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Will Giant Coffee's Cash-Only Philosophy Work?

You read the headline right. Giant Coffee, Central Phoenix's newest gourmet coffee house, doesn't take plastic.

And that's caused a bit of a stir on Yelp and among foodies around town. Owner Matt Pool doesn't mind.  

"I think using a debit card to buy a $2 or $3 cup of coffee is just silly," says the plain-spoken Pool. Personal feelings aside, he says the decision to go cash-only just makes sense for his latest endeavor.

(Pool's other Phoenix-based businesses, Matt's Big Breakfast and The Roosevelt, do, indeed accept debit and credit cards.)

It's a coffee thing, and in his defense, Pool has some role models. On a recent trip to New York City, Pool visited the famed Portland-based Stumptown and noticed how quickly the line moved because the shop is cash-only.

There's also the cost. In addition to taking a 2 or 3 percent cut of the bill, for every swipe of a card, big banks take a flat rate, too. On smaller sales like a cup of coffee, as much as 15 percent of the bill is going to a credit card company, Pool says.

So far, Pool says the customer reaction has been positive.

"It's a trade-off. I offer really great milk at no extra charge," Pool says, adding that he's hoping to build a base of loyal customers who come for the high-quality ingredients rather than the convenience of the payment method.

The customers we talked to at Giant say they're okay with it, especially knowing they'd likely pay more if Pool took plastic.

"We've already got Rito's and the Bikini downtown. I guess we're kind of used to it," one self-described regular said. (Neither the the popular Mexican restaurant nor the tiki dive bar take credit or debit cards.)

Yelpers have been whining, it's true. Here's a typical response, this one's from Melanie L:

I tried to go to Giant today.  I live in Tempe but was running some errands in the area and had been wanting to check out Giant since there's so much buzz around the place.  After taking a couple turns to find parking I walked up to the register to be confronted with the "Cash only" sign.  I asked if they were serious.  The barista said yes.  I asked if they'd take a check, since I randomly had my check book on me.  The barista said no.  And told me to go to CVS across the street to get cash out.  It's a hundred-flippin' degrees outside, so I'll take a pass on that.  I had no cash on me so I turned around and walked out.  I'm a small business owner myself, and get the outrageous fees charged by merchant services, but really?   Since I was in serious need of caffeine at this point I swung by Solo in Tempe on my way home where they gladly ran my Visa card.  I'll make sure to update this if I ever happen to be back in the area, can find parking, and have cash on me.

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That was pretty much the majority opinion, but it's not unanimous. Ken B. from Phoenix would like to see blended drinks on the menu, but he's not upset about the cash thing.

Yes, it's cash only. Get over it. CVS is right there, buy a cheap pack of gum and take out a $20. In SF, you need cash for any meal under $10 short of going to a Subway. And being that you're probably an annoying hipster who dreams of gentrifying the Mission rather than wasting away in Phoenix, start carrying cash.

As for Matt Pool, he's not too concerned. And who knows? Plastic might be on the horizon. 

"I'm not set on it. We're trying it out," Pool says.

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