“Cash is King.”
Just a few years ago, this statement was true. Cash-at-the-door was the most common form of payment at haunted attractions, as well as other types of events.
But in 2022, customers are rolling their eyes and grumbling under their breath when they pull out a credit card and hear the dreaded, “I’m sorry, it’s cash only.”
Most people carry less than $20 cash, and younger generations don’t carry any at all. It’s not just a COVID-19 reaction: these shifts in consumer preferences were simply accelerated by the impact of the pandemic. Still, some haunts choose – often for good reason – not to accept credit cards or electronic payments. Especially if you have a well-established venue that’s always done cash-at-the-door sales, expanding into digital payments might seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
But there are hidden costs to using cash as your only payment method. How do you know if cash or credit is right for you? Let’s take a look at the costs vs. benefits of cash-at-the-door admission.
1. Appropriate for All Ages
While a six-year-old may not have access to a credit card, even small children can manage a few dollars in cash for admission to a haunted house or a soft pretzel at the concession stand.
2. No Connection Needed
To run credit card payments on site, you’ll need to have a wifi or cellular connection of some kind. Most locations in the US have access to a mobile network these days, but it’s still true that if you’re only accepting cash, you can do it from anywhere – even if there’s no signal.
3. Low Risk of Identity Theft
From the customer’s point of view, electronic, and specifically online, payments come with a higher risk of identity theft than cash payments. Because cash stores no personal or financial information, there’s no data to intercept during their transaction.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there’s zero risk of fraud with cash payments. Haunt owners need to make sure all staff handling cash transactions are properly trained to spot suspicious or fake bills – and fraudsters are getting more and more clever every year.
4. Easy to Set Up
What do you need to accept cash at your haunt? Just a cash box and a few extra bills to make change, right? There’s no special equipment, no merchant account, no online page to set up. You can do everything the day of your event with no advance planning.
Actually, you will still need to have a legal business entity and a business bank account set up. But those are things you’ll need regardless of the type of payments you accept.
5. No Fees
Most credit card transactions come with a processing fee that is typically paid by the merchant. That eats into your profit. You might find that you need to start charging a little extra per ticket to make up the difference (especially if you’re working with a vendor that charges 10, 20, or even 80% in fees).
With HauntPay, ALL fees can ALWAYS be passed onto the ticket purchaser. And cash transactions are always free, too. There is ZERO cost to your event. No monthly fees. No Setup fees. No contracts.
Those are the main benefits of cash-at-the-door admission. But what about the costs of this payment method? There may be some hidden drawbacks you may not have thought about. Let’s dive in.
1. Missed Revenue Opportunities
Recent data shows that the average size of cash transactions is just $22. In contrast, the average non-cash transaction is $112. If guests are spending more than five times what they’d pay with cash, your haunt could be making a lot more revenue by accepting electronic or card-based payments.
That doesn’t just apply to the ticket price: in-event spending goes up when guests use credit or debit cards, too. Merchandise or souvenir purchases, as well as concessions and snacks, increase with card or electronic payment methods.
2. Longer Lines
The amount of time required to take cash and make change is longer than completing a credit card transaction. It might not seem like individually each transaction would take much longer, but they all add up – especially on a busy Saturday night in October. On average, haunted attractions with a higher volume of cash transactions have longer waits than those where the majority of transactions are electronic.
Additionally, customers can often save time in line if they’ve purchased their tickets online in advance. Those guests won’t be clogging up the line at your ticket booth.
3. ‘Lost’ Income
Cash has a tendency to go missing. Whether it simply gets lost in transit or is siphoned off by a rogue staff member, paper currency is just more difficult to manage. And business owners often don’t even know money has gone missing until months or years later.
Digital transactions are easier to track, and you’ll save a ton of time by not having to reconcile multiple cash drawers at the end of the night. How would it feel to be able to go home at a reasonable hour instead of counting cash into the wee hours of the night every weekend?
4. You Can’t Sell Online with Cash
We know customers will spend more with a credit card than they will with cash, but that’s especially true when they’re purchasing online in advance. It’s easy to spend more when you don’t physically see the money coming out of your wallet. And many platforms allow guests to save their payment information, so it’s even easier to complete a transaction – at any price.
Another reason consumers prefer online transactions is the ability to guarantee admission before they leave the house. Have you ever arrived at a venue only to find out it’s sold out for the night? It’s no fun, right? Buying in advance gives guests peace of mind and reduces surprises.
4. Having to Turn Customers Away
It’s the worst feeling as a haunt owner to have to turn away a guest who wants to enjoy what you have to offer. But the reality is that it happens more and more often for haunts that only accept cash-at-the-door. With fewer consumers carrying cash of any kind, even if you charge just a few dollars for admission there’s a large number of people who might show up and be unable to enter. ATM usage is also declining, so don’t assume even if your venue has an ATM that guests will have a debit card with them (or that they’ll be willing to pay the fees to do so).
5. Inconsiderate to Customers
A lot of haunt resisted making the leap to credit card sales because it was simply easier for them. And that’s ok, but it leaves out a very important group of stakeholders in your business: the customers.
The vast majority of consumers prefer to pay by credit card, and that number is increasing every year. When asked, consumers pointed to convenience as the biggest benefit of credit card payments, but they also prefer this payment method because they can earn rewards and build creditworthiness. Over time, consumers will gradually shift their loyalties to haunts that accept electronic payments – and that may be your competition.
6. Trouble Making Change
How many times have you been halfway through a busy night and run out of small bills or coins? It’s frustrating both for your guests and staff. You may have to deal with customers trying to break large bills (ever seen someone try to use a $100 to pay for a $2 midway ticket?), or be unable to make proper change to those paying with smaller currency.
But the headaches don’t stop with making change. There are other hidden costs of cash: having to hire a secure service to deposit the funds, or take large sums of cash to the bank on your own. Physically counting every dollar at the end of the night and reconciling each cash drawer. Those things all take time (and in some cases, they cost money, too).
7. Money is Dirty
No, we’re not talking about ‘dirty money.’ But cash is literally…filthy. It’s covered in germs, touched by who knows how many hands (or what they’ve touched before handling it), and generally a breeding ground for bacteria. It puts your staff, and honestly, your customers, at risk when you accept it as your sole payment method.
Electronic machines are easy to sanitize, and many businesses have started accepting contactless payments which don’t require any touch-points between your staff and customers.
Accepting electronic payments is simpler than you think. We’d love to be the ones to help you take your event to the next level. Schedule a demo today and see how simple it can be!
HauntPay helps events of all shapes and sizes sell tickets online and at the door, as well as sell merchandise and concessions, all on one platform. There is ZERO cost to your haunt, and all fees can be passed onto the ticket purchaser.
You don’t need to set up a separate merchant account, and our team will even set up your ticketing for you, completely free of charge. There’s NO special equipment to purchase to scan tickets, and we’ll even send you a credit card reader for FREE (ask about it during your demo!).