|... America is a nation of the rootless, a country of people constantly picking up and moving on. We have lost much of family and community and the sense of place, belonging, and intimacy they bring. Money and the things we buy with money have taken their place. Where we used to gather meaning and value from walking the streets of our town and saying hello to all the people we recognized — and we probably knew almost everyone — now we harvest VCRs, designer jeans, and the latest top-of-the-chart CDs at the mall. Money exchanges as simple as filling the car with gas used to entail interaction with people we knew at least in passing. Now we slide a credit card into a gas pump and fill up without saying a word to anyone.|
— George Kinder, Seven Stages of Money Maturity
It is true, isn't it? Money and monetary transactions are becoming almost entirely impersonal.
Self-checkout lanes are all the rage at Wal-Mart and Albertson's. Even in those retail outlets where cashiers are still the norm, there is no longer any need to so much as hand the cashier a credit card. We simply swipe it ourselves, press the green ACCEPT button, and start thinking about how much fuel is left in the Tahoe. Will it get us home without having to stop anywhere else?
Everyone is aware of the statistics: We spend more when we spend with credit cards (about 12 percent more, so they say). We spend more, and interact less. I suspect there are further unseen repercussions with this. Is overspending even more exacerbated now that plastic is simply a swipe-and-sign affair?
For those few consumers who might ever have felt a pang of guilt when making that large luxury purchase, having to hand over a credit card to an actual human, a cashier, and wondering just what that cashier was thinking . . . well, modern retail technology gives those consumers one less thing to worry about. Not in every situation, of course. But in most.
The "cashless" society was just a prelude. Now it's "cashierless." And it's the next big thing.