. He likes to jingle my pockets for change to put in his piggy bank, but I have to make special stops to get change for him to avoid disappointing him.

    I am a person that never has an empty savings account but regularly keeps my spending account low to avoid spending too much. See it's nice to have a reminder that you're blowing all your dough. I don't go to the ATM machine, so I never know what my balance is. Simply put, if there's no money in the account when I try to pay for something, I pick up my phone, push a few buttons, pay for what I need and I'm cautious for the rest of the month.

    Since leaving the states, I no longer have a checkbook. All my bills (except my AMEX) is on autopay. I would put the AMEX that way too, but I'd like to see how much I'm spending on it.

    The office I used to work in has a coke machine that was payable by telephone and I've even paid for train tickets using my phone as well.

    As for cash, the only time I use it is when I'm paying the maid or paying the car wash that is run by people that would prefer to fly below the radar.

    What I'm really trying to say is that Norway has been more or less a cashless society for several years now. Of course people still use cash, I know a lot of older people that still don't feel comfortable with the idea of everything being done with plastic, but it's an option which is nice to leave open to them. Cash has some benefits.

    As for the experience in France, well, I see it as publicizing something that is not that interesting. It sounds as if they're just testing to see if telephone payment is an option. Personally I hate that idea since there are many times my telephone battery dies and I'd be stranded. Can you imagine not being able to pay for a taxi because you forgot to charge your battery?

    As for America, well it's a long time before this modern world ever gets there. There's a tremendous amount of money made by the banks on bounced check fees and even worse, "Overdraw attempt fees" on using your check cards. I mean, come on, if the money isn't in the bank and the bank and the store knows it there on the spot, it's the store that should penalize you, not the bank. And having worked at a banking clearing house, I wrote a report generator for producing an account of three things on one report.
        1) How much money was lost due to bounced checks
        2) How much money was made from overdraw fees that were later corrected by the account holder
        3) How much of a difference was there between the two.
    The number was always positive and not by small margins. I ran this script many many many times because I simply couldn't believe the numbers coming out. In one case, I printing a 60 page report of this activity over a single week and tallied it manually to ensure that what I was calculating was in fact correct. It's unbelievable. The American banking system is dependant on these overdraw fees and will never separate with them. So as long as that's the case, removing classic style paper based money and checks is out of the question.

  • Re:Loss of privacy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by linvir ( 970218 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:05PM (#15198565)
    But by dimming the metal used to create the hats, you reduce this effect. It only takes a small reduction in shine to make the numbers visible again. Suspiciously, just before Iraq, the Bush administration spent a couple of billion dollars on nickel, which was then shared around the payload of the US' missile array.

    The obvious reason is that the nickel impurity will contaminate Iraq's less well-known secondary export - tin. Each explosion spreads a little more nickel underground, reducing the shine of the eventual tin foil hats to be made from the metal there. Coincidence? I think not!

  • by jacksonj04 ( 800021 ) <> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:36PM (#15198842) Homepage
    There's a big drive from Maestro (Those responsible for most debit cards. Also known as Cirrus. Associated to MasterCard) to get more people to pay for small things by plastic. Leeds train station is full of ads.

    The problem? Transaction fees mean it's pointless vendors accepting them for anything less than about £3.50. To make matters worse, not everywhere accepts Solo, which is an extremely popular variety of Maestro.

    I would love to pay for things totally with plastic. Money goes into my bank account, why should I have to muck about turning it into cash before I buy things?

Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.