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While cash may be king, don’t forget your change bucket

In addition to signs requesting consumers wear masks prior to entering a business, more signs are popping up asking for people to consider paying with credit or debit cards because of a nationwide coin shortage. This sign at the Crafton-Ingram Shopping Center laundromat reminds those entering that quarters in the change machine are for on-site use only.

By Alex Topor

-Coin Shortage-

A nationwide shortage of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters is starting to impact the way residents operate on a daily basis.

Signs have been popping up in the windows of storefronts all over requesting consumers pay with credit or debit cards as opposed to cash because of the shortage. Until the coin situation rights itself, customers may need to get used to paying in exact change or using cashless options when possible.

One franchise asking customers to avoid coins is Dollar Tree, including the location in the Crafton-Ingram Shopping Center.

Recently, an employee there took to Facebook to ask if any locals might have extra coins available to trade for paper currency. The response to the request was brisk and within a few hours of the post, the discount store’s coin reserve had been replenished.

Kayleigh Painter, manager of investor and media relations at the Fortune 500 company, acknowledges coin shortages are worse for some of Dollar Tree’s more than 15,000 stores than others.

“We are experiencing coin shortages in some markets. To be able to best assist customers, we are requesting that they provide exact change when possible,” said Painter.

The shortage stems from issues at the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States. The pandemic disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S coins as coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve declined. The production of coins in U.S. Mints also decreased due to safety measures to protect employees, the Federal Reserve stated in a June 11 press release.

"What's happened is that, with the partial closure of the economy, the flow of coins through the economy has gotten all, it's kind of stopped," Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said in a virtual meeting in June.

Consumers are also being impacted by these shortages at the gas pump.

7-Eleven gas stations ask customers to utilize cashless options whenever possible. The local station in Crafton and the two in Kennedy are no different.

A corporate spokesperson apologized via email “for any inconvenience this causes customers,” as they, too, suggest store operators encourage their customers to pay with exact change, pay by card, or use a contactless payment method to reserve the amount of coins available at each register.

Larger retailers are not as impacted by the shortage but are still preparing for the ramifications of the shortage.

For example, Giant Eagle – with local stores in Kennedy, Crafton, Robinson and Moon – is not asking for customers to make exact change or utilize cashless options although they are still impacted by the shortage.

"Giant Eagle, like all businesses, is impacted by the temporary shortage of

coins,” said Dick Roberts, company spokesman. “While we are hopeful that this national issue will be short-lived, we are nevertheless actively working to make as much change as possible available to our guests."

Another retail giant, Walmart, is asking customers to use cashless options or pay in exact change but also says cash is welcome.

“Cash is welcome at all of our stores. However, we have converted some of our self-checkout registers to card only registers,” said Avani Dudhia, corporate communications at Walmart.

To combat the shortage of change, the Federal Reserve is minimizing constraints on the coin supply and maximizing coin production. The reserve is confident the coin inventory issues will be resolved once the economy opens up completely, but there may be issues in the short-term, according to the Federal Reserve.

In an effort to get coin reserves back to normal, the Federal Reserve announced on June 30, the formation of the U.S. Coin Task Force to identify, implement, and promote actions to address pandemic-related disruptions to normal coin circulation.

The task force will meet virtually throughout July with the goal of having a set of recommendations by the beginning of August. The group will focus on the supply chain of coin circulation.


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