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Cash Free On-Board - Open Discussion

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GBNorman's post about putting gratuities on a credit card as compared to giving the server a cash tip is an issue that has troubled me for years.

 

As an honest taxpayer, I report all the income that I receive in a year including the amounts that is not reported to IRS officially. Do others? Probably not, but that is between them and their conscious.

 

Never having held a job that received gratuities, I wonder what do these good folks do at income tax reporting time?

 

What can these folks tell us? Tips in cash? Tips on a credit/debt card?

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Can we just nip this topic now, and move on? They were going to try cashless on the Acelas, and got rid of that decision. If the train that had the highest percentage of its sales be credit cards sales won't go cashless, then...

 

And how about this...a few weeks ago my credit card machine was toast from Vancouver to Seattle. 5 hours I was serving, and cash only. How could we have handled that if we only took credit cards? I had a few people I comped food to because they simply had no cash and needed something to eat.

 

Then there's the thing that (depending on the train), more than 2/3rds of my sales will be done in cash, because of the clientele. Most tourists seem to prefer to use only cash, to avoid a fluctuating exchange rate, as well a foreign transaction fee

 

That all being said... In a perfect world I'd be content to operate credit only because my end of trip paperwork would be so much easier, and I could get off the train with far less headaches, but...I doubt I'll see it roll out nationwide while I'm working onboard.

Edited by Triley

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There is also a line on many state tax returns where taxpayers can report the sales tax for items purchased online “tax free” where the state sales tax was not charged. How many people fill that line correctly?:huh:

 

I would guess very few do.

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I see why Amtrak, which does not trust its employees, wants to go cashless. It's stupid and counterproductive, of course, but I see why they want to do it.

 

The fact is: cash is king. Cash is the only absolutely reliable method of payment.

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Airlines are private. Amtrak is not.

 

Removing cash would result in an immediate lawsuit on disparate effect on low income riders and minorities (who are unbanked at much higher levels). Especially for routes where passengers can pay cash on board for their tickets.

 

If your goal is to cost Amtrak money, then going cash-only is one fine way to get there.

Oh really. Here is what the IRS has to say about taking cash payments for taxes. They charge a fee and I haven't heard of them getting sued.

https://www.irs.gov/payments/pay-with-cash-at-a-retail-partner

 

Here is what the Federal Reserve says: https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/currency_12772.htm

 

 

The IRS has gotten sued for not accepting cash, and for charging fees for accepting cash. The IRS lost. The IRS backed down. You can pay the IRS with cash at a designated IRS office, and the major marijuana businesses in Colorado do exactly that. And they're the ones who sued. (They have to use cash because the federal government is preventing them from getting bank accounts.)

 

It's a recent and well-known case. Just because you haven't heard of it doesn't mean it didn't happen.

 

The IRS is legally obligated to accept cash by the legal tender laws, because the cash is offered in payment of a *debt* (a tax bill). Amtrak is not obligated to accept cash in the cafe because they don't give you the food until after you pay, so you never owe a *debt*. However, if they give you the food, you eat it, and your credit card doesn't go through due to some accident, *then* Amtrak is legally obligated to accept cash -- that's how the legal tender laws work. They only apply to debts.

Edited by neroden

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Airlines are private. Amtrak is not.

 

Removing cash would result in an immediate lawsuit on disparate effect on low income riders and minorities (who are unbanked at much higher levels). Especially for routes where passengers can pay cash on board for their tickets.

 

If your goal is to cost Amtrak money, then going cash-only is one fine way to get there.

Oh really. Here is what the IRS has to say about taking cash payments for taxes. They charge a fee and I haven't heard of them getting sued.

https://www.irs.gov/payments/pay-with-cash-at-a-retail-partner

 

Here is what the Federal Reserve says: https://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/currency_12772.htm

The IRS has gotten sued for not accepting cash, and for charging fees for accepting cash. The IRS lost. The IRS backed down. You can pay the IRS with cash at an IRS office, and the major marijuana businesses in Colorado do exactly that. And they're the ones who sued. It's a recent and well-known case.

 

The IRS is legally obligated to accept cash by the legal tender laws, because the cash is offered in payment of a *debt* (a tax bill). Amtrak is not obligated to accept cash in the cafe because they don't give you the food until after you pay. However, if they give you the food, you eat it, and your credit card doesn't go through due to some accident, *then* Amtrak is legally obligated to accept cash -- that's how the legal tender laws work. They only apply to debts.

