A woman walks into a Whole Foods supermarket in Washington, DC during hours reserved for customers 60 years and older, a accommodation put in place during the novel coronavirus pandemic, in March 2020 (AFP / Saul Loeb)

No, Whole Foods does not refuse cash payments at its stores

Copyright AFP 2017-2020. All rights reserved.

A photo shared thousands of times on social media shows a Whole Foods Market checkout lane with a sign that reads “cash not accepted,” implying the store refuses transactions with paper bills and coins. This is misleading; Whole Foods said on Twitter it accepts cash, but some locations divide lanes between cash and cashless payments to make the process easier and safer for customers.

“If i walk to a store that does this i will walk back out. Cash is legal tender and if we cave into this rubbish we cave into the cashless society (...) BOYCOTT no matter how inconvenient it is,” the text that accompanies a June 30, 2020 post reads. The photo has been circulating on Facebook since May 31.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on July 9, 2020

“Use your cash, it's against the law for anyone to refuse the cash payment in exchange for goods and services. Take back the control of your life,” a similar post reads. Posts decrying businesses refusing cash amid the novel coronavirus pandemic can also be found on Twitter -- here, here, and here

The novel coronavirus pandemic brought growing concerns of transmission through banknotes. But according to a BIS Bulletin from the Bank for International Settlements, evidence suggests that the risk of a spread through cash payments is low when compared with other frequently-touched objects.

Since May, Whole Foods has responded via its official Twitter account to questions about its policies on cash including here, and here.

The company said that, as of April 20, some stores designated cash and cashless lanes “as an added safety measure and to make the checkout process easier for customers.” Whole Foods stores still accept cash, it added. 

Screenshots of tweets taken on July 8, 2020