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For One Central Ohio Business, Cash Is Just Too Expensive

Steve Brown
Brian Butler, president of local chain Dublin Cleaners, says it costs more to handle cash than simple deal with credit card fees.

At Dublin Cleaners, the big money is what they spend on handling cash, not bringing it in. Which is why this local laundry chain is transitioning to a cashless operation.

“This is about lowering costs,” says Dublin Cleaners president Brian Butler. “The more I can lower costs, the less I have to raise prices.”

Here, the biggest burden is the cost of labor. A typical week means 36 cash deposits from their six stores.

And behind every deposit are hours of counting tills, getting deposits ready for a courier, and setting up the next register drawer. Things get even harder if one of Butler's few employees can’t make it to work that day.

Who Cares About Card Fees?

Butler says the cost and time suck involved with handling cash far outweigh those of credit and debit cards. Card transactions deposit automatically, Butler says, and the money is usually available the next day.

Even with service fees, cards are better for business.

“Cash is costing me four times as much as credit cards,” Butler says. “The administrative time and energy… is completely out of line with how little cash sales we do.”

Credit Steve Brown / WOSU
Dublin Cleaners is not in an industry where cash is typical. Brian Butler says only 1.8 percent of his current sales involve cash.

Just how little is cash used for services like dry cleaning, laundry delivery, and rug cleaning?

“One-point-eight percent of my sales,” Butler says.

Butler admits dry cleaning and wedding gown tailoring are higher-end services that don’t include much cash. Moving to a cashless operation just wouldn’t be possible in some other sectors of the economy, like in retail or restaurants.

“I don’t know about what other industries face, because this is just not a place where people bring very much cash," he says.

Cashless Stores Are Safer

Butler hopes advertising the lack of cash, which is detailed in decals on store doors and at registers, will lower security risks.

Butler says he’s had break-ins that caused thousands of dollars in damage to store doors, without even losing a cent otherwise. 

One incident happened on New Year’s Eve. Because their cash is either deposited in the bank or dropped into underground safes, the thieves left empty-handed. But afterwards, a door replacement company wanted to charge $800 just for a temporary fix using plywood and 2 x 4s. 

“I asked myself, 'Is this worth it?” Butler says. “And the answer was no.”

Convincing Customers

Credit Steve Brown / WOSU
Dublin Cleaners has been advertising for weeks that they're going cashless. Brian Butler hopes it'll help make the store safer, too.

Moving to a cashless operation has been a months-long process. Signs have been posted for a few weeks, and Butler says it will be a few more before cash is completely pulled from stores. He says he hasn’t had any pushback from customers who prefer cash.

What would he do if someone insisted on using old-fashioned money instead of a debit or credit card?

“We would try to figure out how to work with them," Butler says. "We won’t have change on site, so possibly we might be able to leave a credit for a future transaction. But we’re going to be very clear about this.”

Worldwide, credit card companies have been leading the way to what they hope is a cashless society. Data from Visa, which has been paying businesses to abandon cash, shows a complete move from cash to digital transactions would bring big economic benefits.

But a more-digitized economy brings an increased risk of hacking and compromising of personal information. Currently, the U.S. is thought to be among the nations with the most cashless transactions.

Butler says he doesn’t know of any other local businesses making a similar move, but he says he’s received several emails of support from business owners who’d like to ban cash.

Not that Butler thinks of himself as any sort of trend setter.

“I’m just trying to lower costs," he says, laughing.