Bringing Progress to a Halt

Have you seen this ad for VISA? It depicts a busy cafeteria as a smoothly running assembly line, complete with the iconic “Powerhouse” as background music. Well, it’s all running smoothly until some unfortunate bastard has the audacity to attempt to pay for his lunch with cash, at which point everything comes to a crashing halt, the music becomes discordant, plates go flying, and people give him a collective dirty look.

The moral of the story is, of course, that only morons would hold up the progress of Western Civilization by using an outdated concept like paying cash. And if you choose to do so, you will be held up to the ridicule that you so richly deserve.

I hate that commercial. But on Saturday I had precisely the opposite experience, and I think it was perhaps just as bad.

My family rarely goes to “The Original Pancake House“. It’s not that the food isn’t good, far from it. It’s just that on a good day you will have a half-hour wait to be seated. On a bad day, the line goes out into the parking lot, and you can be facing a wait of more than an hour. That’s not an attractive option with small children.

However, I was out with my kids yesterday, and my daughter asked for french toast for lunch. Since it was after noon, I thought it could be worth a try. We got seated after a bearable wait, and placed our orders. In my case, I decided to try one of their signature dishes, the Apple Pancake, for the first time.

Oh. My. God. For one thing, it’s beautiful. It arrives at the table sizzling from the oven, in a cloud of pungent apple-cinnamon steam. And it is extraordinarily tasty.

After we were stuffed, I picked up the tab and, debit card in hand, asked the server if I paid her or the cashier. She smiled sweetly.

“You can pay me, but I’m afraid we’re one of those places that doesn’t take plastic.”

Oh really. I had a five dollar bill in my wallet, and I haven’t carried a checkbook since the early ’90s. I imagine I had a stunned and suddenly desperate look on my face.

“There’s a 7-Eleven across the way with an ATM, if that’s helpful” the server suggested.

Which is why I left my kids at our table and hoofed it to 7-Eleven, in the rain, crossing Barbur Boulevard without a signal, twice, so I could get enough cash to pay our bill. I briefly considered just letting them keep one of the children instead, but then you have that whole Sophie’s Choice thing, and I would have had to explain it to the wife when I got home.

Which brings me back to that stupid VISA commercial. Although I hate it, and I hate the idea behind it, I think that in this day and age taking the other extreme is just as foolish. Just as I don’t expect things to crash to a standstill when I choose to pay with cash, I also don’t expect the wheels to fall off the bus when I pull out a debit card.

While I wouldn’t like to see them change their menu at all, I might suggest that the time has come for the Original Pancake House to take the plunge and get itself a card reader.

9 Comments so far

  1. mike (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    i couldn’t agree more. it’s just unacceptable in this day and age. i know they pay a small fee per transaction, but so what. just bump the price of everything by a dime.

    it’s especially galling when restaurants, such as dot’s or junior’s, don’t take cards. with a decent sized party, you can easily rack up a triple digit tab. but they only take cash or checks. who even carries a checkbook anymore? refusing cards is not some indie, stick-it-to-the-corporations statement. it’s just lazy. and it costs them business. there are severl times a year when i avoid no-card places, even if i’m in the mood for their food, because i don’t want to deal with the hassle.

  2. Jon (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 2:27 pm

    Agreed. The Anaheim branch of The Original Pancake House also does not take plastic, however, they did have the fortitude to put a third party ATM in the lobby, which saved me when I was in your exact situation.

    I am mean seriously, who does this? This franchise has over 100 locations! I actually make a point of telling places that don’t take cards (like the occasional food places at the mall) that they are not getting my business due to their cheap stupidity.

    How much does a Merchant Account actually cost? Not much, I actually checked. It’s especially irritating when a busy place like the OPH can obviously afford it and chooses not to.

  3. Murray (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

    Are you serious!?!? It’s 2007! Get with the program OPH! I’ve never been to the Portland location and now I never will.

    I never carry cash with me, much less my checkbook. Also, why do people still pay for groceries with checks?

  4. Betsy (unregistered) on February 4th, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

    Well, the description of the Apple Pancake lured us in today for a late breakfast. And thanks to your warning, we were smart enough to come fortified with cash…!

  5. dieselboi (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 7:54 am

    Yeah, there are still a few places out there that don’t take cards and one is usually surprised by it. For the longest time, Montage didn’t take card, but they did have an overpriced ATM. I wonder how much they were making off every transaction on the ATM? I carry around cash when were going out because I hate doing the whole “$7.50 on this card” thing. I think it gets a little rude to the waitress when a large group throws out 5 cards at the end of the night. Also, when I’m buying drinks at the club, I rarely give over my card. I have seen people order drinks on other people’s cards and get away with it.

  6. Nolando (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 8:35 am

    I detest that ad, too, ‘cuz they should really show what happens when invariably in the grocery store the elderly person ahead of you pulls out a checkbook – THAT grinds civilization and this spinning globe to a halt.

  7. pdxrocket (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 9:52 am

    ATM machine in the lobby, but not accepting cards. I think this is a good reason NOT to frequent a business. I heard somewhere that places make a killing off those ATM machines…gives me a good reason to add them to the “banned” list.

  8. divebarwife (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 11:47 am

    The business making money off of an ATM? It depends. A single location mom and pop – they probably had to purchase the machine for several thousand dollars – and are getting anywhere from 80-100% of the fee charged – so they’ll make a decent profit but only after they’ve paid off the machine which depending on traffic can take on average 2-5 years.

    If it’s a bigger company, they’re not paying for the machine, they’re not paying for service – the ATM company is providing it all at their cost – but then are keeping a majority of the fee.

    And the ATM company will by the way – encourage the retailer to NOT accept cards…

    So yes – they might make a couple hundred bucks in a month, but they are saving probably close to a grand in the fee charged for credit cards.

    I don’t like it – I use my card everywhere, but for a smaller business it does make sense financially (provided they don’t lose customer because of it!)

  9. Kai Jones (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

    I dunno, seems to me the person who owns a business has the right to decide what to take in payment.

    Just as you and I have the right to decide where to spend our money.

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