Customers should still have the right to make cash payments

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/11 17:58:41

As a frequent user of my mobile phone, I have grown used to buying everything via mobile payment apps. However, some recent experiences have changed my supportive attitude toward this trend.

After placing my order for a 16 yuan ($2) wonton recently at a restaurant located in downtown Shanghai's Jing'an district, I handed over two 10 yuan notes to the cashier, who looked at the cash with an embarrassed smile, refusing to accept it and asking me to pay via mobile apps.

Although I was surprised and frustrated, I decided not to challenge him so that people queuing behind me wouldn't complain. I didn't have a cent in my WeChat Wallet, but luckily my friend paid for me.

At another restaurant on another day, the cashier "suggested" that I pay via a mobile app, as she had no change for me. I was left with only two choices: lose my change or pay with my phone.

Thanks to recent Chinese technological innovations, mobile payments are now widely accepted in most cities across China, where as long as you have a smartphone you can survive without any cash or credit card.

All you have to do is to make sure your phone is charged up and your payment apps topped off so that QR codes can be scanned. With that, you can buy almost everything in China including food, clothes, haircuts, accommodations, parking fees, road tolls and tourism with Tencent's WeChat Wallet or Alibaba's Alipay, the two most popular mobile payment methods in China. Even roadside vendors and subway beggars now use QR codes.

There is no doubt that, for customers and vendors, mobile payments are more convenient and efficient than cash or credit card. Customers no longer must swipe a card, enter a six-digit password and sign their names on a receipt, nor carry their ATM card or cash in their wallets.

Vendors too can better and faster serve their customers during rush hours like lunch. More importantly, they will have a more clear review of their revenue stream at the end of the day. More and more Chinese are falling in love with this technology.

However, this should not be an excuse for vendors to refuse cash payments. It is a right for Chinese citizens to choose any reasonable payment method they wish. Moreover, millions of elderly Chinese as well as children do not use smartphones or know how to operate payment apps.

Should customers who do not use app technology really have to switch from restaurant to restaurant until they find one that accepts cash? I saw a cashier of a supermarket get upset about a little old lady who didn't have a mobile phone and who had to count her coins very slowly. That is straight-up age discrimination!

Another aspect of mobile payments that concerns me is the privacy issue. To attract more customers and users, many vendors and apps encourage people to make mobile payments by offering discounts or coupons, during which users may have to give away their private information, like their name, photos or mobile phone number.

The tactics to obtain our private data are becoming more sneaky by the day; many average Chinese users of these apps have no idea that they are signing away their privacy. Indeed, mobile payment apps are a double-edged sword. We are enjoying the efficiency and convenience it brings, yet we are also losing our privacy and exposing ourselves to potential crimes such as fake QR-codes and telecom-fraud.

If a store does not allow us to pay with legal currency, customers should be encouraged to report it.

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

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