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How Bed-Stuy is Beating the 'Cash-Only' Blues

Tired of being told a store accepts cash-only? Then tell them to 'Level Up'

A few Bed-Stuy small businesses have adopted a new means for point of sale purchasing that allows customers to leave their wallets at home.

It’s called Level Up, and it’s allowing the customers of cash-only business establishments to make charges on their credit or debit card via a free, downloadable cell phone app.

And thank goodness, as one of the most oft-heard complaints by Brooklyn residents is the large number of small businesses in the borough that do not accept credit cards.

Level Up works similar to PayPal in that it is linked to the user's credit or debit card.

Within seconds of downloading and registering, the service then gives the user a unique QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code), a type of matrix barcode that can be read from the merchant's own cell phone. A transaction using a QR Code is easier and faster than a debit or credit card purchase which requires users key in a password or sign a receipt.

"We don't have a credit card machine, and we saw that a lot of our customers didn't like having to go to an ATM machine and then have to come back," said Peter Camilo, co-owner of Colador Cafe on Bedford Avenue. Camilo said so far, they have about 20 regular customers that use the service daily.

“I never carry cash and a lot of businesses in this neighborhood do not accept credit cards,” said Kristen Anderson, who has live in Bed-Stuy for two years. She was at Colador Café purchasing a small cup of coffee using Level Up.

Kristen said she’s been using the service for about 6-7 months, around the time it was first introduced: “It’s a much easier way to pay for things” she said. “So far, I’ve found three in the neighborhood that I go to regularly. But there are a lot more in the city where I work.”

Here are the businesses within a 0-1 mile radius of Bedford-Stuyvesant that use Level Up:

  • .
  • Safeway Locksmith
  • Bergen Bagels
  • Brooklyn Crepe and Juice
  • Luscious Food

Once downloaded, the app locates the user and then indicates all of the stores within a certain radius of the user’s current location that use Level Up.

"We like it," said Camilo. "It's easier for the customer, plus you get rewards and extra money after spending a certain amount."

"It's the future, it's part of the future. So we knew we had to adapt to it."

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Jenny August 27, 2012 at 11:52 PM
what a great idea. i have to imagine more businesses all over will start to do this.
Tia August 29, 2012 at 02:33 PM
It is a good idea, as long as there is not a set limit on the amount the consumer must spend-- as in the regular cc purchases at the local store. Many of the local merchants will not allow a cc purchase unless you spend $10.00 or more; if your bill is $9.00, i.e., they will add on $1.00. I am finding my self frequently adding up items purchased whenever I send my son to the store with my cc. The counter gal or guy will not give an itemized bill, instead, a receipt displaying credit or debit ... approved in the amount of.... let me add, there is a phone number on the receipt that is inoperable. So today, I am in route to this Papa mini market located at 303 Tompkins Avenue at the corner of Quincy to question--why my son was charged $20.00 {even amount} for a small bottle of Nyquil medicine, 32 oz bottle of orange juice, and a small jar of Ragu Spaghetti sauce? Do they think we are just stupid? If I were not ill, I would have gone myself and not have been charged $20.00 even. This cc introduction to the cash only store is a great idea, but you must make sure you or your children are not being cheated.
C. Zawadi Morris August 29, 2012 at 05:22 PM
This is a good point Tia. Unlike with credit/debit card, there is no minimum or maximum a customer has to spend with a merchant who accepts Level Up. That's the beauty of it. But the other point about counting change is also important. Because of a bodega's convenience, we often send our children out to make purchases. And for this reason, merchants tend to be very "relaxed" in always giving back correct change, because the children automatically trust adults. I always count every penny when I go to bodegas, and too often find they have shorted me.
Melissa Danielle October 11, 2012 at 09:26 AM
Where is Luscious Food?

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