TRAVERSE CITY — Carl Noonan can’t explain why his store is running low on change.
He just knows he needs to make change, and fast.
His gas station store, Grumpy’s on Traverse Highway, typically goes through between $700 to $800 in coins every week throughout the summer. Recently Noonan couldn’t get any from his bank.
That’s a problem.
“Customers tell me they don’t understand it,” Noonan said, “I tell them, ‘Well, I don’t either.’”
Noonan ended up scrounging up his own coins from around the house and brought them into work. His wife put a call out on Facebook telling family members the business would buy change in exchange for dollar bills.
For the time being that worked. But the problem still prevails.
Grumpy’s Market is among the many local businesses experiencing some of the unintended financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal Reserve allocations forced many banks in the Traverse City area to limit or even halt the distribution of coins.
About a month ago, the Federal Reserve warned a coin shortage was looming because of a declining volume of cash transactions. U.S. Mint locations also halted production for the safety of its employees.
On June 15, the Fed began the process of allocating coins to banks who were in need of them the most.
The Treasury estimates $47.8 billion in coins are in circulation as of April 2020, up from $47.4 billion that same month in 2019. That’s an adequate amount, the Fed says, but the slowed pace of circulation hasn’t made sufficient quantities of coin readily available where needed.
“With establishments like retail shops, bank branches, transit authorities and laundromats closed, the typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin,” a press release from the Federal Reserve said.
Now, major grocery chains such as Meijer, Walmart and Kroger all announced plans to encourage credit card transactions.
At Meijer, self-scan checkout lanes have been converted to credit/debit use only. Cash transactions are still accepted at staffed checkout lanes.
“While we understand this effort may be frustrating to some customers, it’s necessary to manage the impact of the coin shortage on our stores,” Meijer spokesperson Frank Guglielmi said in an email. “We appreciate our customers’ understanding and patience.”
Karen Browne, TBA Credit Union President and CEO, said the location her credit union orders through now has limits on coins, but it really hasn’t affected her outside of that.
“We were able to get an adequate amount to service businesses that bank with us,” Browne said.
Abby Hart, regional branch manager for 4Front Credit Union, said they have not experienced the effects for the businesses they service either.
“We fortunately have had really had no issues,” Hart said. “We’re able to order what we needed or getting what we ordered, so we’re able to supply everybody wants a coin that they request for the most part.”
Both TBA and 4Front offer coin redemption machines for members to use.
Hart said the coins collected from the machines get sold back to and shipped to the Federal Reserve on a weekly basis. Typically then, coins collected from these machines get tabulated and redistributed to other banks in the area that may need them.
“If people have coins — you know jars of coin that they want to deposit into their accounts — they can absolutely bring them you know they can bring them in and use our machines, it sorts and counts them and they don’t have to roll it or anything,” Hart said.