The real reasons stores are running out of change in the US

Posted at 5:37 PM, Jul 21, 2020

The next time you go to a convenience store or fast-food restaurant, you might want to bring exact change.

A nationwide coin shortage has grocery and convenience stores, as well as fast food restaurants, running out of coins.

We all understood the shortage of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes during the COVID-19 pandemic, since everyone was snapping them up.

But now there is a national shortage of coins as well, in particular nickels, dimes and quarters.

Ken Adkins now makes sure he keeps a handful of change in his car at all times after he was forced to overpay for a small purchase.

He stopped for a snack and a Coke and learned the cashier had no change at all.

"I got up there and it was $4.45. And I handed her a five. And she said, 'I can't give you change,'" Adkins said. "And she pointed at a sign on the register that said because of COVID-19 there is a shortage of change."

Frustrated, he ended up paying $5 for his $4.45 snack.

Theories behind the shortage

So, why are we dealing with yet another shortage?

There are a lot of theories as to why coins have disappeared this year.

One of them is that a lot of people don't like touching them, out of fear of catching the virus. So, people are not carrying coins in their pocket or purse.

Brad Karoloff is a veteran coin collector who owns a coin shop. But even he is not carrying much change these days.

"I have a habit that I go home at night and take whatever is in my pocket and throw it in the jug on my dresser top," he said.

Karoloff, who deals in the rarest of coins, never expected everyday coins to become rare, but says the pandemic has affected production lines just like with toilet paper and beef.

"The U.S. mint closed down for some time during the COVID crisis," he said. "So, it put them behind on production, and they are not putting out as much currency right now."

Biggest coin users not handling as many coins

The Federal Reserve also blames the 2-month shutdown of banks, bus lines and laundromats, the biggest coin users.

As a result, many banks are limiting how many rolls of quarters restaurants and convenience store owners can get at one time.

Adkins is still scratching his head, though.

"What happened? Did they stop making them? I don't understand the shortage," Adkins said.

Bottom line: Be sure to bring exact change or a credit card next time you head to a store or restaurant, so you don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").

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