Why it's getting harder to get exact change

Grocery stores are facing another shortage as a result of the coronavirus pandemic: coins.

GLASTONBURY, CT (WFSB) – The coronavirus pandemic has created a new problem, a nationwide coin shortage.

With the U.S. Mint reducing production and people changing the way they pay, banks and stores are scrambling for coins.

The nickel is usually just pocket change, but stores are trying to get their hands on it.

Channel 3 spoke to a 7/11 franchise owner who said they’re starting to ask customer to bring in coins in exchange for a treat.

“It used to be when people bring that open coin, we were upset, like what are you guys doing? Right now, we are requesting it,” said Tahir Chaudhary, 7/11 owner.

Tahir Chaudhary owns several 7/11 stores between Waterbury and Boston. He says they’re trying to cooperate with banks, but they’re coming up short on coins.

“If we stop using the cash and tell people to start using the credit card, the customer is going to get upset on us,” Chaudhary said.

Channel 3 checked with local CVS pharmacies and Walmart’s. They are encouraging customers to pay exact cash or by card.

People’s United Bank is even encouraging people to cash in coins. Locally based Webster Bank says the shortage hasn’t impacted them yet, but they are preparing for it.

“We also have some coin machines across 16 banking centers. We currently have coin in those machines. We actually stopped using them through the peak of the pandemic, so we have some reserve there,” said Grace Pereira-Shelley, Senior VP of Webster Bank.

Channel spoke with shoppers who say they’ve already been asked to pay by debit or exact change. Some say they don’t mind.

“What’s a few cents. When I pay for something, I tell them to keep the change,” said Diane Bligh.

While others say a few cents go a long way.

“Some people our there might only have cash on them, and the extra change could be for diapers, could be for milk, could be for food,” said Joshua Rady.

The state Attorney General’s Office says they have received a few complaints about the coin shortage. They say stores must disclose their policies up front.

“I can understand for some people who don’t have jobs right now, who are struggling, how it can affect them,” Rady said.

The Attorney General also says as long as a store discloses their policies up front, they have the right to ask for card or exact change.

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