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Our cashless society is hurting the Legion's poppy campaign, volunteer says

People just aren’t carrying cash anymore, the West Vancouver Legion volunteer says, and so poppy boxes aren’t getting filled.
A Royal Canadian Legion volunteer offers a poppy, a symbol of remembrance worn over the heart on Nov. 11. | North Shore News files

North Shore residents aren’t filling the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy boxes the way they used to.

Since the pandemic, people have preferred to pay for everything with cards, says West Vancouver Legion volunteer Graham Mackintosh, who is responsible for more than 100 poppy boxes sitting neglected next to retailers’ tills.

“I was reloading poppies and emptying the boxes and it was awful. Just dismal,” he said. “Usually they’re very, very generous every time I go in there, but there’s just very, very little and I’m positive it’s because they don’t carry cash.”

The Legion deploys poppy “taggers,” as they’re called, with machines that allow people to tap donations with their credit or debit cards. Those tend to be larger donations than what would appear in the boxes, but there aren’t enough volunteers in the Legion’s ranks to offset the declining revenue in the boxes, Mackintosh said.

All of the funds raised by local volunteers stay within the community, Mackintosh said, but he’s worried there will be a lesser amount for the Legion to contribute this year.

“I think we’re going to be way down,” he said.

Mackintosh said he doesn’t think the community is shirking its responsibility of remembrance for those who fought and died in war. While some new Canadians may not be familiar with the poppy and its symbolism, the number of people who turn out to the Remembrance Day ceremony at West Vancouver’s memorial is only going up, Mackintosh noted.

Recognizing that people mostly prefer to pay with a card these days, Mackintosh has a helpful suggestion: Ask retailers at the till if they’ll do cash back so shoppers can have something to stuff into the poppy box.

“It’s a wonderful thing to do and people will get good karma,” he said with a laugh. “They’ll feel good.”

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