Sorry, No Cash!


It was a dispirited daughter, I got home Sunday after having chimed doorbells for the benefit of Save the Children. The collection tin was disappointingly light. Were nobody home? Were they dismissive, or what was the problem? No cash! But what about mobile payment? Well, she handed them the leaflet, and left them to their conscience.

The established charities are in full wing adapting to the new customer behaviour, and they will be OK. Probably even better off by fully exploiting data, digital and mobile channels.

The cashless society changes our spontaneous charity

Coin-less pockets are hardly news. My colleague doesn’t even own a wallet. But how does this affect our behaviour and experience when it comes to charity?

Mobile payment, eg MobilePay is a fantastic solution in many situations, but the act involves a process: Open app, consider amount, get recipient’s mobile number, type in and approve transaction. This process is a showstopper for the spontaneous charitable feeling of the moment when passing the homeless guy in front of the supermarket or stop and listen to the street musician. They deserved a couple of bucks, but without cash it becomes too cumbersome and awkward feeling.

It just feels different

The emotional aspect of the actual money transfer has been overlooked. When the amount is no longer decided by what I happen to have in my pocket, charity becomes a conscious act. Evaluating what is “fair” in the situation can be uncomfortable. What’s the right amount? Am I being too cheap? Maybe easier to just walk on…

The physical coin carries meaning for the experience for both donor and donee. When grandma gives cash for an ice cream, it is a donation in the hand for a specific purpose, whereas a mobile payment enters an account and mixes up with the rest of the money or debt, without special designation. It’s abstract, and maybe you ought to rather save up for that new game. It’s no longer labeled “Ice Cream”, and the gift loses emotional meaning.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate all the advantages of the cashless society, but it is interesting to observe what replacing jingling coin with a swipe does to our behaviour, empathy, relations and general transactional experience.