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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy … coming to you this week from rainy Seattle, where I went to check out the Starbucks store downtown that does not accept cash. It is located on the second floor of an office building that seems to be occupied mostly by investment companies, but it is open to the public, and I wanted to see precisely how they would communicate the policy to patrons.

Go figure. There isn’t a single sign inside the store that says “no cash.” Not one.

So I ordered my usual venti-nonfat-latte-with-two-equals, and engaged the woman behind the counter in conversation. I told her I’d read about the store in the Seattle Times, and was surprised that it looked like any other Starbucks, with no advisories posted about the no-cash policy.

“If somebody comes up and all they have is cash, we work it out,” she said. It is, after all, a fairly new idea and they don’t want to alienate people.

But it isn’t really a problem, she said, because almost all the customers who come into the store use either a credit card or the Starbucks mobile app to pay for their drinks. Use of cash there is rare.

And so, while the decision by Starbucks to make this a no-cash store might seem a little radical, in fact, it seems to be perfectly in tune with how customers there are thinking and acting. Especially through the promotion of the mobile app, Starbucks has essentially trained a large swath of its customers not to even think about cash. After all, you can use the app to preorder drinks when you’re not in the store so they’re all ready for pickup when you arrive, and you can accumulate “stars” for free drinks. When I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I used cash in a Starbucks.

And, in the end, Starbucks is able to drive certain inefficiencies out of its business.

Now, there are lots of reasons that we won’t become a completely no-cash society anytime soon. As was pointed out in another story here on MNB earlier this week, seven percent of the country is unbanked - they don’t have cards, and need to be able to use cash, which, let’s face it, is legal tender.

But I think it would be naïve to think that this is just one small, isolated case. It strikes me as emblematic of where we are going, eventually, and it’ll be interesting to see where similar experiments pop up.

In fact, when you think of it … isn’t Amazon Go, just a few blocks from this Starbucks, a no-cash store?


That’s what is on my mind this morning and, as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

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