April 20, 2024


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Cash and 21 Other Everyday Things Wiped Out by COVID-19

12 min read

The coronavirus pandemic has radically altered nearly every aspect of everyday life that people once took for granted. Activities and commodities that were standard just a handful of months ago have become scarce, if not impossible to access. Everything from paper money and coins to buffet restaurants and live concerts are becoming dim and distant memories for Americans. It’s quite possible that future generations won’t recognize a handshake or any of these 21 other items that are disappearing rapidly.

Long before COVID-19 battered the globe, e-commerce and the proliferation of payment apps have been replacing cash transactions. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., cash represented just 30% of all payments in 2017. The fear of handling paper money contaminated with the coronavirus has accelerated the digital marketplace. With so many brick-and-mortar businesses closed, there’s a tremendous decrease in in-person transactions.

“Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, about one-third of Americans under the age of 50 made no purchases in a typical week using cash,” Plamen Nikolov, an assistant professor of economics at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Remember dancing up a sweat in a tightly-packed auditorium while your favorite band blasted songs from the stage? Hold that memory dear because it could be quite a long time before you have that experience again.

“In the case of the music industry, we have seen a complete stop in the production of live events, however, artists are evolving to offer live streaming concerts,” said Javier Abrego Lorente, CEO at Revolucion Music, an online record label. “In Madrid, we had the first gig in a stadium (WiZink Arena) since the lockdown, where instead of thousands of [people] there were only a few hundred. This doesn’t cover the costs of the production, but this concert was offered as well via streaming, and tickets for the streaming version could be purchased online, this enables the possibility of increasing the audience virtually and it’s a great example of adaptation.”

Wasting your lunch hour waiting in line at a bank or another office with a notary public is one pre-pandemic hassle that could evaporate even once we enter safer times. For the future, you may not have to leave your desk to have a document notarized, as 26 states have implemented remote online notarization (RON), with more expected to follow suit.

According to attorney Diane Vidal of the law firm of Chiumento, Dwyer, Hertel and Grant, “RON is revolutionary in that it enables a signer to appear before a registered Notary using a simple webcam via Internet-enabled audio-visual programs. This groundbreaking direction in the way we verify identity will change the ways we handle real estate closings, sign wills and testaments, financing instruments such as mortgages and other important documents. Hence, the requirement of being physically present in the same room before a notary, and all the inherent hassles that come with physical in-person notarization, will become obsolete in the very near future.”

Quarantines and lockdowns have left the food service industry cold, with Yelp reporting that nearly 16,000 restaurants have permanently closed since the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. In March, the FDA recommended “discontinuing self-service buffets and salad bars” until we’re safe from the spread of the virus.

Once a staple at casinos, hotels and family-focused eateries, buffet-style dining may be off the table. U.S. buffets piled on some $5 billion in 2019, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm, accounting for only about 1% of the total restaurant business.

Garden Fresh Restaurants, parent of the buffet-style dining chains Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, filed for bankruptcy, shutting down nearly 100 restaurants. Along with that, the CEO of Global Franchise Group told Marketplace that its parent company Round Table Pizza may do away with its salad bar and pizza buffet.

Even as some Americans still wait for a government stimulus check, most are expecting the relief money via direct deposit. For most people, paper checks are a bygone form of currency relegated to gift-giving by grandparents. Those who still rely on a paper trail may be compelled to shift to electronic banking after the hassles of in-person banking during a quarantine. With people working from home, employers are increasingly shifting away from writing paper checks.

Jessica Campbell, a financial writer and CPA for Collins P.C. Financial Group, makes an argument for modern banking.

“Checks are considered an old-school method of payment. Not only are they less convenient, but they’re also less secure than debit and credit cards,” she said. “For example, you can easily close a debit or credit card if it gets lost or stolen. But if a check falls into the wrong hands, your bank account number and address has just been compromised by a complete stranger. With the world moving in a paper-less direction, checks are quickly being phased out. Plus, people are drawn to the perks and benefits of credit cards. You can easily apply for one online and open it up for free. Then you’ll earn rewards on everything you buy while building your credit history. If you manage your credit responsibly, then it’s a win-win.”


Exercise is essential to physical and mental health, and there are many benefits of group fitness including motivation and camaraderie. But working out indoors with other people could increase your chance of infection. Even as some communities reopen gyms, people are opting to maintain training routines adapted at home or outdoors. It’s cheaper, more efficient and can flexibly fit into your remote workday.

