The Value of Giving a Damn!
April 2024, Island Resilience

The Value of Giving a Damn!

By March Twisdale

After a year of talking with Island businesses about the significant negative impacts of point-of-service (POS) transaction fees (Bank Taxes), I came up with an idea. How about passing these fees back to customers paying with plastic, just like the grocery stores charge customers who show up without a bag? The only real difference between the two is that the cost of bags for a grocery store is super-small compared to how much money we lose (as a community) due to “transaction fees.”

While sharing my idea with business owners, many expressed interest because they’d begun to track the dent “transaction fees” make in their annual profit. The results are eye-popping!

During these conversations, I was asked this question several times: “Why do you care?” As one person put it, “You’re not a business owner. This doesn’t effect you directly. So, why is it so important to you?”

My primary answer is rooted in my lifelong focus on environmentalism. A core tenet being “resource conservation.”

A century ago, Theodore Roosevelt said, “The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.” Back in the early 1990s, when “fracking” was becoming a thing, Robert Redford advocated for conservancy of energy versus extracting more from the earth, saying, We don’t need more energy, we just need to conserve the energy we have.” Estimates at the time suggested we could reduce energy demand by 70% through conservation efforts alone.

These ideas stuck with me, along with values I picked up from my grandparents, both of whom were children during the Great Depression.

“Waste not, want not” applies not only to apples in your tree, old clothing torn into strips and woven into rugs, or fresh water pulled up out of the aquifer. The same can be said of energy stored in the form of money. That dollar bill in your pocket represents human effort. Someone’s hard work and labor was injected into our Island economy like oxygen, picked up by red blood cells, circulated throughout our community, making life possible.

Why do I care? Because I value my fellow community members. Their human effort, creativity, energy, and hard work is worth a lot, and I don’t want it wasted.

“Why do I care?” Because I value our Island environments: natural and human-made. Economically secure people take better care of one another, community infrastructures, and natural resources. Lowering stress also reduces crime, illness, addiction, family strife, and community instability.

“Why do I care?” Because cost of living increases on Vashon are a community issue. By directly reducing the cost of doing business, we help reduce the cost of goods and services.

“Why do I care?” Because “Forever Bank Taxes” (transaction fees) are the epitome of being “nickel and dimed” + “groomed” + “fleeced.” By working together, we could keep upwards of $160,000 per week on our Island, in our pockets, circulating in our community.

Yes, you read me correctly! What’s at stake is millions of dollars every year. Read more here: “How to Avoid Being Nickel and Dimed” September 2023.

But, what about tourist season? Excellent question. People don’t come to Vashon in search of big city ambiance. They’re here for the small-town feel, a walk down memory lane, a break from the high-tech hubbub of distant lands. And tourists are people at their most flexible, because every destination has its own unique habits and circumstances. And always, upon arriving at one’s destination, tourists need to know, “Where can I get cash?”

Tourists are also plenty smart. They got here, didn’t they? Of course they can adjust to local norms. Indeed, experiencing something new is a big part of why people travel. Let’s give them some new ideas to go home with. We assume people living in the city are on board with businesses saying, “No Cash Accepted.” But the truth is, many people are deeply concerned and frustrated. In the absence of balanced media coverage and/or community engagement, many feel like they’re the only ones bothered. We can remind them, they are not alone.

It’s not just Vashon Islanders who are wising up. Various business sectors, some of them national in scope, are working around these Forever Bank Taxes by automatically offering customers a choice between a “Cash” total or a “Card + Fee” total. Island businesses doing this say, When a customer is faced with paying an extra $3 or $35 or $56 (based on the total bill), most will go home for their checkbook or head to the nearest ATM.”

No one wants to send more money to the banking industry, and we can opt out. We can choose to keep our money here at home, on our Island.

While some people struggle with change, Island business-owners already doing this tell me that the vast majority of their customers understand and are actively supportive. We are a community, after all, and that means we care about one another. By consistently lowering business costs, we all gain in the form of lower prices, higher wages, better business re-investment, and community resilience across the board.

On the technical side of things, different POS systems are being used on Vashon. I have heard that the US Bank’s system is excellent, but it’s not the only one. Check with your provider, to learn how to work with your particular system.

Have questions? Go to and search “March Twisdale.” You’ll find a series of articles beginning in early 2023, exploring this issue. You can also talk to your favorite local business owner!

While you chew on that – here’s an idea! Maybe we could have local ATMs competing for Vashon Island’s Unofficial Mayor? We could all “vote” with our ATM cards, to see which machine gets the most love in the form of withdrawals! (It’s an idea … )

April 8, 2024

About Author

march March Twisdale has called Vashon Island home for nearly twenty years. A lifelong advocate of independent thought, March believes there are as many right choices as there are people in the world. She looks forward to bringing inspiring content to Vashon Loop readers, as she's done for eight years with her radio show - Prose, Poetry & Purpose. Find her on by searching "Our Thoughts Matter."