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Ask Money

‘Did you know there’s a pimp in your wallet?’

Candace Manriquez Wrenn Feb 7, 2014
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There are reasons aplenty to wean oneself off the credit card merry-go-round.  Whether you’d like to avoid debt, want to keep to a stricter budget, or have been frightened by the recent spate of credit breaches, you may be thinking of going on an all-cash diet.  

And while your debit card usually won’t let you spend what you don’t have, small business owners know that a debit card is not as good as cash. One small business owner, specifically.

Renee Quarles is the owner of Shades of Afrika, in Long Beach, Calif., a store that offers books, art, and health, and beauty products all with the purpose of enhancing “the understanding of the Afrikan diaspora.” In 2010, as part of what she considered a challenge from President Obama to create new jobs, Quarles opened a neighboring salon, Natural Kinx and Waves which created 3 new jobs. 

Quarles is a pleasant woman who knows her store inside and out,  and she is just as comfortable talking about her customer’s home lives as she is world politics.

But she doesn’t mince words when it comes to topics she’s passionate about. Just try to buy something with a debit card. 

“You’d like to pay with a card? Did you know that there’s a pimp in your wallet?” she says. That’s right. With a very kind and nurturing tone she continues, “There’s a pimp in all of our wallets, dear.”

The pimp she is referring to are banks. As a small business owner, Quarles says that she has been forced to charge more to take debit and credit cards. To avoid passing the costs on to all customers, she charges a fee to those who wish to use a card.

“My cash register has the $1.00 processing fee [posted].  We merchants can’t keep carrying the weight of these fees,” Quarles says.

She is baffled as to why anyone would prefer to use a card over greenbacks.

“Whenever I can only make a quarter of a penny in keeping my money, and a man I can’t see makes 2.79 to 3.29 percent, who are you and how did you get in my wallet,” she says.

Quarles says she wants to empower everyone to take charge of their finances, and that denying the banks access to your full purchase history is one big step. That by using cash, you keep the man out of your wallet, and you avoid paying fees like the one she is compelled to charge.

As to why she doesn’t just transition to an all-cash business, she says, “I tried that when I first started.  When I tried to take [the card reader] out, the convenience factors were overwhelming me.  Everyone with a job had these cards.  I couldn’t say no,” she stresses. “If I didn’t have [the card reader], I wouldn’t have sold anything because people weren’t going to go and come back to me with cash.”

Longtime customer Janae Tucker says that she and her partner, Darren Turner, often hear Quarles’ “pimp in your wallet” spiel.

“We always get lectured,” Tucker says.  Darren Turner jumps into say that he doesn’t see it as a lecture, but as a lesson.

Quarles is happy that her words are taken as a lesson and haven’t fallen on deaf ears.  She says that getting the pimp out of peoples’ wallets is a battle she will continue to fight.

“We are in a serious crisis when people believe that the card in our hand is going to suffice better than the cash in our wallets.  The cash in your wallet allows you to pay your children an allowance to teach them how to manage their own saving.”

And with a smile, she slides the debit card, hands over the merchandise and says, “Take your power back.”

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