“You have to make your own assessment of how risky it is based on knowing your medical situation and whether you are someone who’s at high risk for an infection,” Dr. Saadia Griffith-Howard, an infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente, said on NPR about if gyms are safe for you.

Amber Nash, fitness expert and founder of FitHealthyBest.com, said, “large, over-crowded commercial gyms will become the Blockbuster of the fitness industry, especially now due to COVID. In addition, the new in-home fitness products on the market that bring group workouts and personal trainers into your home, combined with the popularity of boutique gyms and functional fitness are making it easier than ever to work out at home. Not to mention the added bonus of being able to work out in a group and with a personal trainer in the comfort of your home. It’s the perfect storm for the end of commercial gyms.”

House Keys

Traditional house keys were already waning in popularity ahead of the pandemic, mostly because they’re so easy to misplace. A 2017 survey from Pixie found that 28% of Americans reported losing them at least once a week. Technology is making house keys obsolete, with combination deadbolts, smart locks and touchscreen locks allowing people to simply punch in codes. Apps are another alternative, allowing you to access the door yourself or give someone else access remotely.

Worse yet, sharing house keys is a health hazard. The virus can survive on house keys for up to three days, according to GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance.

More Struggles: The 20 Industries That Will Never Be the Same After the Coronavirus

Air Travel

International travel options to popular tourist destinations like the Caribbean, Egypt and Serbia, are slowly reemerging after the COVID-19 pandemic essentially cut off Americans from the rest of the world. Most Americans have canceled or postponed overseas travel as they anxiously await a vaccine.

“The use of air travel will go down, and pressure to improve passenger experience and clean up the industry will increase,” said Bennett Cohen, a partner at San Francisco venture capital firm Piva. “The longer people feel uncomfortable with air travel, the more they will shift routine trips and annual traditions toward alternatives that don’t require the headaches of flying. While the CO2-intensity and discomfort of air travel is already causing many to think twice about their level of flying, being pushed to do without may permanently reduce the habit for many — both for business and pleasure — unless the experience and environmental impact improve significantly.”

Business Conventions

Bringing throngs of people together from all over the world was, until a few months ago, a typical practice across a wide range of industries. But in-person conferences and conventions are impossible during a pandemic, and desktop cloud ware makes the digital experience cheaper, easier and potentially the wave of the future.

“COVID has shown us that meetings, trade shows, and conferences can all be successfully hosted and completed online,” said Daniel Worsley, COO of LocalCoinSwap. “This will drastically reduce the willingness and need for companies to send staff across the country or overseas and potentially into harm’s way.”


Working remotely during the pandemic has created a far more casual workforce. It may be four months since you donned a pair of proper pants: the kind that zip, button and possibly require a belt. Loungewear and sleep apparel are far more appealing for those in lockdown. Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, which tracks more than 100 million product varieties online, found that pajama sales spiked 143% in April from March, while sales of pants declined by 13%.

Those sales may continue to soar as employers and employees weigh the benefits of remote working. One-third of Americans surveyed by Morning Consult said they want to work from home. The study exploring how the pandemic has altered expectations of remote work found that the majority of people have more time during the day, improved health and closer bonds with family members while maintaining productivity.

Find Out: 25 Experts’ Predictions on When We Will Bounce Back From COVID-19


Many people learned to shake hands firmly to impart confidence and ease — now people are learning not to touch anything, and to wash their hands numerous times throughout the day. During the previews for the TEFAF-Maastricht global art fair during the first week of March, exhibitors and collectors from all over the world greeted each other with what became called the “TEFAF elbow bump.”

The death of the handshake might just be upon us. It will be interesting to see what replaces this gesture of geniality. Perhaps Americans will bring back the bow and curtsey — or everyone could just awkwardly wave like they do on Zoom.

International Travel

Hopefully international travel isn’t off the table forever, but for now, the pandemic has made that option nearly impossible for Americans.

“For the time being, domestic travel is basically the only way U.S. consumers can go on vacation,” said Sara Rathner, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “Road trips feel safer than dealing with airports and crowded planes, but that will change as borders reopen to American travelers. A welcome permanent change would be the enhanced cleaning procedures on planes between flights. Hotels will continue to provide a mobile check-in process, so you won’t have to stand around the lobby and handle a physical keycard to access your room.”

