Mr. Dan T. Cathy
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
5200 Buffington Road
Atlanta, GA 30349
Dear Mr. Cathy:
I am writing in response to recent news reports that some of Chick-Fil-A's franchisees have adopted a policy of refusing to accept cash payments from their customers, and that franchisees, as well as Chick-Fil-A, as franchisor, are encouraging customers to make payment only through your company's mobile app or other digital payment vehicles such as those offered by Apple and Google. I understand that these measures were adopted as purported protections for franchisees' customers and employees from being exposed to the coronavirus, and thus risking infection with it, through handling currency.
We believe that such policies are unnecessary, unwise, and extremely unfortunate for several reasons. First, they result in excluding the more than 60 million un-banked and under-banked Americans according to the most recent survey figures published by the FDIC-from Chick-Fil-A's stores. As you know, that population typically has little or no regular access to credit or debit cards or other non-cash forms of payment.
Second, growing numbers of Americans have come to prefer to use cash for their retail purchases because of the threats to their privacy and the risks of being victimized by identity theft that are inherent in the vast array of information and data generated by every digital transaction, constituting detailed records of consumers' purchasing habits and choices, available for review, purchase, and use by data-mining and other marketing enterprises that are ever seeking new avenues approach to members of the consuming public.
Third, and importantly, avoiding cash is unlikely to provide appreciable protection from the virus. Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the World Health Organization recommends the elimination of cash handling, which also is consistent with current published scientific literature. Moreover, as NBC News reported in March, there has not been "a documented case of a person getting infected from a surface contaminated with the new coronavirus, according to the CDC."
We therefore respectfully ask that Chick-Fil-A take such action as it reasonably can to encourage and urge those franchisees that have gone cashless to abandon that policy, and that it urge all of its franchisees to announce publicly and advertise prominently that their stores accept cash payments and thus are open to all customers, regardless of how they may intend to pay.
The Coalition seeks to encourage and preserve safe, convenient, and widespread access to and use of cash throughout the nation. Protecting and maintaining the public's health is and must remain the highest priority for us all, and we therefore endorse and encourage observance of good hygiene practices-such as frequent hand-washing, and avoiding touching one's mouth, nose, or eyes-by consumers and business people after handling cash, or plastic credit or debit cards or smartphones.
Essential to our efforts is ensuring that the public has accurate and reliable information regarding safety considerations relevant to those who regularly handle cash. The CDC recently revised the section of its website headed "How COVID-19 Spreads " to reiterate and emphasize that "COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person." Although the section acknowledges that it "may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 " by touching a contaminated surface and then touching his or her mouth, nose, or eyes, it goes on to say that such transmission "is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads ... "
This is also consistent with guidance from the WHO. The publication of a news article in March, erroneously reporting that the WHO had warned that "'banknotes may be spreading the new coronavirus,"' prompted an emphatic denial from a spokeswoman for the WHO, who said in an email commenting on the report: "We were misrepresented."
The spokeswoman further responded to the article, which had appeared in the British newspaper The Telegraph: "WHO did NOT say banknotes would transmit COVID-19, nor have we issued any warnings or statements about this .... We were asked ifwe thought banknotes could transmit COVID-19 and we said you should wash your hands after handling money, especially if handling or eating food," which it described as "good hygiene practice."
A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology indicates that significant spread of the coronavirus is not a likely result of handling currency, especially if those handling it follow recommended good hygiene practices. The study measured the "transfer efficiencies " of various surfaces, including U.S. currency-an indicator of whether a virus or other pathogen on one of those surfaces likely could be transferred to a person as a result of the person's touching the surface.
The authors of the study were six microbiologists, from the University of Arizona and Michigan State University. They found that, of the nine surfaces that were the subjects of the study, U.S. currency was by far the least likely to serve as a path of such transfer. Its average transfer efficiency was measured at from 0.05 percent to 0.2 percent, significantly lower than the levels measured for other surfaces, some of which had transfer efficiencies as high as 79 .5 percent.
Given the evidence that handling cash is unlikely to contribute significantly to spreading the virus, and in view of the protections of consumers' privacy and security interests that cash transactions provide, and the numerous potential customers who would be excluded from Chick-Fil-A stores that refuse to accept cash, we respectfully urge that Chick-Fil-A take such action as it deems appropriate to ensure that the business of customers who need or prefer to pay with cash will be welcome at all Chick-Fil-A stores.
Very truly yours,
Consumer Choice in Payment Coalition
1025 Connecticut A venue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036