While some no doubt view cash as a relic of the past, with many transactions tied to a bank or credit card account, cash is still an essential part of the economy — particularly for people with lower incomes who are more likely to be “unbanked.”
The reliance on cash for many consumers is behind so-called cashless bans, or regulations that require businesses to accept cash in exchange for their goods and services with the goal of making those businesses more accessible. Such an ordinance has been in place in Philadelphia since Oct. 1, according to Billy Penn — but that website reports that many of the city’s fitness centers are in violation of the ban and essentially require people to have a bank account in order to access them.
Billy Penn reports that a number of Philadelphia’s gyms and fitness centers — including 13 Planet Fitness locations — are in violation of the city’s cashless ban. Others include six City Fitness Locations, six Sweat Fitness locations, three Philadelphia Sports Clubs locations and one Retro Fitness location.
The severity of the violations vary by brand, according to Billy Penn, but the most severe violator was Planet Fitness. According to Billy Penn, Philadelphia’s 13 Planet Fitness locations will not accept cash at all — not even for a bottle of water purchased at the club.
Some businesses are exempt from Philadelphia’s cashless ban. For instance, those membership-model based businesses that conduct the entirety of their transactions either online or over the phone. Other exempt businesses include “wholesale clubs,” such as Costco.
However, Billy Penn sought clarification on whether any of the fitness brands above were exempt, and confirmed that they were not.
“Any retail transaction conducted in person that is not specifically included in the law is required to accept cash,” Rachel Hooper, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations told Billy Penn. “Gym memberships...were not excluded.”
The Philadelphia regulation states that while some transactions are indeed exempt, Section 8.4 (d) specifically says “This exclusion does not apply to memberships at service providers such as fitness clubs.”
While the regulation is enforceable by a fine of up to $2,000 per transgression according to Billy Penn, the Commission on Human Rights can’t take action unless a formal complaint has been filed.
A 2017 FDIC survey indicated that 6.5 percent of U.S. households were unbanked in that year, with more than half of those households reporting that the reason they didn’t have an account with a financial institution was because they didn’t have enough money to keep in an account.