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Woolworths dumps controversial cashless trial after boycott threats

Ash Cant
·3-min read

After negative customer feedback and even threats to boycott Woolworths, the supermarket giant has announced it will be slowly reintroducing cash payments at the stores that were taking part in a cashless trial.

Of Woolworths' 75 Metro stores in Australia, 14 participated in the cashless trial at different times over the past seven months, allowing for only electronic payments at those stores.

For the most part, customers were frustrated with the decision to trial card-only payments at select stores.

When it was first announced, one shopper said she had been loyal to the supermarket for over 20 years and would “shop elsewhere” if Woolworths went cashless at any of its stores.

Majority of the stores taking part in the cashless payments trial at Woolworths Metro stores have started accepting cash again. Source: AAP
Majority of the stores taking part in the cashless payments trial at Woolworths Metro stores have started accepting cash again. Source: AAP

“You are a total disgrace going card only," another person wrote on the company's Facebook page. "Apart from that a lot of older people only use cash,” they wrote, accusing the supermarket of caring only about its profit.

Others vowed to boycott Woolworths "and any other business who will not accept my legal tender cash".

In a January 2021 poll, Yahoo News Australia conducted a poll among readers regarding whether they agreed with the trial, with 91 per cent voting "no".

As of Wednesday, all Woolworths stores participating in the trial, bar Sydney's York and George Street Metro stores, have reverted back to accepting cash.

The York and George Street Metro stores will begin accepting cash again on March 10.

In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, Woolworths Metro General Manager Justin Nolan said based on feedback, the company has decided to end the trial.

"We want Woolworths to be a place where everyone feels welcome, no matter who they are or how they shop with us," Mr Nolan said.

"It’s become clear to us that not all customers have felt this way when shopping in our Woolworths Metro stores trialling card-only payments.

Over the past seven months, 14 stores participated in the trial. Source: AAP
Over the past seven months, 14 stores participated in the trial. Source: AAP

"While almost all Metro customers choose to pay with cards, cash remains incredibly important to those who don’t for a whole range of reasons we didn't fully appreciate."

Mr Nolan added the feedback from customers suggested Woolworths had "moved ahead of current community expectations".

Trial fuelled by buyer patterns

In a previous statement to Yahoo News Australia, a Woolworths spokesperson said the company was seeing less cash transactions at Metro stores.

“As more and more customers choose to pay with cards, we’re trialling all electronic payments in a small selection of Metro stores which currently see very few cash transactions,” a spokesperson said in January.

Many of the Metro stores which took part in the trial found that cash transactions only accounted for about 10 per cent of transactions a month.

Amid the trial, people pointed out by not accepting cash, Woolworths was potentially alienating several groups.

“Won’t obliterating it [cash payments] altogether unfairly further marginalise some communities (eg. rough sleepers, homeless, sex workers) from accessing essentials?” one Twitter user said.

“How will Grandparents give the classic gift of cash in a card? ... How are buskers and homeless going to make a buck on the streets? Kids with pocket money wanting to spend at the shop? No Woolies, this isn’t progress for good reason,” another wrote.

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