Sequel to the cash-rationing by commercial banks in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, shoppers are thronging some merchants with Point of Sale (POS) terminals to obtain cash at discounted rates.
Those shops dispensing cash were besieged by desperate residents who had kept vigil at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) locations to no avail.
Most ATMs in the town ran out of cash on Friday, dashing the hopes of many families and throwing up a bleak Christmas.
A customer told our correspondent that she learnt that some shops were charging the bank accounts of shoppers’ debit cards using the POS terminals for purchases made and even gave out cash to the customers after making such deductions.
“My husband has kept vigil at ATM locations to withdraw some money for three days and he leaves the house as early as 5 am without success but I was told that stores having POS terminals can help out with cash.”
She said at one of those stores it was a relief after she paid for her groceries and they gave her extra cash she could use for other things pending when the situation improves or after the holiday period.
“What they did was to charge N10,000 on my debit card and give me N9,500 cash that is a commission of N500 naira on N10,000. Although it is high, I have no choice, I hear some places charge higher.
One of those stores told our correspondent they had been facing difficulties with banks not having money to meet demands of customers and civil servants who were paid their salaries who were unable to make withdrawals as the banks said they were short of cash.
One customer said some of them restricted the maximum withdrawal per customer to N5,000, with the crowd running into several hundreds, so he didn’t mind the arrangement.
One of the operators of the POS terminal, who wished to remain anonymous, described the situation was a ‘child of necessity’.
“It a solution that favours both parties and it is for our customers who cannot withdraw from the banks, on our part we cannot make deposits for the cash we realized from sales during the holidays.
“So giving out the cash and crediting our account from customers’ debit card is a win-win situation for both parties,” he said.
A cashier at one of the pharmaceutical stores, Miss Ebiowei Samuel, explained that the extra charges were to cover the bank charges from the banks that issued the POS terminals.
“We are not doing it to make money; the extra we ask for is to cover the bank charges because the banks charge our own accounts with them on every transaction made through the POS.
“We only do it to assist our regular customers here and the customers are happy with the arrangement and it reduces our risk of keeping excess cash, if other stores charge higher I do not know,” she said.
The shortage of cash from banks had attracted patronage to stores using the POS terminals as most of the stores visited had long queues of customers waiting to pay from their debit cards.
Meanwhile, others shop owners and traders without the POS complained of poor patronage and low sales during the yuletide.
Kingsley Dike, who runs a store in Amarata area of Yenagoa, said that the shortage of cash inflicted a negative toll on the yuletide season.
“The problems with banks not having money two weeks ahead of Christmas affected us a lot. When civil servants were paid we heaved a sigh of relief and stocked our shops for the season but customers cannot draw their money [for shopping].
“It is only the big shops with POS that are enjoying the boom, some people come in and say that they want to use ATM but we have no POS terminal so it was not a good season,” Dike said.