High Heels

Sales of high heels were sliding ahead of the pandemic, with NPD Group Inc.’s Retail Tracking Service reporting that U.S. high heels sales decreased by 12% in 2017, while women’s sneakers rose by 37%.

Beth Goldstein, a footwear analyst for NPD told the Washington Post in June that sales of high heels were “way down.” Without after-work cocktails, galas or events, there’s no reason to balance in stilettos.


Shopping malls have been waning in popularity amid the rise of online shopping, a trend that’s escalated during the pandemic shutdown. In June, Coresight Research estimated that as many as 25,000 stores in America may close this year, mostly in malls.

Analysts predict that as many as one in two malls could permanently close.

“The whole business model of a mall, which is about pulling in as many people as you can and getting them to stay for as long as you can, has just unraveled,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of consultancy GlobalData Retail.

Job Security

Job loss in America has been profound since the pandemic struck — with unemployment hovering at 11.1%, according to July 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A number of industries that might have been feeling safe a few months ago have been flung into the danger zone. Few sectors have been unscathed by the COVID-19 crisis, but some sectors — such as hospitality and tourism — have been pummeled.

Open Houses

Before the pandemic, buying a house without exploring it in-person first sounded like a ludicrous idea, but it’s becoming normal now that open houses are not always possible.

“Real estate agents have moved towards creating video tours of properties, proving that buyers don’t need to visit a house to buy it. Virtual reality makes it much easier for buyers to experience a home without physically being there,” said Foster Mendez, founder of Spear Mortgage. “Buyers can ‘tour’ a property from watching videos, while real estate agents can leverage their time better because hundreds of people can watch their video tours in a much shorter time than it takes to do a physical tour for hundreds of prospects. This is a true win-win situation and while physical showings and open houses will still have its place, we can expect more property transactions to come from online or digital channels.”

Open Offices

Open-plan offices were a dominating real estate trend — until the pandemic hit.

“COVID-19 may force office and building managers to relook at office plans and increase square footage per person to mitigate the risk of future pandemics,” Mendez said. “Some offices might not even see the need for physical office space. My business has a small team of people who have been working from home and we have all quickly adapted. We are considering not to renew the lease on our current office space and instead move to a co-working space that we only use when needed to meet clients. This would streamline our operations and reduce our administrative costs.”

From Houses to RVs: 22 Things You Might Actually Want To Buy During the Pandemic

College Textbooks

Thick college textbooks with dog-eared, highlighted pages were already being phased out, but now with more kids learning remotely during the pandemic, the future of these pricey tomes is looking particularly bleak.

According to Cengage CEO Michael Hansen, students want more environmentally friendly options that reduce paper waste. Add that to a desire to save money and you have more students moving toward things such as Cengage’s subscription service, which he likened to a “Netflix for textbooks.”

The notion of textbooks’ demise has some big support from the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates, with the couple referring to them as “obsolete” in their 2019 annual letter.

Business Cards

Like handshakes, exchanging business cards was once standard practice among professionals. Those days were already winding down before the pandemic thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and their ability to store names and other information, but now business cards just feel like a waste of paper and yet another source of cooties.

Paper Contracts

Digitized agreements and contracts are swiftly replacing traditional paper alternatives.

“With COVID-19 making it necessary to cut down on person-to-person contact, there is a move to cut down on the need to set up meetings to sign paper agreements,” Mendez said. “Brokerages and banks who used to drag their heels on digitizing their processes now are forced to adapt quickly. This is a good move because this will  greatly speed up loan processes and make things much easier for consumers.”

Laminated Menus

Back in the days when dining out was perfectly normal, restaurants distributed glossy menus showcasing one’s options. Booklets with wine selections and a shiny leaflet displaying cocktail choices and happy hour specials were also common. Alas, these items can get so germ-riddled, one might as well be passing around a petri dish. Going forward, consumers can expect more single-use, disposable menus along with an increase in in-store signage.

Pay Phones

Before mobile phones gave people the ability to call or text anyone from virtually anywhere at any time, people fed coins into pay phones when they needed to reach someone while on the go. In 1999, there were around 2 million pay phones, but that number has plummeted, with only 100,000 still clinging to life as of 2018. The market once was dominated by giant phone companies such as Verizon, but independent companies operate the remaining pay phones now. The phones remain a niche necessity in some places with limited cell coverage, but now that COVID-19 has shown everyone just how terrifying germs can be, these relics of communication are looking even more obsolete.

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