Cash and Accessibility in the Piercing Industry

When we as an industry discuss what makes a studio good we often focus on safety and hygiene. Proper sterilization protocol, high quality jewelry, good piercers. All of these things are important factors that effect the overall quality of a studio. But a lesser discussed factor is a studios accessibility. Studios exist to serve our clients and our communities. And there are a number of factors that make our services more or less accessible to those we serve. Piercing, like many other service industries, can at times struggle with accessibility. We have talked before on this blog about the way a studios physical setup can be inaccessible to clients of different body types. We’ve also talked about how language and branding in the industry can whitewash piercings cultural, spiritual, and religious impact, making these services less accessible to those who need it the most. Today I want to talk about a tangible way studios limit accessibility to their direct local community- payment.

During the height of COVID many businesses opted to stop taking cash. There was a lot of fear surrounding how dirty money is and the potential for it to spread infection. While I understand this fear, and while we know money is not the cleanest, we also very quickly realized a lot of this fear was unfounded. Partaking in social distancing and wearing your mask does infinitely more to keep you and your clients safe than only taking credit cards does. Regardless, the change stuck. Businesses and studios all over went cashless, only taking credit, debit, and android/apple pay. And while this may seem like just another business decision, it actually severely limits how accessible your studio can be and closes you off to many members of your community.

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Who Gets to Have a Bank Account

When we are a card only studio we need to consider who is able to get a card- and who isn’t. There are requirements to have a bank account, and many of these are also at the discretion of the bank as well. In America most folks must be 18, with a social security card, a residence they can prove (often a license or ID is not enough, and banks will require seeing physical utility bills in your name for the matching address), and valid identification. We already know that just obtaining ID can be a difficult process (I’ve discussed it in this blog here) let alone all of the other requirements someone may need to be able to have a bank account. Someone may be staying with friends or subletting a place and have no utilities in their name. Someone may be temporarily homeless. Unable to get a social security card, sometimes through no fault of their own.

Beyond that banks can choose not to open an account for someone based on their banking history. If someone has too many late fees or overdraft fees, this can be enough for a bank to turn them away. Many of these fees are predatory, and punish low income folks simply for being low income or having variable income. Clients whose banking history may have been ruined by abusive partners or parents may not be able to get a bank account. For many in america, they are denied access to a bank account often through no fault of their own- rather their finances have been irreversibly damaged by a loved one, family member, or friend.

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Who Gets to Have a Credit Card

If someone can not obtain a debit card and bank account, your response may be “well they can open a credit card then.” But sadly these two things are often intertwined. Many credit companies require someone have a bank account linked to their credit card so they can confirm payment. No bank account- no credit card. Other cards look at a persons banking history. And much like accessing a bank account, past financial mistakes and financial abuse can limit someone from being able to access a line of credit.

Some clients simply aren’t comfortable having a credit card- many folks who may struggle with spending and gambling issues or who have financial trauma may choose not to keep any credit cards for their own mental and financial wellbeing. It is entirely ok to choose to only use cash if that’s what makes you more comfortable or is better for your mental health. When we choose a payment model that forces our clients to have a credit card or debit card to pay for our services we are willingly excluding all of these people from our studios.

And some folks respond “just use Venmo! Or cash app! Or PayPal! But forget to realize that most of these apps also require having some form of bank account or credit card linked to them. Sure you can jump through hoops of buying gift cards with cash and then transferring funds or using them but that is also a ton of work, and often folks end up spending more in fees on the cards or transaction than they would have just using cash.

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While their is a strong argument to be made about still serving those who are unable to access credit cards and bank accounts, there’s an equally strong one to be made for accepting cash. Many of our client work in cash heavy businesses, from servers, hair stylists, dancers, sex workers, nail techs, and small local businesses. For them, paying in cash is convent and easier then depositing money and putting it on a card or writing a check to spend it. Clients can get an amazing tip at work and swing right by the studio to pick up a piece they’ve had an eye on for months. Accepting cash is easier for many of our clients.

It also allows us to serve all members of our community- even those who can’t access cards. Just because you aren’t able to have a bank account or a credit card doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to get your morning coffee, pay to park a car, or get a piercing or tattoo. Often there can be a large amount of shame that surrounds not having access to these things, or simply choosing not to use them. The last thing we need to do is make that worse by refusing to service those in our community who don’t. If you work in a studio that has switched to card only I would strongly suggest you to consider who you help by doing that- and who you hurt.