As reported by Bangkok Post (Jan 26), the city’s well-known weekend market is going completely cashless by June 2018. Question is, will it affect our experience in Chatuchak?

Asia’s largest weekend market is known to be a one-spot destination for everything, spanning at 15,000 booths in 27 sections, market-goers can find things across all of Thailand in a destination. The place is so massive that Chatuchak has its own mobile app in Google Play and iTunes for shoppers to navigate the place by categories or stall ratings.

Now aiming for a modern consumer world, shoppers can pay for items with breeze by using a single card or by QR code through their phones. Apart from that, Chatuchak will also be receiving a RM12 million upgrade to the marketplace for automated vehicle parking lots and potential air-conditioned toilets.

Undoubtedly, the benefits of the cashless Thai market are:

1. A rate for all
We know that these shops have dual pricing, meaning cheaper for locals and more expensive for tourists. With the implementation of card and QR code, there is a huge possibility that things would have a fixed rate no matter your nationality.

2. Improved safety concerns
You don’t have to worry about pickpockets or losing your thick-wad of cash wallet in the crowd. Bring less, spend more.

3. Extra time to shop
Forget about fumbling on counting the exact amount of Baht or identifying the many faces of coins when you pay. Just scan and move on to your next store conquest.

4. Less germs transmission
As the market have more than 200,000 visitors a day, imagine the flow of money in that crowd. Anxious people like me can check it off the list to avoid getting transmitted germs via paper money.

Truly, a digital market is too good to be true as certain progress often triumph over traditions. One of the great things in shopping at Bangkok market is the act of haggling and feeling of success over the money we managed to ‘save’ in the end from thrifty shopping.  However, the card/QR code scan will replace that joy as buyers now will have no control over the price they’re paying.

Chatuchak’s development also result in higher rental charge according to SRT’s director, Mr. Siripong Preutthipan. As of now, the rental rate has increased more than 500% since 2011. This means that things will only get more expensive at Chatuchak.

Other than shopping, your expenses amass from higher service charges as lavatories entry will be increased from 2 baht to 10 baht after the upgrade. Also, the idea of purchasing or reloading your pay card at Chatuchak is also strenuous considering the queue in a large crowd.

While e-payment ultimately replaces human interaction, I wonder if the trip to Chatuchak will be culturally and economically rewarding in the looming future.

By Jessy Wong

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