Fast Times

Should We Just Go Back to Paying for Fast Food With Cash?

Yellow touches red, soon you'll be dead.
Yellow touches red, soon you'll be dead. Photo by Mike Mozart via flickr
In September it was Equifax. Now it's Sonic. The fast-food company known for its hot dogs, shakes and slushies has just admitted to a major security breach that has not only put the credit card information of as many as 5.1 million customers at risk, as reported by Restaurant Business, but has reportedly already put that information for sale on the dark web.

Let's just add this to a growing list of security breaches, shall we? Because before there was ever Equifax and Sonic, there was — as you will likely recall — Wendy's, Arby's, Chipotle, Target, Home Depot and then some. In fact, it's getting to the point where it seems like using your card to pay for just about anything is a bad idea. Use it at the gas pump and suddenly somebody's skimmed your info and is on a spending spree in New York. That happened to me earlier this year, right after I moved to Houston. I had the pleasure of discovering that when I went to pay for pizza at Love Buzz and my card was declined, as was a smile from the bartender. That lucky Gwendolyn Knapp got to shop at Nordstrom and Duane Reade. How nice.

In 2014, I was also the victim of tax fraud when somebody filed as me, which I found out when I tried to file my taxes and had to go through the hassle of proving my identity, being assigned an impossible-to-memorize pin that I am not supposed to lose for all eternity and then waiting a full year for a pathetic pittance known as a return that I could then use to help pay my student loan bill. Equifax? Also affected. Sonic? The two times I went last year (post-5K road race because at least I have exercise going for me), well, my sister paid.

Hope you didn't use a card at Sonic, I texted her yesterday. The emojis she sent back ranged from the deeply disturbed screaming face to the I accept the fact that I too have been made Sonic's bitch forlorn look-of-resignation face.

As of last year, according to CNBC anyway, nearly 41 million Americans had already had their identities stolen in some form or another, and a study released by Javelin Strategy & Research in 2017 claims that more than 15.4 million Americans also had their identities stolen in 2016. And those are just, like, people who are aware this is happening and report it. Last year was also when Wendy's had a massive security breach at more than 1,000 locations.

Identity theft is now becoming so prevalent that it feels like yet another inescapable component of the menial adulthood drudgery known as life. Work this job. Pay these taxes. Brush your teeth. Swipe to the left. Get eight hours of sleep while some cystic subreddit hacker, who is probably 13 and subsists on mini Twix candies, attempts to sell your stolen credit card info for $25 to $50 a pop on the dark web's Jokers Stash site, along with 5 million other stolen cards, marketed enticingly as the "Firetigerr batch," two words that haven't been an accurate description of something since the Ed Hardy clothing line, fall 2007.

Should we only start paying cash now? Is that what it's come down to, America? Because it's starting to appear that the likelihood of being mugged of cash in person is far less common than that of being mugged of cash online. According to the identity theft pros at, the real problem here could be that "the United States is embarrassingly the last of the G20 nations to make the shift to more secure chip-based cards, which are far more expensive and difficult for criminals to counterfeit." Apparently, only 48 percent of Visas issued in the states as of March 2017 were chip-based. And as we all know in the land of queso, everything is far superior when it's chip-based.

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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.