NATIONAL REPORT — Convenience retailers are urging customers to bring their coin purse when they shop as stores across the country deal with a short supply of change.
Thorntons LLC is one such chain asking customers to use exact change. Customers who pay with change, or exchange at least $10 in coins, will receive a free fountain drink, coffee, cappuccino or FizzFreez.
"Crack open those piggy banks, look in the cup holders and in the couch cushions! Due to shortage of coins from the Federal Reserve, we ask that if you have rolled coin or loose change, please consider paying with change during your next purchase at Thorntons!" the Louisville, Ky.-based c-store chain posted on Facebook.
Pennsylvania-based Wawa Inc. is also asking customers to pay with credit, debit, the Wawa mobile app or exact change, if possible. Customers can also bring in rolled coins and exchange them for bills, according to 6abc.com.
In addition, Wawa is turning the coin shortage into an opportunity to help local charities. Customers can "round up" their purchase to the nearest dollar and donate their change to The Wawa Foundation. All donations will be given to local charities supporting causes related to health, hunger and everyday heroes and local chapters of the USO, the news outlet added.
St. Romain Oil Co.'s Y-Not Stop c-stores are also grappling with the shortage. The retail chain has posted signs at its locations urging shoppers to either pay with exact change, or with a credit or debit card, or use mobile pay, KALB.com reported.
"All of this is an unintended consequence of the coronavirus," said Amanda St. Romain, marketing director for St. Romain Oil. "The purpose of that is to help get those coins back into circulation."
She told the news station that some of their c-stores have been able to get less than half of their usual amount of coins from the bank, forcing them to decrease the number of coins they give out while also trying to increase their supply in other ways — like counting their own change.
It's a similar situation at QuikTrip Corp. locations across the country. The Tulsa, Okla.-based convenience retailer is posting signs alerting customers to the national coin situation, according to a report by Tulsa World.
"Signage is up now, or in the process of going up, notifying customers about the coin shortage," said Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs for QuikTrip. "If they can, we're asking that they use exact change to help out or use a debit or credit card or other contactless forms of payment."
The chain will also redeem customers extra change for cash bills, he added.
Requesting Federal Help
The coin shortage is a problem affecting all channels. Several retail organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve calling on federal policymakers to take action to address the nationwide shortage.
Six trade associations signed the letter — NACS, the National Grocers Association, FMI – The Food Industry Association, International Franchise Association, National Automatic Merchandising Association, Retail Industry Leaders Association and Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. All represent businesses that were deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They requested Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin address the shortage by releasing more coins from federal inventory or increasing coin production to meet immediate needs.
"These industries need to efficiently process large volumes of consumer transactions every day and many of those transactions are paid in cash. A critical, but largely unseen, part of these businesses' operations, then, is obtaining sufficient amounts of coins to be able to handle cash transactions and provide customers with change," the June 23 letter stated.
The letter outlines three primary ways to address the coin shortage
- The Federal Reserve could distribute more coins from its inventory to ensure that economic activity is not disrupted;
- The U.S. Mint could increase coin production to meet these needs; and
- Distribution of coins could be prioritized for consumer businesses in the essential critical infrastructure workforce that most need coins to complete cash transactions with individual Americans.