C: European Central bank / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

‘We will not be going cashless’: Dublin soft play centre backtracks on card-only decision after backlash

A children’s indoor soft play centre in Dublin has reversed a decision to go cashless after customers responded to the move with backlash.

In a statement issued to their social media on Thursday, Funky Monkeys in Clarehall apologised to customers, but said the decision was made in “the genuine belief that it was in line with what our customers preferred”.

The soft play franchise quickly discovered that this was not the case, and said the feedback they had received “shows us that our customers are not yet ready for this transition”.

The popular play centre was due to go cashless, a move which would permit card-only payments, on 14 November. That will now not be the case, with the business forced to apologise for their attempt to stop customers paying in cash.

Many customers and parents welcomed the decision online through social media, but some pointed to the wording of the statement – adding that they would “never be ready” for a transition to card only payments, something implied in the statement.

“Correct decision but your customers will NEVER be ready for this transition, not now not ever! The sooner you realise this and educate yourselves with regard to the dangers of a cashless society the better! Well done at least for listening to your customers and backtracking,” user Mags wrote on Facebook underneath the post.

“The right decision in the end,” another user said, adding, “and for the record….we will never be ready”.

One parent highlighted her preference for using cash, stating: “I think this is a good decision, I love kids places and giving my little boy the opportunity to pay in cash to help him understand money. Supermarkets etc don’t afford children the same time and understanding”.

“Thank you for the acknowledgement of your customers,” another person said under the post.

Many commended the business for backtracking on the decision to allow customers to continue to use their cash, but some said the “damage is done” already.

“Sadly, the fact that you even considered this is alarming and would make me use another soft play centre as a result. Damage is done,” one parent said, while others said the statement was “patronising”.

Another user, John, ventured that the banks are the ones who should be answerable, as they make it harder for small businesses to rely on cash.

“The problem here lies with the Banks, they charge small businesses an extortionate amount in fees when depositing cash, some if not all the banks only accept cash on particular days and times, it’s crazy, pressure should be put on the legislators and the central banks just as it was when AIB was going to go cashless,” he said.

Lawyers for Justice Ireland, an initiative of collaborating Irish pro bono lawyers, who have recently been at the forefront of a ‘Cash Rebellion’ encouraging people to continue to use cash, said the reversal from the Dublin business was down to a “powerful collective pushback” from followers.

Hundreds of people responded to voice their objection, the group said, adding that it was “delighted” that the business took on board feedback.

“This demonstrates the power of people when we come together as a collective force,” Lawyers for Justice Ireland said, adding:

“It is not that the people are not “yet ready” for the transition. The people will NEVER accept the drive for a cashless society driven by global corporations and Bankers that will irreversibly erode our fundamental civil and human rights”.

In July, Allied Irish Bank was forced to row back on a decision to make 70 of its branches, mainly in rural areas, cashless, after the move provoked widespread anger.

It came after rural TDs including Mattie McGrath, Danny Healy-Rae, and Michael Collins called for the ‘cashless bank’ development to be scrapped, as they staged a sit-in protest at AIB headquarters on Molesworth Street.

They argued that rural customers were entitled to a full banking service, with Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath saying at the time:

“We are not prepared to stand idly and allow this bailed-out bank to rip the heart and soul out of rural communities.  If done, this action undermines social inclusion and endangers vulnerable customers to the risks of online banking abuse and exploitation.”

Proponents of proposals to go cashless argue that such a system would give banks far too much power. No cash benefits banks in the sense it means no costly ATM network, no salaried tellers, and no cash vans which can be robbed. However, cash still appears to reign as king for a lot of people despite moves by banks to push people towards digital and card payments, as indicated by recent European Central Bank research.

The research proves that the majority of people in Ireland are still of the view that it is important to be afforded the option to pay for many things in cash, even as digital and card payments have become more popular.

Research from October by the Central Bank also showed that Irish customers are returning to cash post-Covid, with larger and more frequent ATM withdrawals being recorded.

Consumer advocates have urged the Government to intervene to ensure Irish shoppers always have the option to pay in cash, with the Consumers Association of Ireland warning that some Irish businesses are starting to refuse cash payments.

Back in December, Dermott Jewell, the association’s senior policy adviser, said that retailers should be told by the Government and regulators that they must always accept cash payments and, short of a referendum, the choice of using cash to make payments needs to be guaranteed for all consumers.

“Ireland has never been a cashless society for the very good reason that cash is hugely popular,” Mr Jewell told the Irish Examiner.

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