Businesses That Won’t Take Money

Businesses That Won’t Take Money May 30, 2023

A few months ago, I was coming back from visiting our progeny in Australia and to kill time on the 18-hour flight, I binge-watched on the entertainment system Tulsa King.  This has to be my favorite series from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan.  It has Sylvester Stallone, in surely his best performance, playing Dwight Manfredi, a New York mafioso who, after being released from 25 years in the slammer, is exiled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to start an operation there.

I don’t like the language and some of the sentiments, but my native Oklahoma comes off very well, with the series shot on location and the various Okie communities, from cowboys to Indians, portrayed with sympathy and accuracy.  But what I enjoyed most was its portrayal of Dwight trying to get used to all of the changes in the world that have taken place while he was behind bars for 25 years.

He marvels, for example, to see all the marijuana dispensaries selling in the open what he was used to dealing in secret.

He went into a coffee shop and bought a cup of coffee.  He pulled out his wallet to pay.  The barista said, “Sorry, sir.  We don’t take cash.”

Dwight was incredulous.  “You don’t take money?”

“Just credit cards.”

“But I don’t got a credit card!”  So Dwight turned to the man waiting behind him in line.  “You got a credit card?”


“If you put my coffee on your card, I’ll give you twenty bucks cash.”


“Hey, thanks, man!”

After the final episode of Tulsa King, my plane landed at Los Angeles.  I had eight hours before my connection to Oklahoma City.  I thought I’d get a cup of coffee.

The man ahead of me in line at the coffee shop bought a cup of coffee.  He pulled out his wallet to pay.  The barista said, “Sorry, sir.  We don’t take cash.”

He was incredulous.  “You don’t take money?”

“Just credit cards.”

“But I don’t have a credit card!”

So I said, “I’ll put your coffee on my card, and you can give me the cash.”  (I didn’t hold out for twenty bucks.  I’m not a Mafioso.  I had change.)

“Hey, thanks, man!”

Once again, life imitates art, though it seldom does so in such close temporal proximity.

I thought of that experience when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Paper Money Diehards Refuse to Fold [behind a paywall] with the deck, “Many businesses take payment only by card or phone, but a pro-cash movement is urging people to ‘Resist! Defy! Don’t comply!’”

The refusal of businesses to take cash–as a way to eliminate having to give change, to prevent theft, and to streamline record keeping–is a growing trend, accelerated by the COVID fear of infection.  The trend has gone further in Europe and Australia.  In the UK, according to the article, only 15% of transactions involve people handing over cash.

But some people are objecting, insisting on the value of paying with cash money.  Some worry that electronic payments can be a way for the government to monitor its citizens’ spending.  Some suspect a globalist conspiracy to take over the economy.

Apologists for cash say, in the words of the article, that it “provides freedom, anonymity and security.”  Not to mention preventing going into debt.

My concern is that on every piece of American paper currency is this statement:  “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”

“For all debts”!  The cash is “legal tender”!

Tender means “something that may be offered in payment.” And if it is “legal,” that means that the ability to “tender” that note in payment of a debt is established by law.

There must be a statutory basis for that language.  Which means, unless I’m missing something, that it is illegal to refuse to accept cash.

That guy in front of me in the line whose money wasn’t good enough for the barista should have called the airport police!


Illustration:  Tulsa King poster by Paramount, Fair use,

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