As more Hawaii businesses reopen, there is less cash being exchanged as consumers and retailers find ways to remain “contactless” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The precarious situation is helping to “perpetuate the need to go cashless,” said Mike Hamasu, director of research and consulting at Colliers International, adding that consumers already were moving primarily toward electronic payments due to security and convenience.
“It just accelerated some of the retail trends because of the current environment. It’s not like the retailers are saying they’re only taking credit cards for these goods, but I guess it’s less efficient for them,” he said. “It’s probably less sanitary in this environment. If as an employee I am touching stuff that other people have touched in the past, it probably increases my likelihood of exposure.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises retailers to “encourage customers to use touchless payment options” and “minimize handling cash,” as well as credit and reward cards and mobile devices.
Tanna Dang, owner of Honolulu boutique Eden in Love, recently installed new credit card machines so cashiers don’t have to handle any credit cards, making the transaction entirely contactless.
“As a small business, we wanted to make paying by credit card even safer with no contact at checkout,” she said. “We’re hoping these small changes will give our customers more confidence when shopping in-store once again.”
An employee at H Mart Kakaako, which had a soft opening on May 28, said the business encourages credit card transactions, though it is ultimately up to the customer.
“But in order to protect ourselves and customers we do wear safety gloves at the registers. Our employees are made to wear masks and we have hand sanitizer available for employees and equipment to provide hand sanitizer to customers as well,” said the employee who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. “Of course there’s less touching when it comes to card transactions in my opinion. We’re just trying to do the best we can in order to keep everyone safe.”
Businesses are also restricting the number of customers coming into the store at the same time so they can maintain safe distances.
A worker at Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall who asked to remain anonymous said the store has only two registers for customers paying with cash. The rest are for credit card transactions.
“They only put cash at two registers to limit the spread of dirty money,” he said. “You hear about that across the country about money. People don’t want to touch money. I haven’t heard any feedback or anything bad about it. Most people pay with card anyways. Some people will say that’s a smart move. Most of the measures like that people thank us for it.”
There is also a ban on bringing reusable bags into the store, he said. Customers must bag their groceries outside to limit contact.
Hawaii’s tally of coronavirus cases was unchanged Wednesday at 653. Health officials reported one new case of a visitor who traveled to Oahu and became ill while in self-quarantine. However, they also removed one Maui case from the statewide total after retesting results were negative.
There were 24 active infections in Hawaii and a total of 612 patients now classified as “released from isolation” since the start of the outbreak — more than 94% of those infected. The state’s coronavirus death toll remains unchanged at 17. Of the more than 50,638 coronavirus tests conducted by state and clinical laboratories in Hawaii, just 1.3% have been positive.