'Total disgrace': Woolworths face boycott threats as more stores go cashless

Woolworths customers are up in arms after more stores transitioned to being fully cashless this week.

A trial was announced for 11 stores across Sydney and Melbourne earlier this year, and was expanded to include a further three stores from Monday.

Five of the original 11 stores to trial cashless payments have been subject to temporary closures, meaning a total of nine Metro locations currently are enforcing mandatory digital payments.

Melbourne’s Bourke Street and Elizabeth Street Metro stores introduced cashless payments in July, and on Monday the Caulfield North and Yarraville stores did the same.

Sydney Metro stores on York and George Street in the city, as well as Manly, on the Northern Beaches, made the transition in July, while Rosebery in Sydney’s south introduced the change on Monday.

Customers have been quick to express their disapproval of the new system, which requires them to pay using the available EFTPOS machines.

Photo shows the front of a Woolworths store.
Woolworths has faced criticism after three more stores went cashless on Monday. Source: AAP

One shopper said she had been loyal to the supermarket for over 20 years and would “shop elsewhere” if Woolworths went cashless at any of its stores.

“Please consider what you are doing. Giving people the choice to pay with cash is and always will be essential in my view,” her post to the retailer’s Facebook page read.

Another customer claimed the change would unfairly disadvantage disabled people, who they said only used cash “as they do not understand when they use a card they are actually spending money”.

“You are a total disgrace going card only. Apart from that a lot of older people only use cash,” they wrote, accusing the supermarket of caring only about its profit.

Someone else labelled Woolworths “the biggest bully out” due to its decision, while another argued it would “lose customers by going cashless”.

“I am boycotting Woolworths and any other business who will not accept my legal tender cash. I vow to never attend a Woolworths store again, and instead I will choose to trade with stores who respect me,” one other shopper declared in a post.

Photo shows a row of self-service checkouts in Woolworths.
Customers of nine Metro stores will be able to checkout with EFTPOS only. Source: AAP

Many also argued it was wrong for the supermarket to refuse cash, as it was “legal tender”.

Woolworths has maintained that the stores subject to the physical cash ban were already receiving predominantly cashless payments.

“We know that cash remains an important payment option for many of our customers and 99.14 per cent of our stores will still accept cash. That is all of our supermarkets and majority of our Metro stores,” a response from a Woolworths employee read.

Woolworths previously said in a statement that the move was designed to provide a more seamless checkout experience “for busy inner-city customers”.

“We want Woolworths Metro to be the easiest place to pick up your next meal, top up your grocery shop or buy your next coffee,” a spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“To help make shopping as seamless as possible for busy inner-city customers we’re trialling card only transactions in a handful of Metro stores in CBD locations.

“We will closely monitor the feedback from our customers as we trial this new offer.”

Dramatic fall in cash payments

A Consumer Payments Survey conducted by the Reserve Bank of Australia found consumer payments made in cash fell to 37 per cent in 2016 from 69 per cent in 2007.

In 2019, just 27 per cent were paying with cash while 63 per cent paid with debit or credit cards.

According to the report, Australian customers continued to switch from paper-based payments like cash and cheques in favour of digital payment methods.

“Many people now tap their cards, or sometimes phones, for small purchases rather than paying in cash,” the RBA report said.

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