King cash or preferred plastic? Telecoms blackout sparks debate over a cashless future

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Bright and airy, even on a hot, humid day, the size of the lunch crowd varies at the iconic Tarek’s Cafe in North Halifax.

Specializing in Mediterranean cuisine for decades, regular customers know they’ll be getting a great meal.

They also know not to bother to bring their debit or credit cards: the restaurant only accepts cash.

“Cash is king,” says owner Tarek Kostek. “Like what happened the other day: no one is carrying cash. They can’t go anywhere. They were stuck.”

For telecommunications giant Rogers, Friday’s network outage was a nightmare scenario, affecting Canadians from coast to coast.

Communication and banking services have been cut for millions, with fears that even some 9-11 calls will go through.

Ordered yesterday by the CRTC to explain what happened, Rogers pledged to reimburse customers for lost service.

“I think Friday was pretty scary for consumers,” business professor Ed McHugh told CTV Atlantic on Wednesday. You go to buy something and you are told that you cannot use your card. 60 percent of purchases in Canada today are [paid by] credit or debit card,” McHugh said.

While the disruption has undoubtedly been costly for businesses, McHugh says we are moving ever closer to a cashless society, which may hurt some more than others.

“If we look at who is using cash, it’s people who are lower on the social demographic scale,” he said, adding that young people are more likely to rely entirely on plastic money and digital, while older people tend to carry cash, at least for emergencies. .

Shoppers at the Mill Cove Plaza parking lot had mixed opinions on the matter on Wednesday.

“My son called me to tell me [about the outage]”Darlene Mosher said. “I didn’t know that. He couldn’t use his card and he couldn’t work during the day.”

Tim Green said his emergency money in his wallet didn’t last long when the machines broke down because he needed gas.

“I usually try to keep a hundred dollar bill in there, and after last Friday, of course, with debits going down, it was spent,” Green said.

“I carry money now. I keep something somewhere I can access it,” Cory Stone said.

Pensioner Tom Courtney says he also tries to carry some cash in case he needs it.

“It really freaks me out when I think about it,” Courtney says. “We go there every day, day to day, just tapping on your Visa or your Interac, and all of a sudden, if you don’t have it, it makes you realize how dependent we are on the computer industry.”

Back at Tarek, where cash is still king, the discussion is largely academic, though he tries to accommodate customers who may not be in the know.

“I have an ATM, but hardly anyone uses it because it costs $1.50,” Kostek says.

And depending on the day, it may be better to have at least that in your pocket, rather than on a card that doesn’t work.

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