TAMPA, Fla — Have you seen signs up at businesses around Tampa Bay, warning shoppers there's a lack of pocket change? Well, it's not just a local issue but rather a situation across the country.
Why? You ask. This is because the Federal Reserve is "capping" coin orders. It boils down to an issue of supply and demand, caused in part, by the mass closings of U.S. businesses and changes in business operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to fewer coins reaching the public.
"During normal operation, all of our restaurants will call their local bank and get a very large change order to last for the entire week so we can accommodate our customers but that has been cut by ¼th of what it had been able to get from banks, because of the shortage we're seeing," said Bob Conigliaro, VP of Caspers Company McDonald’s.
Signs like the one above are seen at McDonald's locations, as the fast-food chain offers customers "round up" options where they can round up their order and donate the remaining amount to the Ronald McDonald House, which avoids the need for change and benefits the charity.
"Because of the virus and in an effort to keep customers and staff safe, there's no dine-in at our restaurants right now, so drive-thru is blowing up. Ninety-percent of our business is through drive-thru and the other 10 percent are delivery that's done with mobile order pay and guests that come into the restaurant but do only pick up," said Conigliaro.
According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, U.S. consumers pay cash for more than a third of all in-person transactions and often use cash for transactions under $10.
Most businesses, big and small, are taking a similar approach of asking customers to pay with exact change or go cashless all together and use a debit or credit card if possible.
Goodwill stores here in Tampa Bay were aware of the shortage early on and made sure they had coins on hand, according to Chris Ward, the director of marketing for Goodwill Industries-Suncoast.
Ward tells 10 Tampa Bay that " our chief financial officer learned about the impending shortage early and gave us a chance to get stores stocked up on coins so we would have enough to make change."
Right now, Goodwill stores invite customers to round up their purchase to the next dollar to support Goodwill’s services.
"We’re also seeing a reduction in cash transactions as a percentage of total sales. Cash transactions represent only 30 percent of sales at our stores this year compared to 34 percent last year," Ward said.
In an effort to keep up safety measures, Goodwill stores only require a signature for credit/debit transactions of more than $50.
With the U.S. Mint printing fewer coins to protect its employees, the reopening of businesses caused an increase in demand, which resulted in the uptick in Federal Reserve coin orders -- which is how we got here.
The Treasury Department states on its website said: "Although the Federal Reserve is confident that the coin inventory issues will resolve once the economy opens more broadly and the coin supply chain returns to normal circulation patterns, we recognize that these measures alone will not be enough to resolve near‐term issues."
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