Sunday, May 23, 2010

Apple's Cash Screwup

So something that struck both myself and my family recently on the news (video here) was the story about a woman who had slowly saved up $600 in cash in order to purchase herself an iPad which was to be her first computer. She was turned down at the counter and told that to purchase an iPad one must use either credit or debit. Cash was not accepted.

When prompted, Apple simply pointed to a line in their purchase policy. Customers may only purchase an iPad using debit or credit and they are limited to two iPads per customer. According to many, this approach is designed to foil those who would buy up fifty or sixty iPads with cash, smuggle them overseas, and sell them at ridiculous markups. As my father pointed out while pulling out a one dollar bill, Apple's policy can't possibly be legal. Written right on the money we use everyday is the phrase, "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private." Let me highlight a few words there, "legal tender" for "all" debts. Something doesn't quite mesh there in my opinion. However, if you watched the video link above to the end you already know that according to the U.S. Treasury Dept it is legal to not accept cash.

Needless to say this is a strange development in our economy, where what is essentially imaginary currency is accepted where physical money is not. This brings two extreme situations to mind.

One, the idylic, utopian future portrayed in Star Trek where credit is the only form of currency. Money is obsolete, (much to the dismay of Khan) and greed is not as prevalent.

Two, a world of economic slavery where you must present deeply personal information in order to do any buying or selling. Orwellian in privacy and reminiscent of some of the events in Revelations.

It isn't just big corporations turning away from the greenbacks. People are started to expect cash to be rejected in some cases. Just last weekend when I was filming the Kennebec Dance Centre show I recall a woman asking if she had to write a check or if cash would be fine. (On the other end of the spectrum we had a woman ask if she could use debit). It's fascinating really how many ways humanity has come up with to organize wealth. Much of currency nowadays simply zips along through the tubes of the internet, hardly ever being used as actual cash. I've also always found it amusing that many bills are produced using the leftover scraps from that most American of apparel, blue jeans.

Apple did reverse their no-cash policy before the evening was over on the very day the story broke. They shipped the woman a free iPad and issued their apologies.

I don't know about you, but it kind of makes me want to be a pirate and only trust in my shiny doubloons. That or barter and pay the bills with chicken.