In a cashless society, what will we do when our colleagues turn up rattling the collection tin?

James Douglass
Grumpy Birthday
It’s Paula’s birthday – she’s 21 again. Let’s all chip in and get something really special for Paula, George, Blossom, and Carruthers. Carruthers? (Source: Getty)

Periodically, a senior economist will suggest that as a society we could abolish cash. As an idea, it unites left and right in immediate dismay.

On the one hand, it would strike a blow against individual liberty, giving retailers, banks, and possibly governments the potential to track your every transaction.

On the other, it would disenfranchise the poor – the unbanked and those who do not have access to financial services.

But rarely does anyone point out the immediate and devastating effect it would have on office life. Now that contactless is everywhere, even at pop-up artisan food stalls, there is only really one use for pound coins and crumpled fivers: the office collection.

There are many kinds of office collection. Some you will genuinely want to contribute to, some you may slightly resent, and some border on emotional blackmail. But most can be exorcised by bunging a quid in a pot. The more common ones are as follows.

The World Cup sweepstake

These are always drawn “at random”. In theoretical physics, Bell’s Theorem states that true randomness does exist because there are no hidden variables that can explain all of the outcomes of quantum events. So how come your boss always draws Brazil, and you’ve got Scotland, again?

The happy couple

Emma is getting married. Which is a shame. Not for Emma, obviously. You wish her years of happiness with her husband. Or wife. Probably should have checked that. Still, though. Is a fiver too much or too little?

The Big Birthday

It’s Paula’s birthday – she’s 21 again. Let’s all chip in and get something really special for Paula, George, Blossom, and Carruthers. Carruthers? No one calls a child Carruthers. Oh, wait, it’s that Paula. With the cats. Hmm. A year is seven cat years. Does that work for donations?

The new arrival

You are delighted that Martin and Suzie are having a baby. You don’t know who they actually are, but that’s lovely news.

The Secret Santa

There nearly wasn’t a Secret Santa after the unfortunate episode last year with the “novelty” chocolates. But there is, and you’ve drawn Pete. The only thing you know about Pete is that he’s really quite interested in the Second World War. Maybe play it safe and get him some socks.

It’s for charity (1)

Neil is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. So dig deep guys – it’s for charity. You might find it easier to rid yourself of the totally unfounded suspicion that you are in some way subsidising Neil’s holiday if he ever bought a round.

It’s for charity (2)

It’s the office raffle. No one from your department has ever won the office raffle. You’ve come to regard it as a friendly version of those protection rackets you read about in The Godfather. Oh well, it’s only a quid. And you might win the hamper. Then you’d have to take it home. On the tube. Let’s face it, you’d pay a quid not to have to do that.

So long and thanks

After 15 years, Joy is leaving. Things will not be the same. You like Joy. You will miss Joy. No one orders stationery quite like Joy.

The thing to remember is that at some point it will be your birthday. You hope, anyway. And, if you drop a wedge of shrapnel all at once, no one knows how much you actually put in.

So until we finally do away with coins altogether, whereupon your largesse – or not – will be visible to all, make the most of the clinking sound of cold, hard cash.