During the New York smart card trial that ended early this year, it was not unusual for customers to be greeted by merchants with visible signs of annoyance. Some were even told not to use these cards during busy times.

That, in a nutshell, describes the problem with electronic cash schemes. Electronic cash was designed to compete against coins, and it has failed miserably. It was marketed as a speedier alternative and it isn't. Admittedly, the New York experience was just a pilot, undertaken to test the waters. But it was not an even match. Coins delivered a first-round knockout.

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