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Monopoly Discards Money

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On the way to work I heard on a news station that Monopoly was going cashless. The game will be available with a debit card pay system instead of the traditional colored money we've all used for over half a century. I couldn't help but think that this was somehow a reflection of our society in that we've all grown used to not using paper money in our purchases.
When I got home, I found the article at USA Today (here) that explained:
"We started looking at what Monopoly would look like if we designed it today," said Chris Weatherhead, a U.K.-based spokesman for Hasbro Inc., which makes the best-selling board game. "We noticed consumers are using debit cards, carrying around cash a lot less."
So they decided to make the Monopoly Here and Now version cashless as well as some other changes to reflect today's culture.
This got me thinking about money and how it has been slowly disappearing from our wallets. I've worked in retail/wholesale since 1991 and have noticed that the biggest changes in forms of pay over the years would be:
  1. a lot less checks,
  2. a lot less cash, and
  3. a whole lot more credit/debit card slips.
Back in 1991, it was typical to have two or three credit cards slips, 20 to 30 checks, and about 50 percent of the total sales done in cash. Today, I'd say 30 percent would be cash sales, 65 percent would be credit card sales, and only 5 percent would be checks. Why the change in people's behavior? I think it's a combination of factors. Merchants would rather have cash than credit cards, but they would rather have credit cards over checks. But, I think there's something else driving the change, too.
I read somewhere that the reason credit cards/debit cards were pushed heavily into use was because there simply wasn't enough cash in the country for all Americans. Can you imagine what would happen if all Americans went to the bank on Friday and cashed their paychecks instead of depositing them? Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you used cash for a purchase over $100? Do you get paid with a check or does your employer deposit your pay directly? I've gone weeks on end without even looking at my pay-stubs. It was over a month before I realized I was given a pay raise. Cash? What's that?
But, what does this mean to the government and the bankers? Why is the system the system we have (for it is surely by design and not by accident)? Our employer pays us by direct deposit which means the bank simply subtracts a couple hundred ticks from their pile and adds that amount to our pile. No money, no cash, no wealth. Just credit. We show up and work our 40, 50, or 60 hour work weeks. At the end, a pile of credits gets dumped into our accounts so we can get what we need to survive for another week on this planet. Week in; week out. Over and over again. I wonder how this system differs from that of communist China or the old USSR?
I got off track there. The point was that there just simply wasn't enough money for all of us to have some at the same time so the bankers and the government devised a way for payments to be made without having to transfer all that cash around. Credit was the answer. Electronic money... the ultimate in fiat currency! What caused this was inflation. What in the beginning took a dollar to pay may now take 20 dollars or more. Eventually, the value of the dollar was driven down so far that there wasn't enough cash in circulation for everyone to use. To make matters worse, a large chunk of our currency was being held overseas by other countries as reserve currency. With the increased use of credit cards, debit cards, and checks, very little of the money we use actually exists in the form of cash. Their house of cards stands a little while longer.
This is something for you to think about the next time you get your direct deposit slip from your employer. For fun, you could go to your bank and ask them to show you your money you have on deposit with them. I'm betting they won't. They may even ask you to leave.


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