(I wish I could crop a bunch of the conversation out, but I'm on my phone, so I apologize.)

 

"However, if they give you the food, you eat it, and your credit card doesn't go through due to some accident, *then* Amtrak is legally obligated to accept cash."

 

You mean, in say...a diner? Perfect example.

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And how about this...a few weeks ago my credit card machine was toast from Vancouver to Seattle. 5 hours I was serving, and cash only. How could we have handled that if we only took credit cards? I had a few people I comped food to because they simply had no cash and needed something to eat.

 

 

This was the case when I was on the Empire Builder a few weeks ago. The credit card machine in the cafe car was out of order, which meant they would only accept cash all the way from Chicago to Portland. The credit card machine in the dining car was working, but I imagine using that machine in the cafe would cause accounting headaches. I don't know what coach passengers without cash did for meals. I ran out of cash to use for tips and ran to an ATM in town during the 80 minute stop we had after our early arrival into Minot, ND.

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And how about this...a few weeks ago my credit card machine was toast from Vancouver to Seattle. 5 hours I was serving, and cash only. How could we have handled that if we only took credit cards? I had a few people I comped food to because they simply had no cash and needed something to eat.

 

This was the case when I was on the Empire Builder a few weeks ago. The credit card machine in the cafe car was out of order, which meant they would only accept cash all the way from Chicago to Portland. The credit card machine in the dining car was working, but I imagine using that machine in the cafe would cause accounting headaches. I don't know what coach passengers without cash did for meals. I ran out of cash to use for tips and ran to an ATM in town during the 80 minute stop we had after our early arrival into Minot, ND.

The way the accounting is handled there would've been no way to use the credit card machine for both cars at the same time. The best they could've done (and perhaps should've done) would be to at least loan the machine to the cafe in between meal periods.

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And how about this...a few weeks ago my credit card machine was toast from Vancouver to Seattle. 5 hours I was serving, and cash only. How could we have handled that if we only took credit cards? I had a few people I comped food to because they simply had no cash and needed something to eat.

 

This was the case when I was on the Empire Builder a few weeks ago. The credit card machine in the cafe car was out of order, which meant they would only accept cash all the way from Chicago to Portland. The credit card machine in the dining car was working, but I imagine using that machine in the cafe would cause accounting headaches. I don't know what coach passengers without cash did for meals. I ran out of cash to use for tips and ran to an ATM in town during the 80 minute stop we had after our early arrival into Minot, ND.

That must have been the same train I was on from Spokane to Portland. I was riding coach and fortunately had cash on me; I returned to Spokane that same day and the machine was up and running on the return trip.

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And how about this...a few weeks ago my credit card machine was toast from Vancouver to Seattle. 5 hours I was serving, and cash only. How could we have handled that if we only took credit cards? I had a few people I comped food to because they simply had no cash and needed something to eat.

 

This was the case when I was on the Empire Builder a few weeks ago. The credit card machine in the cafe car was out of order, which meant they would only accept cash all the way from Chicago to Portland. The credit card machine in the dining car was working, but I imagine using that machine in the cafe would cause accounting headaches. I don't know what coach passengers without cash did for meals. I ran out of cash to use for tips and ran to an ATM in town during the 80 minute stop we had after our early arrival into Minot, ND.

That must have been the same train I was on from Spokane to Portland. I was riding coach and fortunately had cash on me; I returned to Spokane that same day and the machine was up and running on the return trip.

 

 

I was on the train that left CHI on 5/13 (which would have left SPK 5/15). I didn't end up purchasing anything in the cafe. The only time I went to buy something, they had closed at 9:45, 15 minutes before their announced closing time of 10pm. Every meal in the dining car I noticed at least 3-4 coach passengers at the tables around me paying by card, so I imagine the diner got some extra business from the lack of a working card machine in the cafe.

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Bitcoin - the legal tender of the Internet and the New Age. Free from political influence, free from national boundaries, free from illegitimate government seizure (which happens on Amtrak all the time).

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I'm reminded of an issue VIA and my credit cards seem to have: For various reasons, VIA still uses imprint machines on all of their trains. When I take the Canadian, this tends to result in a large number of transactions hitting a given card all at once, usually some time after the trip (VIA doesn't ever seem to be in a big hurry to run the transactions). That in turn results in my credit card having a minor freak-out since they might see 6-8 transactions in the $10-25 range (2-3 drinks apiece) all on the same day...and so it seems (from looking at my statements) that one or two of them get turned down a week after I've left the train. On Amtrak, the equivalent would be if someone had their card turned down when the Zephyr got to Glenwood Springs...but had just disembarked at Glenwood Springs.

