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Column: Coin shortage is the least of my worries now
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

There are a lot of things I don’t like about the coronavirus pandemic. Obviously, the threat to our health and our economy top the list. More personally, the limitations on holding my baby nephew, hanging out with my family and taking my boys out to eat are more bothersome. 

A shortage of coins, however, is very low on my list of concerns.  

Coins are not readily available at some places thanks to supply chain issues brought about by the virus. At the grocery store I frequent, there’s a sign in the window saying change may be credited to my shopper’s card instead. 

I’ve got no use for coins, though. They clutter up my husband’s car and fill jars at our house. They weigh down pockets and end up in the wash. 

I remember sitting on the floor of my grandparents’ house stacking coins into paper rolls, which I presume someone then took to the bank. Stack enough dimes together, and they’re worth a little something. I’ve got more money sitting in my Venmo account than all the coins put together from the couch cushions and the floorboard of the car. 

In case you’re not familiar, services like Venmo allow someone to use their phone to send money to a friend for, say, their half of the guacamole or their fair share of the rent that month.  

Where you might write on the memo line of your check “for birthday dinner,” in Venmo, you send the money and a text that may include emojis. Vacationing with my siblings a couple of years ago involved a lot of Venmo messages and food and wine emojis. No coins necessary, just some euro conversions. 

Apparently, coins usually enter our society at shops, banks and laundromats, and as some of those closed and most saw lower foot traffic, it led to this shortage, the Associated Press reports. 

I’d prefer Venmo. Or Apple Pay. Or even a check. I can take a picture of a check with my phone and the money magically appears in my bank account. Just don’t expect me to write a check — do you know how much those things cost? It’s a lot more than downloading the Venmo app. 

Some people are claiming this shortage of coins is a plot to move us to a cashless society. I think I’ve made my feelings on that clear by now, but I will admit that using virtual money means my purchase history is following me around.  

The advertising trackers know where I bought my last cup of coffee, which brand of clothing I like to buy and the fact I just purchased a slew of school supplies. And they’re going to use every bit of that information to get me to buy more of all those things.  

So, if you don’t want anyone knowing you bought your spouse a camping tent for his birthday, pay in cash. And get a paper receipt.  

Spying digital eyes aside, in any case, you should know there is no such plot to rid the country of cash or coins.  

The Federal Reserve has asked banks to only order the coins they need and to make depositing coins easy for customers, according to the Associated Press. It also put together a task force of retail, bank and armored cash carrier leaders to brainstorm ways to normalize coin circulation again.  

The U.S. Mint, meanwhile, is moving at full speed to mint more coins, while minimizing its employees’ risk to COVID-19 exposure, the agency’s spokesman Michael White told The Associated Press in an email. 

So, for the coin lovers out there, they’re working on it. As for me, I need to find out where they’re making it easy for customers to deposit their coins.  

I’ve got at least a couple of jars around the house I’m ready to dump. 

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. 


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