Friday, August 5, 2011

EFTPOS and the Cashless Society

Recently in an internet forum, I casually mentioned "EFTPOS machines", and had someone ask what I meant.

EFTPOS is the Work of the Devil. It is the most evil thing in the universe.

Let me explain. I am going to copy-and-paste from the original discussion, because I first need to describe what EFTPOS actually is.

It's a machine that almost every shop in the country has, including the very poor ones, and especially including the ones in the middle of nowhere (they'd go broke if their customers had to find a bank).

I think it stands for Electronic Funds Transfer P(mumble) O(mumble) S(mumble).

You see, in Australia, we are very advanced (and our tyrannical governments, whatever stripe of politics they are, wish to remove the Cash Economy so as to tax everything). So *everyone* has a bank account, which is why I scream with laughter every time the overseas spamsters start with lines like "been refused a bank account?", because the only way you CAN be refused is to be dead.

And all wages get compulsorily paid into bank accounts - I believe it's now actually against the law to do cash payroll. Many of us don't bother going to the bank to take out our wages to pay for stuff: we'll pay for everything from groceries to rent to car repairs to accountants' bills by presenting them with a rectangle of stiff plastic with a magnetic strip associated with our bank account, then key in a secret number (or name) known only to us, and the money magically flies from our bank account to theirs, with about only a 4-second delay before it shows in their account. Once it shows up as safely in their account, the EFTPOS maching prints off a receipt showing the amount of money and the person you paid it to, snd you are free to leave with your cashless goodies.

The problems only begin when the machine handset that the customer is using doesn't say "Approved", but instead says "Declined". Then there's a mad scramble for cash, or other pieces of plastic on other accounts (which I don't have) or the last resort: an embarrassing thinning-out of the goods you plan to take home.

EFTPOS records are legal documents, which means they have to be archived for a minimum seven years. This means that detectives, private investigators and even nosey-parker bosses/neighbours/friends, who have connections in the right places, can work out *exactly* where you were on any occasion where you did an EFTPOS purchase. I love people investigating me because I am by nature provocative, but I hate leaving a traceable trail.

So my solution is to pull out enough cash in a lump-sum on payday to get through, leaving only enough in the bank to cover EFTPOS payments for businesses I deal with (notably rent-collectors) who no longer accept cash at all, then try to pay cash as often as possible. If I can get through a fortnight with no EFTPOS transactions except rent, it means my movements cannot be traced for 13 days, which in my thinking is a bonanza of triumph.

Still, I am incredibly old-fashioned that way - most people haven't had that kind of attitude for fifteen or more years, and youngsters these days can go many months at a time without actually touching currency except for public transport fares. And even trains accept EFTPOS now - buses are the last bastions of civilisation. My superiority over those youngsters? They can be traced at all times, and I can hardly ever be traced. Ha! Take that!

And by the way, yes. That *is* a serious political gripe. The "utopian" cashless society, which is intrinsically privacy-less as well, scares the crap out of me.

Do you want your freedoms eroded? Then leave a traceable trail behind you, that shows the lie in any alibis you give to police, or any medical certificates you give to bosses. Allow a workmate, or even a stranger, on the internet, the ability to check that you were actually where you said you were last Tuesday, or seventy-five miles in the other direction from where you said, buying petrol for a car you don't own or paying for an escort who is the same gender as you.

I don't tend to do anything illegal, or even immoral, any more. My life is unutterably vanilla. However, my inner world, my intellectual life, definitely is not. I just don't-the-hell want total strangers, whether in authority or not, to be be to find out that I bought a different brand of soy milk to the one I usually drink, on a day four and a half years ago. Is that so wrong?

Bring back the Cash Economy! It is one of our basic human rights!


  1. It's true. I never informed my bank when I moved here. But when I applied for a personal loan it turned out that they knew exactly where I was - I'd quite carelessly left electronic traces all over this area.

  2. You've been talking to the Bear, haven't you?

  3. P(mumble) O(mumble) S(mumble) = Point Of Sale

    I usually carry and pay with cash rather than card out of habit... habitual creature that I am

  4. Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who resents leaving electronic trails.