Why do I mention this? Unless the system is in continual contact with "home base", this isn't a complete fail-safe.

With this being said, I'm of a mixed opinion on going cashless. I'd probably go for it if Amtrak was willing to stick some sort of no-fee debit card vending machine (whether or not it is branded with one of the labels) onboard as a workaround. Given the increase in using NFC technology, something akin to [insert agency here]'s farecards wouldn't be technologically infeasible.

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And how about this...a few weeks ago my credit card machine was toast from Vancouver to Seattle. 5 hours I was serving, and cash only. How could we have handled that if we only took credit cards? I had a few people I comped food to because they simply had no cash and needed something to eat.

 

This was the case when I was on the Empire Builder a few weeks ago. The credit card machine in the cafe car was out of order, which meant they would only accept cash all the way from Chicago to Portland. The credit card machine in the dining car was working, but I imagine using that machine in the cafe would cause accounting headaches. I don't know what coach passengers without cash did for meals. I ran out of cash to use for tips and ran to an ATM in town during the 80 minute stop we had after our early arrival into Minot, ND.

That must have been the same train I was on from Spokane to Portland. I was riding coach and fortunately had cash on me; I returned to Spokane that same day and the machine was up and running on the return trip.

I was on the train that left CHI on 5/13 (which would have left SPK 5/15). I didn't end up purchasing anything in the cafe. The only time I went to buy something, they had closed at 9:45, 15 minutes before their announced closing time of 10pm. Every meal in the dining car I noticed at least 3-4 coach passengers at the tables around me paying by card, so I imagine the diner got some extra business from the lack of a working card machine in the cafe.

Yep, that's the train I was on.

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On a related note...IIRC, the last time I perused through an Amtrak policy manual, there was some provision for billing passengers by mail, if they did not have the funds to pay for a cash fare ticket on board, after boarding at some small station...and I further recall there also being some provision to bill that passenger for any meals taken on board...

Do I recall correctly? Does this policy still exist? Just curious..... :unsure:

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On a related note...IIRC, the last time I perused through an Amtrak policy manual, there was some provision for billing passengers by mail, if they did not have the funds to pay for a cash fare ticket on board, after boarding at some small station...and I further recall there also being some provision to bill that passenger for any meals taken on board...

Do I recall correctly? Does this policy still exist? Just curious..... :unsure:

A direct bill is only for cash fares. There has never been a way to do that for food purchases in the three and a half years I've been here. Checks aren't allowed either, unless precleared by reservations, and only they're only available for use to groups.

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GBNorman's post about putting gratuities on a credit card as compared to giving the server a cash tip is an issue that has troubled me for years.

 

As an honest taxpayer, I report all the income that I receive in a year including the amounts that is not reported to IRS officially. Do others? Probably not, but that is between them and their conscious.

 

Never having held a job that received gratuities, I wonder what do these good folks do at income tax reporting time?

 

What can these folks tell us? Tips in cash? Tips on a credit/debt card?

 

IIRC, for waitstaff paid a sub-minimum wage plus tips, the IRS presumes those employees are collecting tips and bases income tax owed on that presumption. I don't know the exact percentage that's added onto wages to come up with that taxable income number--perhaps someone else here does.

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How are café prices listed between Seattle and Vancouver? Are they in US$, CN$ or both?:huh:

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Can we just nip this topic now, and move on? They were going to try cashless on the Acelas, and got rid of that decision. If the train that had the highest percentage of its sales be credit cards sales won't go cashless, then...

 

And how about this...a few weeks ago my credit card machine was toast from Vancouver to Seattle. 5 hours I was serving, and cash only. How could we have handled that if we only took credit cards? I had a few people I comped food to because they simply had no cash and needed something to eat.

 

Then there's the thing that (depending on the train), more than 2/3rds of my sales will be done in cash, because of the clientele. Most tourists seem to prefer to use only cash, to avoid a fluctuating exchange rate, as well a foreign transaction fee

 

That all being said... In a perfect world I'd be content to operate credit only because my end of trip paperwork would be so much easier, and I could get off the train with far less headaches, but...I doubt I'll see it roll out nationwide while I'm working onboard.

