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What's the deal with cash-only venues and ATMs in Vancouver? Are we being scammed?

One woman on TikTok thinks so.
ATM stock image
Are privately owned ATMs at cash-only venues in Vancouver trying to scam you? We investigate.

A Vancouver woman posted a controversial video to TikTok earlier this week "calling out" a local vintage market for charging a cash-only entrance fee when the vendors accept cards.

She went on to allege that all venues that do this and have a privately owned ATM on-site are in effect "scamming" people by drawing profit from the fees collected by the ATM. She called out Fox Cabaret as one of the venues that she believes is doing this.

So are we being scammed? 

If you ask the co-owner of Eastside Studios, which hosts the Vancouver Vintage Market and the Eastside Flea Market among other events, no.

Why are certain venues cash only?

"We have a very large warehouse space that has unreliable WiFi throughout," explains Paige Frewer, co-owner of Eastside Studios "We are a queer women- and trans-owned small business that operates on thin margins, so we have not visited the option of adding more WiFi modems. We have boosted our main WiFi as much as it can be boosted, which covers our offices upstairs and a bit of the downstairs warehouse, but it’s still not stable enough to support tap [payments] at the door."

Frewer adds that the vendors use their own data plans to power the square readers at the booths that accept cards. Coincidentally, Frewer says that a few weeks ago they ordered a tap reader for payments through Square, but they haven’t can't yet afford to buy a new iPad to start using the software. "We hope to boot it up and be able to offer it as another option for patrons soon. Until then we will continue to be a cash-only venue."

An organizer for the Eastside Flea Market, which takes place in the same building tells V.I.A over email that "we will be working with the venue on arranging [card payments at the door] for next season. In addition, we will be offering advance ticket sales again as we did receive this feedback from this past season as well."

Who collects the fees collected by privately owned ATMs and where does the money go?

As for the ATM, Frewer confirms that K&D ATMs is a third-party company that collects the fees charged to cover the costs associated with servicing the machines such as programming them and delivering cash on demand during events. Eastside Studios does not keep the service fee money.

"They are provided to our guests as a courtesy, in case they forget to stop at a bank or another ATM on their way to the space," they say, adding that as a venue they negotiate with K&D to charge a smaller fee for queer and trans community events, which comprises the majority of Eastside's public programming.

V.I.A reached out to Fox Cabaret about their ATM but did not receive a response, however, many ATMs including the ones used by Civic Theatres run by the city of Vancouver are third-party owned and operated.

Prior to going cashless, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre had an ATM in the lobby that the city says was installed at the expense of Civic Theatres but was operated independently.

Which is better, cash or card?

Many complaints surrounding cash-only venues cite the long line-ups at the ATM or bar as people deal with change and indeed, the city agrees that's one of the reasons they chose to go cashless. "The cashless process improves wait times at concession and provides efficiencies for the front-of-house teams," says a City of Vancouver spokesperson in an emailed statement.

However, there are fees associated with making the switch to Square point-of-sale terminals. The city deemed the trade-off worth it, saying that the "fees are offset by reductions in operating costs such as armoured car cash pickup and deliveries and other administration of cash handling."

For venues that don't have extensive financial resources or didn't require that amount of administration to begin with, investing in point-of-sale machines, may not be the way to go. Opting to be cash-only could prove a stronger choice, considering that, after the upfront sale/installation cost, K&D ATMs don't charge the venue maintenance and instead use the fees from transactions to fund the upkeep of the ATM.

@mads.ster Vancouver Vintage Market we see right through your ATM scam #vancouvervintagemarket #thrifting #vancouverthrift #greenscreen #fyp #scam #atm #cashonly ♬ original sound - Mad🌻