Retailers hunt for spare change
Despite rumors to the contrary, America is not in the middle of national coin shortage. That’s the conclusion of the U.S. Coin Task Force established last month by the United States Mint and Federal Reserve.
According to the government, there are still plenty of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters around; the problem is that $48 billion’s worth has been squirreled away in car cup holders, jars, under couch cushions and in other places inside of the nation’s 128 million households. Many businesses that closed their doors in recent months are also holding onto coinage. Last week, the U.S. Mint issued a statement asking Americans to collect their spare change and start spending, depositing or exchanging it for paper cash to boost coin circulation.
When the pandemic hit and stores and restaurants closed, many businesses promoted consumer use of credit and debit cards as a means to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. As stores have begun to reopen and fears about contact surface transmission have lessened, consumers have started using cash to make purchases, albeit not with exact change.
“The weak circulation affects most everyone but the hardest hit are small cash-dependent businesses and those who are least well off,” Hannah Walker, a member of the task force and vice president, political affairs with FMI, said in a statement. “For millions of Americans, cash is the only form of payment.”
Businesses have taken a variety of approaches to the lack of change. USA Today reported earlier this week that Chick-fil-A locations in Virginia are offering a free entree voucher to customers who exchange $10 of rolled coins for $10 in paper cash. Other businesses have similar offers, including select 7-Eleven stores that give away a free Slurpee to those who trade $5 in change for $5 in bills.
Last week, a man from Wisconsin, identified as Jim Holton, used a dolly to lug in more than $5,000 worth of coins to a bank after hearing of the need for coins, Newsweek reports. Mr. Holton had been saving for when his grandkids graduated from college, figuring “we could do something fun like go to Europe or something else that we never dreamed of doing.”
- Statement from the U.S. Coin Task Force on the Coin Circulation Issue – FMI
- United States Mint Statement on Circulating Coins – United States Mint
- Check your couch cushions: One Chick-fil-A offers free food voucher if you exchange coins – USA Today
- Man Turns in Over $5,000 in Loose Change to Help Combat U.S. Coin Shortage – Newsweek
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you recommend retailers and others facing a shortage of coins get consumers to spend them? What should stores do if they find themselves in situations where they cannot make change?