A friend recently asked me what was the main difference between staying in the UK as opposed to living in Majorca. Although, I think he was referring to Covid-19 virus and all its knock-on effects, I would have to say - not very much - apart from Spain’s rather more aggressive attitude to a total social lockdown and what I’m starting to hear, via social media, regarding some apparent confusion as to what the Spanish government is doing (or not doing) to help out small business’s and the self employed at this juncture. However, for me - what has struck me more than anything whilst sitting-out my enforced stay here, is the fact that more than ever the United Kingdom has become almost completely cashless. To be honest, it has been getting that way for some years now, but with the onset of this virus, to flourish cash in a supermarket, or indeed anywhere else, is tantamount to flagrantly seeking to pass on Coronavirus to others. When going out to do some much needed shopping, upon finishing - a security guard sternly announces that all those who wish to pay cash should move to the till by the toilets and there a young man covered in some sort of mask and boiler suit will take the ‘filthy lucre’ off you. Already you see, those wishing to sell you stuff, don’t want your paper dosh and certainly not those bits of pointless shrapnel you have in your pocket, or on the sideboard or by the fridge.
As I have very little to think about at the moment, this got me surmising - are we starting to see the end of - cash, brass, spondoolics, wonga, wedge, folding stuff - et-al? Well, here in the olde- country I have absolutely no doubt at all that this is the plan, and in a way, this crisis has merely sped up the process to eventually becoming a cashless society. Some would say that this is a good thing, because there is always a record of what you spent on that big-shop, or the flash night out that you told everyone was “cheap as…” Not forgetting those seriously sexy shoes that you didn’t need, but bought anyway, then lied about their eye watering cost. We all do it, because cash is not a particularly accurate way of managing your money. Nevertheless, as you nod in agreement at my far-sightedness - and let’s face it, rather surprising understanding of how we might better manage our money - there is one very large complication I’m afraid. I will describe it thus! Have you ever tried to pay a - plumber, electrician, chippy or painter & decorator by any other means other than cash? Unless, they are undertaking a proper long-term ‘project’ for you, at a guess, I would find it likely that you should be advised to - “Go forth and multiply.”
It is said that in the UK the economy is worth approximately 10% more than taxpayers declare. What percentage would you say exists over and above what Spanish businesses declare to their friendly local taxman - 20% or maybe 30% - any advance on that figure? You see, there’s an awful lot at stake for all sorts of reasons, when cash becomes - or is made redundant. Funnily enough, it has been a long time since I last witnessed the bulging wallet syndrome. I have to say that a couple of coloured plastic cards in your wallet, is not quite the same as when you trousered a big fat ‘wodge’ of folding stuff, only to bring it out on occasions to impress women of doubtful morals - if you see what I mean? Nevertheless, such activity nowadays would draw the attention of all manner of nose-pokers and halitosis afflicted men from the Revenue and Taxation Service. Hey, why not tell ‘em you don’t want to join?
It has to be said that the revenue authorities in Spain are a little more vigorous than when I first arrived on these shores twenty years ago. I still remember at a large DIY store on the outskirts of Palma, the young lady on the till asking me if I wanted to pay IVA on the goods that I’d just bought. I never got over that! Anyway, as a man who would panic if he didn’t have at least a ‘twenty’ of some denomination in his wallet, I was rather alarmed when my son told me blithely that he never carries cash anymore. You see, in the UK it’s probably an age thing - but in Spain - or more accurately Majorca, there doesn’t appear to be the ‘kit-and-equipment’ available to process this sort of transaction that is commonplace in other countries. Or is it perhaps, that I am being incredibly naive about the desire by customer and service or goods providers to have their financial transactions monitored in such an accessible fashion? Lastly, does anyone actually want your small change anymore? I have to ask myself, why do we still muck-about with coins of low value - as nobody uses them, and if my recent experience is anything to go by, nobody wants them anyway. I have tons of mixed shrapnel on my bedside table, a veritable United Nations of small change. My local charity shop didn’t want them, parking meters won’t take them and I’m reduced to filling large jars with them, which when full, might be worth the price of a pint. I think I’ll save them - as you never know do you?