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Hungry, please make payment via WeChat app
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Get ready for the future.
That means if you dole out handouts to panhandlers you’d better make sure you have a smartphone with apps such as WeChat and PayPal downloaded.
That’s because in China — a nation with almost 1.4 billion consumers — paying electronically without cash is well on the way to becoming the dominate method of payment.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that it’s becoming common in Beijing for beggars to display cardboard placards with impassioned pleas for help followed by “Recommend using WeChat Pay.”
Welcome to the cashless society where even panhandling is high tech and strictly no cash per se exchanges hands.
To be honest I’m not too sure how many people willing to open their pocketbooks when panhandlers swoop down on them like locust at a 7-Eleven or gas station would still be willing to part with money to someone who is that high tech savvy.
As a side note, I’d venture to guess that the majority of homeless today already own smartphones.
Regardless of whether you have a tendency to give panhandlers money whether they ask for it in cash, electronic payment transfer, treasury bonds, or bitcoin you’d better get ready for the cashless society because — as Gavin Newsom would say — “it’s going to happen whether you like it or not.”
I realized last week when I went to pay for a $2.68 purchase at a convenience store and the clerk — who I have never seen before and was barely out of puberty — gave me a quizzical look when I pulled out a five dollar bill and  he asked whether I was going to pay for the items in cash.
I was about to say something flippant like I intended to use seashells instead until he offered I was the first customer that day — which was his first going solo on the job — to use government-issued currency to make a purchase.
Granted, as I found out during a short chat, he started his shift just 45 minutes earlier. But still, I was the first person to pay him in cash. Now I know how dinosaurs must have felt when every other living thing around them was adjusting to the coming big chill while at the same time thinking the slight dip in temperatures was only a passing fad.
To be honest, the number of checks that I send through the mail has dwindled down to three. One is to pay my mortgage because I refuse to pay the bank holding it $25 to set up an automatic withdraw so they can save money as well as have their money at the stroke of midnight on the first of the month. They even have a surcharge for a payment by phone. The other is PG&E which offers electronic payments from my bank account but, as I was told by the vendor they use, I can only the amount I owe instead of a different payment. I usually like to pay PG&E a straight $100 a month so that I can flatten out my payments without doing it under the program they offer. (Yes my PG&E is often under $100 a month and, no, I don’t have solar panels generating electricity.)
The City of Manteca is the third for two reasons. First, I was unable to vary the payment (by paying more than the balance) as I do with PG&E and I can’t make a payment by phone.
I know, I know. What about online payments? After being told by numerous experts that hacking into phone payment systems is significantly tougher than Internet payment systems because of the tech that allows voice commands to be used, it’s my preferred way to pay bills.
I will admit, however, that some phone payment systems are a tad too much. Either they don’t understand me sometimes or — as was the case with a new firm I purchased an item from — they actually used an electronic voice I had a hard time understanding.
Now that I have a car I can talk to it is becoming more irritating not because the system sometimes has a hard time understanding me when I talk  — just like real humans do — but  when it says “I don’t understand” what I said it has to repeat all of the instructions before it will listen to me again.
As ironic as it may sound, I rarely withdraw cash from my account given two millennials (we use to call them grandkids) that I loaned money are repaying me in cash.
It’s why I’m one of the probably one in every 85 Costco customers that still pays in cash.
Even if I didn’t receive cash for loan payments, I’d probably still carry cash. I can’t bring myself to swipe a debit card for a $2.68 purchase. I know that we’re no longer in the Stone Age as in most cases the user of an ATM card doesn’t get charged for a fee but the store owner does.
And when I go hiking at places around Sonora Pass and elsewhere in the Sierra and on the way home I just have to have something besides the lukewarm water I’ve been drinking for the past eight hours, I don’t want to run the risk that store that is 35 miles from the next store doesn’t take electronic payment.
Besides, the day I walk out of the Panamint Springs Resort general store on the edge of Death Valley in the middle of nowhere and I’m panhandled by someone holding a sign that cheerfully points out payment options are via WeChat or PayPal I can say with a clear conscious that I’m sorry but only I carry cash.