How cash reigns supreme at Barnsley Market – despite data showing UK use in free fall

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aT Barnsley Market, the talk of the Cashless Society this week is enough to put Steve Markham off of his sausage sandwiches.

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“I work hard for my money,” says the 56-year-old as he settles down with the dad he bought from Kay’s Cafe. “So I love being able to see it when I’m spending it. It gives you a sense of its worth.”

He stops to bite his butt. “I guess I sound quite old school,” he decides.


New data shows the UK is increasingly turning its back on cash, suggesting that the days of notes are numbered; That the era of coinage is approaching.

According to research by Machine Operators Link, people are going to ATMs less and not withdrawing as much when they do. It estimates that daily withdrawals across the country have dropped by £100 million since 2019. In London and Edinburgh, in particular, cash has become a thing of the past. Contactless cards and digital apps are rapidly taking its place.

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Yet in Britain’s smaller towns and least affluent communities, such a revolution may meet some years of resistance, it seems.

In places like Barnsley – the 38th most deprived area in England – cash remains king.

“Paying on the card devalues ​​what you earn,” says Markham, a medical assistant with the NHS. “You can’t budget with it. With money, you go out with £20 and you know where it’s going – a coffee here, a drink there. With a card, it runs away from you You look at your statement a few days later and: ‘How much?!'”

Steve Markham and Don Boldock

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Steve Markham and Don Boldock

The wisdom gained is that this attitude is – to use Markham’s own words – old school.

According to this theory, cash has largely become the preserve of an older generation that is still skeptical of the technology and touches the distance of a time when placing a stash of notes under a floor was a stash of candles in a cupboard. Just like keeping the box was considered prudent. .

But while traders in the city market believe there is a certain age division on card usage, it is not quite as clear cut as some would suggest.

“It’s definitely the big guys [who use cash] But it is wrong to say that young people don’t,” says 25-year-old Holly Apsey, who runs Daddy Beanz Coffee Shop here. “They do. Or, at least, they do at Barnsley. Maybe we’re stuck in our own way?”

His partner Johnny Morris tells a story from last year when he was managing the market’s bar, a place serving craft beer and artisan gin, with a terrace overlooking the main square. In the weeks after the first coronavirus lockdown ended, he tried to implement a card-only policy to reduce transmission risk.

“And people just weren’t doing it,” says the 36-year-old. “They were kicking, like: ‘It’s legal tender, take my money!'”

what did he do? “what could I do?” He shrinks. “Realized it wouldn’t work and took their money.”

Holly Apsey and Johnny Morris

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Holly Apsey and Johnny Morris

The wisdom gained is also that the pandemic probably caused a gradual shift towards digital payments. In the era of Covid-19, suddenly swapping coins and notes felt like a health hazard. But, again, on the ground in this South Yorkshire town, the theory comes with a caveat.

“The cash is on the rise again for us in the summer,” Morris says. “It needs more than a pandemic to change people’s habits.”

Sue Brown could be proof of that, as she herself believes.

The 66-year-old runs Pats for Pants, the market’s famous underwear stall, with a proudly displayed catchphrase next to the name – “Badda is beautiful”.

Brown has worked here for 50 years: first as an assistant and now as a manager. But in 2018 itself, this place got a card reader.

“None of our clients ever asked to pay that way and I didn’t see the point of being involved in all of that,” she says as she arranges a display of winter vests and thermal shorts. “It was a hassle. Why bother with it?”

He got one when the market underwent a £150m redevelopment, but still most of his sales were done in cash. He doesn’t have any trucks with suggestions to go cashless in the future. “not in me” [stall]’It won’t,’ she announced.

Tim Bentley and Phil Ashton

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Tim Bentley and Phil Ashton

Phil Ashton is less assertive. He runs Dave and Dave Fruit & Veg (neither owners are called Dave), and, while 90 percent of his customers still pay the traditional way, he’s slowly seeing a change. Just yesterday, he had a teenager who pulled out his card for a 39p transaction.

“New on me, that,” exhales the 59-year-old. “But it’s the way the world is going. For us as a business, cash or card, it doesn’t matter. Card is probably better because it means you don’t have to manage money and you have Those aren’t security issues, but I don’t see an end to cash any time soon.”

Why not? “Many people still want to use it,” he says. “It’s been with us for centuries, right? It’s not going to change overnight.”


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