France Running Out Of Cash

May 17, 2000

A strike by France’s armored car drivers has brought the cashless society a step closer to reality, albeit by default.

Frenchmen depend heavily on the numerous ATMs which are located outside banks, post offices and shopping centers throughout the country, to obtain cash.

But the strike by the drivers, which is now into its second week, has all but emptied the machines. “I’ve been trying ‘le distributeur des billets’ since last Thursday,” complained Mme. Martin, who actually works in the headquarters of Societe Generale, one of France’s largest banks, ” and they’re all empty. No one has any money.”

The strike was provoked by the death of a driver in an armed robbery attempt in Grenoble, and another attack the same day in Paris. The drivers are demanding they be designated as a “high risk employment,” which would entitle them to hazard pay, and increased police protection. So far negotiations have gone nowhere.

As a result, businesses are increasingly worried over the large amounts of cash they have accumulated, and cannot safely transport to the banks, and they are now accepting credit card payments for amounts far less than the usual minimum of 100 francs (about $14).

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