The beginning of the end for fiat currency in Singapore?

Green colored currency

This came as quite a shock to me the other day when I was shopping for hiking pants. Why hiking pants? I find that hiking pants/shirts are the best for travelling in S.E. Asia because they are light, easy to pack and dries quickly whether from sweat, rain or a washing. So instead of the branded lines like Columbia that retail over $100 Sgd per piece, I opted to check out the “no name” brands which are about $30 Sgd.

My “go to” chain of stores when I’m looking for sports stuff in Singapore goes by the name of Decathlon. They carry a lot of “no name” brand goods as well as branded goods at good prices. Anyways, I heard a new branch opened up in a mall named Velocity @ Novena, which is really close to where I am and I needed to be as time efficient as possible. Check out my post Bangkok Dangerous – a temporary relocation experience if you wanna know why, it’s kinda funny now but not so much while it was happening, lol.

When I arrived at the Decathlon store in Velocity @ Novena, I found it underwhelming, I was expecting the usual huge shop with lots of stuff in it. This branch was claustrophobic-ly small, ok maybe not that small but close. Anyways, they had what I was looking for and after trying it on, I went to pay. Here comes the WTH moment…

So I’m standing behind this lady, probably looking as confused as I looked, because there wasn’t a cashier or cash register at the counter. There were employees walking around but none came to collect the money. So she waved an employee down and he came to assist. So apparently the whole system is self service and if you want a bag, you’ll have to pay for one and then ask someone to get you one. I don’t have an issue with the self service system as I’m getting pretty used to it. Singapore is highly into the self service/pay systems. Almost all fast food chains have a self order/pay system, many restaurants have ipad (or equivalent) menu order systems. The local grocery store near me only has self check out booths with machines that collect payment, although there is still a cashier at each kiosk to help. Same with convenience stores, the cashier rings you up and you shove your cash into a machine. What I have an issue with, is the “we are cashless” stance that this particular Decathlon is taking. When it was my turn, the Decathlon employee was still there watching as I scanned my item and when I handed him the cash, he pointed at the sign. I asked him, “seriously, you don’t take cash?” in which he replied, “yes, we don’t take cash.” Well, nothing I could do about it, plus I was in a rush and had to finish packing and catch a flight so I charged the pants to my credit card. Thankfully, Decathlon isn’t a store that charges an extra 3% if you use a credit card. If you’re not aware of this practice it’s pretty frustrating the first few times.

Now someone correct me if I’m wrong but “this note is legal tender” printed on fiat currency means that business’ must accept it as a form of payment, right? Well, that’s the way I understand it. Apparently, this isn’t the case in Singapore? OH, another thing I’d better mention, when it comes to paper money, in Singapore, you can use the Brunei dollar as equivalent to the Singapore dollar. I found out the hard way years ago when I received change in Brunei currency and caused a bit of a ruckus, lol. Back to this issue of business’ not taking cash. Since my purchase at Decathlon, I’ve asked some Singaporeans for their thoughts. One person vehemently defended the right of business’ not to take cash citing that it’s the government of Singapore’s push for a cashless society and that even the hospitals are telling people to pay at the 7-11 if they insist on paying cash. Wait, what? Really? I haven’t followed up on that but a few others believe, as I do, that it is illegal for business’ doing business in Singapore to not to take Singapore currency. These people have suggested I lodge a complaint with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and when I asked, “why me,” they said it’s precisely because I’m a foreigner that I should be the one to complain. I don’t understand that logic but I’m probably not going to lodge a complaint since (in my opinion) it won’t matter one bit. Equally confusing to me is that, of all the people I asked, the majority just didn’t care.

I think a cashless society would be just one Mt. Gox hack away from anarchy and I’m of the opinion that when the masses are being herded in one particular direction, it’s not gonna be too good for the herd. Of course I’m no expert and I don’t know if cashless business’ are going dominate the shopping landscape or not but I do know that the push for going cashless is real and relatively quick. There is an increasing amount of crypto atm’s popping up in more malls in Singapore and I’ve seen establishments accepting crypto, which may or may not be a good thing. Have a read of my post, Funan DigitaLife Mall’s rebirth. What’s the big deal? Something you’ll want to think about for more info. If you’re looking for crypto atm’s they maybe hard to spot as they are not heavily advertised. I plan to compile a list with pictures and detailing what services are offered at these atm’s in the near future. It’s on my to do list, lol.

So what do you think about a cashless society and as a tourist being forced to use online payment (potential loss of anonymity assuming your particular online funds is accepted) or use your foreign credit card (potential additional fees). Thankfully, it’s not that prevalent now but it’s happening. I kinda feel sorry for the smaller ‘mom and pop’ shops that will need to “subscribe” to all the services necessary to make them cashless and what will happen to the extra 3% increase that a lot of business charge to the consumer for using credit cards? All those fees are inevitably gonna be added to the purchase price, that sucks.

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