ASBURY PARK, N.J. - Businesses want your dimes and nickels.
In the midst of a nationwide coin shortage, some retailers ask for customers to use exact change, if possible, or even better, use a credit or debit card for payment.
Signs have gone up at quick-stops such as Wawa and large retailers such as Target and Lowe's. Supermarkets request exact change, if shoppers have it. Some Wawa locations ask customers to turn in rolled coins for the equivalent bills and a free soda or sub.
"It's sort of right up there with toilet paper," said John McWeeney, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Bankers Association. "It's a new shortage caused by COVID-19."
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People who would normally pay cash and shop at stores stayed home during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. They shopped online or used grocery delivery services. Stores were closed as states tried to tamp down the growth of COVID-19 cases.
"Cash is not moving as quickly and freely across the economy as it normally would," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.
It has affected all points along the flow of cash, including banks and businesses. "As the economy started to reopen and people started to go back into stores and the merchants needed coins to conduct transactions, they didn't have a supply of them," McWeeney said.
For the most part, banks shut their lobbies, so people couldn't turn in their coin stash for bills. "The banks were short, and they weren't depositing as much coins into the Federal Reserve," McWeeney said.
The Federal Reserve encourages banks to order only the coins they need to meet near-term customer demand and help replenish supplies by removing barriers to consumer deposits of loose and rolled coins. The Fed is working with the U.S. Mint to maximize coin production capacity.
"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," the notice says.
McWeeney called it a "short-lived shortage. It should correct itself."
Retailers are making their own moves. At Target in Ocean Township, New Jersey, signs alerted customers to the shortage.
"If using cash, exact change is appreciated," the signs say. Similar signs are up at Lowe's in Eatontown, New Jersey.
Food retailers, including supermarkets, are unable to get their usual supply of coins, a trade group said.
"Making change at the point of sale is difficult if the store associates do not have an adequate supply of coins," said Mary Ellen Peppard, vice president of the New Jersey Food Council. "An additional problem is that self-checkout machines will only work if there is an adequate supply of every denomination of coin."
Stores post signs asking customers to pay with exact change, designate certain lanes as credit or debit only and ask people to consider "rounding up" their cash purchase, giving the additional money to charitable causes, Peppard said.
Stop & Shop is among the grocers encouraging the use of credit and debit cards, as well as exact change. It asks customers to consider rounding up and donates the proceeds to the USO to support service members. Stop & Shop has raised more than $540,000, spokeswoman Stefanie Shuman said.
Food Circus Supermarkets, which operates five Super Foodtown markets in Monmouth County, New Jersey, adds "a little" to its change orders to be prepared, said Lou Scaduto, president and chief executive officer.
"(It) doesn't look like it is affecting my businesses, but the shortage is still real," he said.
Wawa customers can exchange rolled coins for bills at participating stores, a spokeswoman said. People who turn in $5 receive a free coffee or fountain drink. For $10, a customer will receive a free Shorti sub.
Customers can round up and donate to the Wawa Foundation, which gives 100% of donations to local charities supporting health, "everyday heroes" and USO chapters.
David P. Willis, an award-winning business writer, has covered business and consumer news at the Asbury Park Press for more than 20 years. He writes APP.com's What's Going There and Press on Your Side columns and can be reached at email@example.com. Join his What's Going There page on Facebook for updates.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Coin shortage: COVID-19 stole our change, and stores are desperate