CUMBERLAND — Businesses, in particular gas stations and convenience stores, are experiencing shortages of coins caused by COVID-19 related economic disruption, prompting them to change how they operate and the ways in which they would like customers to shop.
Regional convenience store chain Sheetz has had an eye on a potential coin shortage for a few weeks now, and has been putting in place new policies to combat it, said Nick Ruffner, the company’s public relations manager.
“It’s had an impact. For Sheetz, it’s not any kind of an emergency situation, but we’re looking to get some proactive advice out,” Ruffner said. “The easiest way is to use a debit or a credit card.”
In an effort to get more change circulating throughout the stores, the company is encouraging customers to donate coins to Sheetz for Kids, a charity run by company employees that collects funds during the months of July and December and donates gifts to children around the holidays.
“We’re tracking all of those donations and we’ll make a larger donation at the end of the month,” Ruffner said. “In the meantime, it allows some more coins to get into the system.”
Sheetz also is promoting the use of “SHcan & Go” on its mobile app, where customers can walk into the store, scan the barcode on items they want and pay with credit or debit through the app — all without ever having to interact with employees. Food that’s made in-store can be ordered online and then picked up in-store.
“That encourages social distancing but it will also make an impact on the coin shortage,” Ruffner said.
According to Ruffner, the reason for the shortage is two-fold: one being businesses having had to deal with restrictions, meaning fewer coins circulating through the market, and two, the U.S. Federal Reserve with new social distancing measures has slowed down its production of new coins.
“So really, less coins being circulated and less coins being made,” he said.
First United Bank & Trust has seen some effect from the coin shortage, said Eric Nutter, director of marketing. However, the bank has thus far found ways to shift coins to bank branches as needed to reduce the impact on their customers.
“A lot of it just has to do with people maybe staying home and doing banking online,” he said of a potential reason for the coin shortage.
The bank is still accepting coins.
National chains like CVS and Dollar Tree have experienced coin shortages already and have had to adjust practices to avoid short-change pitfalls, too.
“The U.S. Federal Reserve has notified us that it’s currently experiencing a coin shortage,” said a spokesperson for CVS. “As a result, we are encouraging customers, if possible, to pay for their purchases using exact cash, credit/debit card or check. We’re also giving our customers the option to support communities in need by donating their change to Feeding America.”
In a June statement, the Federal Reserve said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin” and announced that on June 15 it would begin allocating available supplies of coins to depository institutions temporarily.
Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.