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Coles shopper rages at move towards cashless checkouts: 'Against our will'

Is the future of shopping purely digital?

Campaigners have called on the federal government to step in to protect cash as an Aussie customer shared his fears for the future of cashless shopping at Coles.

Sydney DJ and music producer Tom Budin recently filmed inside his local Coles, where seven out of nine self-service checkouts were marked "card only".

"Only two machines left that accept cash and, mark my words, these machines, in my opinion, will be gone by the end of the year," he said pointing toward the cash tills.

"What a world we live in, ladies and gentlemen."

FIND OUT MORE: Cashless Australia - here's what you need to know

Card-only self-service checkout machines at Coles supermarket
A Coles shopper has predicted that the supermarket giant will soon do away with self-service checkouts that accept cash. (Source: TikTok/@tombudinmusic) (TikTok/tombudinmusic)

Move away from cash branded 'big mistake'

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, the coordinator of Cash Welcome — a grassroots campaign to protect the right of consumers to use and access cash — said the supermarket giant was making a "big mistake".

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"I think everyone has noticed a reduction in checkout terminals that accept cash at Coles," Jason Bryce said.

"In many Coles stores, staff ask: 'Are you paying cash or card?'. The cash people always have to wait. The card people always skip to the front.

"This is a big mistake by Coles. Coles is literally pushing us cashless, against our will. People want to be able to choose. This is food and groceries we are talking about. Australians need the government to step in, like the UK, France and parts of the USA have done, and protect cash."

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Bryce went on to question what would happen if the card-payment system failed.

"Coles can't guarantee their EFTPOS system is reliable 24/7/365," he said. "As soon as an outage hits, bedlam ensues and it's entirely of their own making."

Aussies divided over card-only checkouts

In response to Budin's video, Aussie shoppers were divided over the move towards a cashless society.

"Coles doesn't care about the customers anymore," one viewer wrote.

"My Coles is like this too. I refuse to go into Coles now," another added.

However, others urged cash users to "get with the times" in this "digital world", defending the supermarket and praising the convenience of going cash-free.

"Is Coles pushing an agenda, or is it catering to how the majority of customers already pay?" someone asked.

"Exactly. If one out of 10 people only use cash, why would they put cash in every machine?" responded another.

Coles declined to comment but Yahoo Finance understands the supermarket giant has no intentions of removing cash options.

What you need to know about the use of cash in Australia

  • Fewer people are using cash due to the convenience of paying with phones, watches and cards

  • There isn’t a shortage of cash-withdrawal points, with around 20,000 ATMs plus supermarkets to collect from

  • There’s about $100 billion in cash floating around Australia - or 2 billion notes

  • The government has not indicated cash will be taken out of circulation

  • The Big Four banks have all ruled out going cashless

  • Average cash withdrawal has increased from $180 to $290

  • RBA: ATM withdrawals dropped from 77.9 million in December 2008 to 29.7 million in June 2023

  • Finder survey: 13 per cent of Aussies never use cash, 44 per cent use it once a week, and 42 per cent once a month or less

How close are we to a cashless society?

The use of cash is in decline and experts have said a cashless supermarket experience is inevitable, just not quite yet.

"I do believe that will happen one day, but definitely not by the end of this year," Dr Angel Zhong, an associate professor of finance at RMIT University, told Yahoo Finance.

"I don't think we are ready for that yet. Not by the end of this year. But really likely in another seven years, by 2030."

While Zhong pointed out that 40 per cent of Australians left their wallets at home and relied on their phone or another device to pay for things, according to the Australian Banking Association, not everyone was there just yet.

"The current research shows that young Australians between the age of 18 and 29 are those who mostly embrace cashless payments, so two-thirds often use some digital payments. But, as you move to the other age groups, especially older Australians, I think around one in five of them are still classified as high cash users," Zhong explained.

"So, in terms of this transition, there is a part for the community and government to play to help the other groups to transition. That is why we can't just get rid of all the cash terminals."

Why is it important we still have access to cash?

Trends are showing Australians withdrawing and using cash for point-of-sale transactions is dropping, but there are many reasons people should still have the option to.

Vulnerable Aussies like the old, socioeconomically disadvantaged, or those living in rural areas are more likely to use cash and be disproportionately impacted if it is taken away.

A poll of Yahoo Finance audience members found 92 per cent of respondents would not support Australia going completely cashless.

But using cash costs money.

The chief executive of Commonwealth Bank Australia, Matt Comyn, last week said the “support, distribution and availability of cash costs approximately $400 million each year”.

However, some other businesses have decided to take cash out of the equation for a completely different reason; to promote staff safety. Crime-plagued small businesses said they'd gone cashless to reduce the risk of robbery.

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