Monday, January 18, 2016

Rant: Food Truck, No Cash?

We don't accept your cash. What???

This past weekend, I attended a convention at the Westin Waterfront and several food trucks showed up for the attendees. On Sunday, the two food trucks at the hotel included the Baja Taco Truck and Clover.  I wanted to order something at Clover however I realized that they didn't accept cash! You can only use credit or debit cards, even if only buying a drink that costs under $2. I chose not to buy anything from the truck as I only wanted to use cash.

Though I've visited a couple of he Clover restaurants during the past year,  this was the first time I had visited their food truck in the last year. I was unaware that they had changed their policy in May 2015 so that their food truck no longer accepted cash, though their brick & mortar stores still accept cash. In a blog post, they stated their business was over 80% credit and then listed other reasons they believed justified the change.

First, they said there were security issues with a food truck having a bunch of cash. However, as they accept cash at their brick & mortars, the chance of robbery still exists. Second, they state it takes a lot of work, basically an hour to count and deposit the cash. However, again as they accept cash at their brick & mortars, their managers still have to spend that extra time counting and depositing their cash. Third, they allege a fear of employee theft, miscounts, or errors, which still is a problem for them as they still the cash at their brick & mortars. With credit cards, there is also still a potential problem of theft of credit card numbers so they aren't preventing all theft issues. Finally, they state running out of change can be a hassle. If so many people are using credit cards, then why is this such an issue? If you start the day with a proper amount of change, it should't be an issue.

I see a very inconsistent policy here, where the complaints about cash at food trucks can be applied just as well to their brick & mortars. If those concerns were so important, then their policy should be applied across the board, but it isn't. Why aren't there similar concerns for the employees who work at the brick & mortars?  Why accept cash at all? It doesn't make sense to me.

The no-cash policy eliminates some potential customers, anyone who doesn't own a credit or debit card. This could be seen as class discrimination, making it impossible for some of the lowest economic classes  to avail themselves of the Clover food truck. For example, a homeless person who had a handful of cash couldn't buy anything at their food truck. According to a 2014 Gallup Poll,  about 29% of Americans do not have a credit card, a number that has been rising over the years.  

That concern was raised in the comments on the Clover blog post and the founder, Ayr Muir, stated "I never thought of it that way. I hope we’re not excluding anybody with this policy." There was no apparent follow-up and I didn't see any indications that Clover was trying to address this issue. For a community business to exclude certain members of that community, about 29% of that community, seems very wrong.  

From the blog post comments, it was also clear that some people objected to the policy and wouldn't patronize the Clover food truck any more. This might only constitute a small group, but it is lost revenue for Clover. And it has alienated some of those people who won't now recommend others to Clover. As the policy is still around, it is apparent Clover doesn't see a significant problem by turning away those customers as well as the 29% of Americans who lack credit cards.

They lost my business this weekend. It wasn't a big loss, definitely less than $10, but I might not ever go to a Clover truck again. And I won't be telling my friends to go there either.


MC said...

I feel the same way -- a new bar just opened in my neighborhood with a no-cash policy, and another one across town is changing to no-cash. I hope this is not a trend in food service. I agree with you that it reeks of classism and I don't want to be a part of it. Yes, I understand that handling cash can be a hassle, but so potentially is any accommodation a business makes in an effort to be inclusive and welcoming to a diverse patron base. I still expect them to make the effort!

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