The vote by the Board of Supervisors was unanimous, with Vallie Brown, who introduced the legislation, saying it “will go far in ensuring all San Franciscans have equitable access to the city’s economy”.
Brown said she thought it unfair that someone couldn’t buy a sandwich just because they had cash.
Young people, victims of ID theft, immigrants and homeless people are among those who don’t have bank accounts or credit cards, she said.
In many ways, the legislation was an easy call for San Francisco officials, who strive to make life more equitable in a city with an enormous wealth gap.
High-paid tech workers who flocked to San Francisco to work for Facebook, Google, Uber and Airbnb may like the ease of paying by credit card, debit card or smartphone.
But many low-income people, including more than 4000 who sleep on San Francisco’s streets every night, likely don’t have money to sustain bank accounts.
According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 17 per cent of African American households and 15 per cent of Latino households had no bank account.
Some people also prefer to use cash because they don’t want to leave a digital trail of where they have been and what they have bought.
Philadelphia and New Jersey passed similar laws this year. Legislation requiring merchants to accept cash also has been introduced in New York City.
The efforts come after the rollout last year of cashless Amazon Go stores, which require customers to scan an app to enter . Whatever items customers take are automatically tallied in a virtual cart and charged to a credit card.
The retail giant bowed to pressure last month and agreed to accept cash at more than 30 cashless stores.
Amazon opened its first cash-accepting store Tuesday in a high-end New York City shopping mall frequented by office workers.
Anyone who wants to pay with cash will be swiped through the turnstile entrance by employees.
After shoppers grab what they want, an employee will scan the items with a mobile device, take the cash and give customers their change.
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