Stockholm's homeless now take credit cards

Summary:To accelerate sales, a magazine gave credit card readers to its homeless vendors. Is Sweden the first cashless society in the world?

Spare some kronor? No need! Stockholm’s homeless magazine vendors now take credit cards. Businessweek reports.

Situation Stockholm is a culture magazine that costs 50 kronor ($8) and features stories on Swedish celebrities, such as pop star Robyn and actress Noomi Rapace from the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

It’s also sold by the homeless, who keep 50 percent of the money they take in from peddling the magazine. In September, five of the magazine’s 350 vendors were equipped with portable card readers to accept payments from fellow Swedes. This marks a world’s first.

“More and more of our sellers come in and say that people don’t have cash,” says Pia Stolt, the magazine’s chief executive officer. "They have told us this for a long time."

The magazine can already be bought via a text-message service. And now, by supplying its street vendors with card readers from Swedish mobile-payments company iZettle, Situation Stockholm is seeking to accelerate sales.

But would people hesitate to use a credit card on the street? “This was one of the things we were wondering about -- how safe people would feel with iZettle and this card reader," Stolt says, "but they do.”

After the trial increased sales, the publication decided to introduce the devices on a broader scale. Stolt adds that this also changes the image that people have of their sellers.

“Before, everyone said they don’t have cash or that they cannot pay with their mobile phones because it was a corporate phone. But now they can’t get away,” says vendor Stefan Wikberg outside a subway entrance. “I take cards, SMS payments, cash, and they can also pay in dollars and euros.”

In Sweden, which printed Europe’s first bank notes in 1661, bills and coins represented just 2.7 percent of the economy in 2012, compared with an average 9.8 percent in the euro area and 7.2 percent in the U.S., according to the Bank for International Settlements.

Three of Sweden’s four largest banks have stopped offering cash-handling services by tellers in up to 75 percent of their local branches. Over the past 12 months, ATM transactions numbers decreased by 11 percent.

“We could and should be the first cashless society in the world,” says Abba member Björn Ulvaeus.

[Businessweek]

Image: Situation Sthlm seller via Wikimedia

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter.

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