 

Thanks for posting this. The discussion in this thread seems to have lost track of the very basic truth that you sell more if you make it possible for customers to choose how they prefer to pay you. There will be a cost in lost sales if Amtrak refuses to take cash.

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As a former IRS tax auditor in a different life, I can tell you that the tip rate is determined by what the “average” clientele is. Using Las Vegas as an example, the following all have different presumed rates: MGM Grand, Bellagio, Luxor or Joe’s Corner Casino.

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Thanks for posting this. The discussion in this thread seems to have lost track of the very basic truth that you sell more if you make it possible for customers to choose how they prefer to pay you. There will be a cost in lost sales if Amtrak refuses to take cash.

Except for the fact that when the airlines transitioned to a cashless cabin about a decade ago they actually increased revenue. "JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin said average daily onboard revenues nearly doubled the first week after the airline went to plastic in late 2007"; Our onboard sales actually increased when we no longer accepted cash, [said] Midwest spokesman Michael Brophy".

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There may also be a bit of expectation setting due to the general impression people have of a mode. Since flying, no matter how inhospitable, is viewed by most as a modern thing, people expect all sorts of modern things like credit cards and what not to be the norm perhaps, while rail having the reputation of a 19th century choo choo hangover in the minds of many, carries the expectation that you need to do things the 19th century way while traveling by it.

 

In Brightline we see a case where their marketing has taken great pains to separate themselves from traditional rail, and created a modern ambiance, which allows them to be cashless, with assigned seats, and all sorts of other stuff that is normally seen in air travel in the minds of people. So people accept a different way of doing things and generally appear to love it. I have not seen anyone groan and moan about their cashless policy yet. Similarly I doubt anyone would complain about cashless on Acelas or even NERs possibly. But out in the sticks it is a different story altogether I think.

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There may also be a bit of expectation setting due to the general impression people have of a mode. Since flying, no matter how inhospitable, is viewed by most as a modern thing, people expect all sorts of modern things like credit cards and what not to be the norm perhaps, while rail having the reputation of a 19th century choo choo hangover in the minds of many, carries the expectation that you need to do things the 19th century way while traveling by it.

 

In Brightline we see a case where their marketing has taken great pains to separate themselves from traditional rail, and created a modern ambiance, which allows them to be cashless, with assigned seats, and all sorts of other stuff that is normally seen in air travel in the minds of people. So people accept a different way of doing things and generally appear to love it. I have not seen anyone groan and moan about their cashless policy yet. Similarly I doubt anyone would complain about cashless on Acelas or even NERs possibly. But out in the sticks it is a different story altogether I think.

 

Preference/need for cash is very context dependent. In my own retail business, I'd lose money if I didn't accept credit cards. But I'd be out of business if I didn't accept cash.

 

It's a fair guess that virtually every adult on an airplane has a credit or debit card. (Is it even possible to buy an airline ticket with cash anymore?) Not so much on Amtrak.

 

In addition, I think it's unreasonable for a business (especially a quasi-governmental business) to expect all its customers to ALSO have a business relationship with a credit or debit-card corporation. I'm pretty sure all those Amish Amtrak passengers would agree. Accepting cash is a reasonable accommodation of some passengers' religious beliefs and/or intentionally simple way of life.

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tricia, I completely agree with you. Personally, I am all for more choices rather than less. But if a business can pull it off with cards only without losing too much business, they tend to do so these days, since apparently the overall cost of handling card transactions tends to be less than the overall cost of handling cash - again, I say apparently, because if that were not so, so many businesses would not tend to move in that direction.

 

I think these days, it is still - at least theoretically - possible to buy an airline ticket with cash. However, that also most likely guarantees you a "SSSS" on your boarding card recommending extra loving care and free massage or two from the TSA. :D

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Unfortunately, the oncoming 'train' of a cashless society can neither be slowed nor halted. The world population will have no choice but to accept it.

 

There are many reasons that a cashless society would benefit government, businesses and many individuals. First and foremost is it makes cash-based business far easier and reliable. Whether an Amtrak lounge car or a fast food business, the problem of employees making incorrect change is erased. I long ago gave up trying fix their mistakes at fast food restaurants. In the dumbed-down society of today where clerks can't make correct change when the amount is shown on their screen, eliminating cash eliminates (not 'fixes') the problem. Cash drawer/shift checkout procedures will be reduced to seconds rather than 5-10 minutes, based on the situation. As night auditor at a hotel some years back, it was common to have the food and beverage manager hand me $3-5,000 cash received from cash bars in our multiple banquet rooms and it was my job to double count it, put it in the safe, and make appropriate accounting entries. Did anyone pocket some cash? Who knows? In a cashless society, all the funds were accounted for and collected at the cash register. A couple of button presses later, 'check out' was done.

