Several businesses in Oakland, have made the decision to stop accepting cash payments as the California city battles a spike in reported robberies and burglaries.

“We’d keep getting robbed for about $50, and the cost of fixing the door was more,” Haemi Lee, an employee at Oakland’s Cafe Umami, said of the problem, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle last week.

Lee said that once the business put up a sign indicating that cash was not accepted at the shop, the robberies eventually stopped. Many other businesses have made the same move, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, putting aside ideas of equity and inclusion in favor of the practical step of protecting their employees and businesses.

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“We’re hoping it solves the problem,” said Angel Her, an assistant manager at Asha Tea House, after the shop put up a sign that reads “credit cards only.”

Asha Tea House had suffered three burglaries in two years before making the move, an issue many Oakland businesses have been forced to confront. Many of the businesses ditching cash are located in the city’s “Police Area 2,” where burglaries have nearly tripled since 2021. That year, the area recorded 52 commercial burglaries as of mid-June, according to numbers compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, a number that spiked to 125 the following year. This year, 137 commercial burglaries have been reported in the district.

Unlike San Francisco, business owners in Oakland are able to ban cash sales without restriction from the city. Across the Bay, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance in 2019 that requires all businesses to accept cash, citing “San Francisco’s ethos of inclusivity” to be inclusive to people who have been denied credit or are unable to open a bank account.

San Francisco in background, Port of Oakland foreground

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Only accepting card payments can also hamper a business owner’s bottom line, thanks to fees they are forced to pay on every credit and debit transaction. However, signs banning cash transactions have continued to spread to businesses around town, who report the decision has helped stem the tide of burglaries.

“If a merchant is only accepting credit cards (and other cashless payments), that’s cutting anywhere from 2.5 to 4% of their profit margin,” Chris Jackson, who manages the Rockridge District Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But what are they going to do? People are desperate. Businesses are trying to figure out ways to survive.”

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The desperation has seemingly continued to spread around Oakland, where businesses owners have found setting aside ideas of inclusivity the only way to protect themselves.

“No cash — that just eliminates the problem,” Kevin who owns a haberdashery in Oakland, said.

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