Anyhow, when I pulled in to the gas station, I whipped out my American Express card and asked the attendant in broken Italian to turn on the pump. He acted like I had just punched him in the gut, wincing when he saw my credit card. “No… cash, only cash,” he said.
I didn’t have very much cash on me, so I drove to the next station where a similar experience awaited me.
This is a trend that is typical when economies are in decline– cash is king. Businesses often won’t want to spend the extra 2.5% on credit card merchant fees… but more importantly, distrust of the banking system and a debilitatingly extractive tax system pushes people into cash transactions.
You can’t really blame them. In Italy there’s massive distrust of the local banking system. Most of the banks are insolvent, and the government has already started imposing capital controls by limiting withdrawals in some cases to 1,000 euros.