 

On a larger scale, cashlessness also simplifies large retail operations. Just as going to a bar code system years ago simplified checkout processing and reduced keying errors, going cash free eliminates additional errors and thefts. And yes, sometimes the amount charged at the register for an item doesn't match the sign on the shelf, but it's up to us, the buyer, to catch it, not the seller.

 

An even bigger benefit of a cashless system is the elimination of illegal activities always conducted with cash. Whether it's dope dealers selling on the street or smuggling, the 'cash' would have to be recorded somehow. And bribes? And money laundering? No longer possible as all business income will be handled by the computers. And under-the-table payments to workers or for bribes...gone. Just as each sale must be conducted via computer, so, too must every income for every business and indvidual be recorded on computer as well. Needless to say, whether Apple-pay or other similar platforms are used, all your 'money' will be 'on the computer'. I think it's safe to say that just as our cell phones track our location, calls we've made and web sites we've visited, it won't be long at all before all our spending is recorded by 'big brother' and monitored by those interested.

 

So, for the large majority of the US population that is already using credit and debit cards and has direct deposit of our paychecks, it's not a major leap. And yes, giving a tip to an SCA will require him or her to have a scanner of some type to take the 'money'.

 

But there's a significant population that can't or won't have a credit card or debit card. A now deceased friend of mine found out the hard way that having a bank account anywhere would result in its being drained by the child support back payments he owed. So he was forced to work under the table and get his Social Security in check form. When Social Security switched to direct deposit or debit card, he opted for the debit card and pretty much cleaned it out as soon as it was received. That at least limited the 3 states taking child support to getting it 'up front' from his Social Security amount before the left over was put into his account. I have a couple of formerly homeless friends who still refuse to get a credit card or debit card and except for Social Security income, they work under the table.

 

The downside of going cashless is the small vendors such as those at a flea market or even the food truck operators. Ever watch all the line-slowing-down activities necessary to take a credit or debit card at one of those operations? What about various vagrants begging for small change? Like far too many government-run programs, it's the 'small guy' that gets hurt.

 

I also think back to one of my former co-workers that had direct deposit like the rest of us and a debit card. His problem was that he didn't fully make the connection that the debit card was just like cash. So he'd put a bunch of small purchases on the card and then raise Cain the he was being hit with overdraft charges by his bank. Like many people, myself included, I first see how much money is in my wallet and make spending choices based on that number. That's why I, too, will NOT have a debit card. It's similar to the 'trick' used by casinos to convert your cash to chips. It's so easy to think of them as 'chips' rather than dollars. I avoid casinos, too, as I never go home with any of THEIR money in my wallet.

 

Perhaps the biggest problem I see with a cashless society is an EMP bomb or other means to shut off all our computers. Nobody has any 'cash', so everything goes to a barter system or you starve. Alternatively, we must all be micro-chipped (mark of the beast) to conduct any business transactions. I don't think any of us would want to be around in any of those situations.

 

 

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It seems logical to think that offering payment choices will increase sales, and eliminating modes of payment will reduce sales. But in recommending cashless sales for Amtrak (primarily to reduce theft by Amtrak employees), the IG report noted the experience of the airlines--sales went UP when the airlines went cashless. It makes sense: people have a limited amount of cash on their person, but they can spend up to the credit limit on their cards.

 

Here's what the IG said:

 

Amtrak should implement "cashless sales to remove the opportunity to steal cash. Although Amtrak officials have proposed moving to on-board cashless sales, no firm plans exist at this time. Yet there are many benefits to cashless sales, among them reduced inventory and cash losses due to handling errors, theft, and fraud. Cashless sales have been proven to increase revenues through higher individual check amounts and more customer purchases. Such a system would also simplify the LSAs’ work because there would be no need to carry or account for cash.

 

"Most domestic airlines have implemented in-flight cashless sales. During tests of cashless flights, airlines reported, customers spent more when using charge cards."

https://www.amtrakoig.gov/sites/default/files/reports/on-board_food_and_beverage_6_23_11.pdf

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