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Is it curtains down for cash?

If Covid has taught us anything (and let’s face it, it’s taught us a lot - namely that home-schooling alongside home working lends itself to a new set of life challenges) it’s that we don’t physically need cash in either our hands or our wallets in order to get stuff done.

In the words of the wonderful, but slightly unhinged Liza Minelli, “money makes the world go around,” - which is all well and good, but not if it’s going to make you sick as a parrot.

So, what does this mean for the festival industry?

2018 and 2019 were breakthrough years for cashless festivals across the UK and Europe

Fortunately, 2018 and 2019 were breakthrough years for cashless festivals across the UK and Europe, according to the guys and gals at Event Genius. During this period, more festivals than ever looked to adopt cashless payment systems, whether using RFID (wristbands pre-loaded with payment information) or pre-purchased credits downloaded on to a smart phone. Not only do these solutions allow festival goers to spend less time queuing and more time enjoying music, but they also help to reduce the hygiene risks involved in handling cash - a safer option all round. Whilst we’re on the subject of germs, here’s a fun fact for you - studies have shown the flu virus can survive for up to 17 days on bank notes. If that’s not enough to make you drop the dosh, we don’t know what is....bleurgh.

And there are huge benefits for caterers and traders too - no more counterfeit banknotes or skewed or inaccurate sales figures. After all, cash relies heavily on human input and with the best will in the world (and aptitude for maths) mistakes do happen. Cash transactions are also more likely to be exploited for the purposes of theft, or ‘skimming.’ And have you ever actually physically cashed up a till? It’s a form of torture....especially if someone hands you a gazillion pieces of shrapnel at the end of the day and those little plastic bank bags are equally annoying when you can’t open them...anyway, we digress, the point is - cash has had its day.

And let’s face it, does anyone actually carry cash anymore? We rest our case...

Covid may have effectively seen off any developments in cashless systems in 2020, but the good news is the foundations have already been laid to take cashless systems forward into 2021.

So, what’s the problem? We hear you ask. Just give them a wristband and off they go! If only it were that simple my festi-friend...

Having a decent WiFi infrastructure is really the lynchpin of any cashless system

Cashless isn’t without its challenges. For some inexplicable reason, unbeknownst to anyone but Bill Gates and possibly China, 4G just doesn’t seem to work when there are a lot of people gathered in one place. There is probably some conspiracy theory to explain this, or it might just be because there are limited airwaves and lots of people using data. Our bets are on the latter. Having a decent WiFi infrastructure is really the lynchpin of any cashless system, so unless you’re attending Glasto or one of the other big budget festivals who can afford to construct their own temporary network and masts (lucky you), there’s a good chance you’ll spend the entire festival saying, “I’m just waiting for a connection!” with a slightly maniacal smile on your face.

This might not be sooo bad if the cost of this wasn’t passed on to traders. Speaking of which, traders also have to pay between 1-3% to payment providers for taking card payments. It may not sound like much per transaction, but if you add that up over a whole weekend’s takings?...well, let’s just say it's more than we spend on compostable cups.

it’s a sad fact that many events and festivals are struggling to stay afloat.

But what about the wristbands? Festival goers love a wristband!

Yes, they do. But it’s not always the safest option for the trader. And we’re not talking about hygiene-safe. In these times of uncertainty when we barely know what day it is, let alone what’s around the corner business-wise, it’s a sad fact that many events and festivals are struggling to stay afloat. This means that if a festival uses a wristband system and said festival subsequently goes bust, there’s very little the trader can do to recuperate their losses. Fortunately, the peeps at NCASS (The Nationwide Caters Association) who represent independent caters across the UK has been working with the festival industry to introduce a Cashless Code of Conduct to protect against third party ringfencing of cashless payments. It’s a serious concern with some pretty scary ramifications for festival traders.

So, what’s to do?

Well, at the risk of blowing our own trumpets, we’re a smart bunch here at The Mixing Jug. We’ve made sure our EPOS systems connect seamlessly to both 4G or WiFi, ensuring smooth delivery of cashless transactions and our delicious drinks menu. We spent this summer testing this out at Cloud Nine Glamping and we can report back that no maniacal smiling at the customer whilst we all waited for a connection was involved. Hurrah to that. I mean, we still smiled at the customer, just not in that way. With this in mind, we’re hoping that future festivals and events really start to invest in site-wide WiFi - it’s not just for Glastonbury, guys! It’s kind of a given these days - and in this era of Instagrammable pics and instant uploads, it keeps punters happy too.

We should also be doing more to protect that precious bandwidth reliability.

About the WiFi - as traders, whilst we think it's fair to pay for additional services... high premiums for WiFi is detrimental to our cashless progress as it puts many traders off. At the very least we want to pay a nominal sum. That’s not us being unreasonable - it’s just common sense. We should also be doing more to protect that precious bandwidth reliability. We're happy for you to log us in to your network so we won't be bandying passwords around like we’re handing out sweets. This then gives us the option of using - god forbid - our own 4g as the contingency. Make it easier for us, and we’ll make it easier for you and your ticketholders. That’s a promise.

And whilst we’re at it, some savvy events implement their own site-wide EPOS systems for traders and whilst we totally get why – we’re EPOS geeks ourselves remember… we rely heavily on our system which is fully integrated into our back office, inventory and most critically our customer order management… you know, not getting almonds mixed up with avocados and that kinda stuff… our customers don’t take well to getting their morning coffee wrong. Seriously though, trying to bolt on another system to our own is like trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. It ain’t pretty and it makes it really difficult for us to provide the outstanding service you’ve come to expect from us. So please just don’t do it. OK? Okaaaay?

Right then...we’re feeling better now we’ve got that off our chests. If the high-street can manage it, surely other industries can too. There’s an inevitability to all this, so we might as well just keep pushing this forward to its natural conclusion.

Cash - you’ve had your time in the spotlight. Time to take a bow and exit stage right.

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