When the coronavirus struck, and everyone went crazy stripping the supermarket shelves, (still not sure why they needed so much toilet paper), a number of outlets switched to accepting card payments only. Ostensibly this was to cut down on the chances of the virus being spread by touching notes.
A number of friends of mine immediately and very vocally decided this had all been a conspiracy by the government to do away with cash and switch everybody to using cards. “They are gonna know exactly what we earn and we will have to pay more tax!”
Hmm, personally I think that it was a bloody extreme way to switch us all away from cash. Quite impressive the amount of cooperation they achieved getting virtually every country in the world to follow the same plan. And if everyone has to pay the correct rate of tax, well is that necessarily a bad thing?
Some countries are already well ahead of us in the move away from cash. Sweden currently sees less than 1% of transactions made using cash. They have embraced the move to new technology wholeheartedly. In fact many establishments in the country no longer accept cash at all.
Admittedly there are some holdouts to this. Bjorn Eriksson, formerly the National police commissioner and president of Interpol objects on the principle that there are still a sizeable minority of people unable to cope with cards, the elderly, former convicts, tourists, immigrants. He explains that the banks don’t consider them to be ‘profitable’, so they will be left behind. The 71-year-old is the face of a national movement called Kontantupproret (Cash Rebellion)
So how would our industry cope with being cashless. Well, as we specialise in the corporate entertainment market and only supply private funfairs, we are basically cashless already. I personally don’t carry cash at all. My wife on the other hand won’t use her card. She goes to the supermarket, stops outside and withdraws money from the atm to pay for the shopping.
I visited Hull fair recently and stood talking to a friend at a sidestall. During the hour I was there, I would estimate that he took about 20% of his payments by card. So he was quite comfortable with cashless payments. He did mention that occasionally the lack of a reliable internet signal could cause problems, but by and large the system he had worked well. He also seemed to think that his takings actually increased as some customers would pay for additional plays by card, when they might not have done so with cash.
Some festivals and theme parks have already made the switch. Clacton pier needs you to use its Fun Card system, where you load money on to its card and then use that for all the rides and attractions. Download festival on the other hand launched an RFID system in 2015, but scrapped it the following year due to technical issues causing problems for its vendors. So the technology might need to mature a little more before its ready for the big time.
Systems such as Izettle, invented in Sweden funnily enough, are now robust enough to be used on a large international scale. Indeed I pay one of my suppliers by card when I see him and he uses that system. I think at the minute from the funfair perspective, the limiting factor is going to be the mobile internet. I have been at major events, where when thousands of people are all carrying phones, the local cell towers can’t cope and its nearly impossible to connect.
This might be one of the cases where 5G is whats needed. If we can persuade people to stop burning the bloody towers down.
Personally I think that as more and more people move to using cashless payments the funfair industry is going to have no option but to follow suit.