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The hole-in-the-wall gangsters

Plan to fight crime with ATM fee does not add up - Irish Times
Saturday, September 4, 2010

Some day, Fintan O'Toole will write a bad article. This still isn't it. Dermot Ahern, of blasphemy infamy, has pulled another one out of the bag and O'Toole is there to lambast him. As with the resurrection of the mediaeval offense of slandering the divine during the State's financial crisis, Ahern has happily ignored all that is going on around him and come up with something really rather innovative.

After all, we pay from our taxes to put the money into the bank – to the tune of at least €25 billion. Why shouldn’t we pay to take it out as well? There would be a certain symmetry to the fleecing, a full circle of effrontery. On one side of the equation, we pony up for the costs of pinstripe banksterism. On the other, we shell out because of the actions of a ruder, more traditional breed of bank robbers.

Oops, I did it again...

Ahern has come to the conclusion that Ireland is too reliant on cash, and that this is the cause for all the recent bank-raids, tiger kidnappings and so on. Clearly shoddy bank security, ignorance of established security procedures, failure to follow Garda recommendations, the continuing existence of paramilitary organisations and burgeoning organised gang crime are far less important than the humble BankLink.

Since the common ATM is the source of all our problems, it makes perfect sense to tax the bejaysus out of it. I am definitely in favour of reducing the amount of cash we use, but why not use positive means to encourage consumers away from the paper notes?

10 euro a time, bud

In many other European countries, cash for everyday transactions is almost a thing of the past. In my beloved Finland, debit cards are used for even the smallest purchases in shops. They're quick and cheap enough to use for even buying chewing-gum!

In Ireland, most shops have a minimum spend before a card can be used. In the increasingly straitened times, the minimum spends are increasing. Some city-centre pubs now only allow the use of a card if you're buying at least 2 drinks. Businesses are unwilling to take on the charge from the banks for less than that.

Why not abolish the charge per transaction, and move towards a totally cash-less society? Surely that would benefit both consumers annd businesses eager for their custom.

But it wouldn't help the banks, which still, unbelievably, seems to be be the only concern of this government. As O'Toole says:

The truth is that the idea of penalising customers for their effrontery in using ATM machines has very little to do with fighting crime and everything to do with bullying us into doing what the banks want us to do. The banks – and many businesses – don’t like cheques, don’t like dealing in cash and would be much happier if we all behaved ourselves, got with the programme and used plastic. They’d be positively ecstatic if we use credit instead of debit cards, leaving ourselves open to fees and surcharges.

We pay the banks to keep our money for us, then we bail them out when they make a mess of things, then we pay the Army and Garda Síochána to protect our money as the banks drive it around and now they want us to pay to take it out of the hole-in-the-wall

The irony is priceless; for everything else there's MasterCard.


  1. Aengus wrote:

    "I am definitely in favour of reducing the amount of cash we use"

    "Why not abolish the charge per transaction, and move towards a totally cash-less society?"

    Why do you feel this is a good idea? If I have 500 quid on my person, I can only lose it if I'm robbed, or if the currency falls drastically and suddenly. 'Electronic cash' solves the the first problem, doesn't solve the second, and in my opinion, leaves your money even more vulnerable than if it were in physical form.

    I'm trying to say what I mean without coming across like an insane Ron Paul supporter; failing pretty miserably. You get what I mean, though, surely?

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  2. johnl wrote:

    I guess a "totally cash-less society" is not a good thing. The phrase just rolls off the tongue.

    If the currency falls drastically and suddenly, your 500 euro in cash is still worth far less than it was, exactly as it would be if it were "electronic cash", in one of the eWallets we heard so much about in the 90s.

    The only way to escape inflation and currency fluctuations is by stepping out of the fiat money world, and returning to the gold standard (ho ho!) or bartering with shells.

    Your point is good though. Electronic money increases our reliance on the banks, and thus our vulnerability. Given the absolute state of the banking sector in Ireland, this is probably not desirable in the short-term.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  3. David J Kearney wrote:

    My major problem with Debit Card purchases is the relative inefficiency of the terminals used to process them. Using your chewing gum example, if I paid for it using a euro coin, I'd have the transaction processed and my change in under five seconds. A skilled cashier could get this down to three. A fifty euro note would take but a second and a half more.

    When I worked in that food poisoning outlet in Sandyford, our terminals regularly took between 10 and 15 seconds to process the transaction, and that was after the customer had entered their pin.

    Even with a high speed line, I think you'd struggle to buy the gum with your Laser Card in under 10 seconds (handing the card to cashier to receiving your receipt)

    On both sides of the till, what may seem like a paltry time amount ("sure it's only 7 seconds") can actually be very frustrating. If there's 10 people in front of you each taking an extra 7 seconds, that's over a minute extra you'll have to wait. Not very convenient, esp in convenience stores.

    If you are serving a line of customers all paying on credit card, then you have to deal with their increasing impatience, and the chance they will just get bored of waiting and leave (This would happen a lot in work when it was busy and people were paying by card)

    Until POS card transactions become as quick or quicker as the cash alternative (such as contactless cards) cash should, and will, remain king.

    Friday, September 10, 2010 at 12:12 am | Permalink

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