I truly couldn’t believe it when I went into Wells Fargo a few weeks ago to get quarters for my laundry machine and was told, “sorry, we don’t have any.” What do you mean? How can the bank not have any quarters? The bank teller told me that there was a national quarter shortage. It turns out that it’s a national coin shortage, not just of quarters but of all coins. However, it’s quarters that are particularly problematic for people in the city like me who rely on them to get laundry done.
Why Is There a National Coin Shortage?
It never would have occurred to me that the COVID-19 pandemic would cause a national coin shortage. And yet, that’s exactly what has happened.
The bulk of the problem is that people simply aren’t out spending their cash. Many people aren’t out spending money at all. Those who are frequently use a credit card. I know several places here that have tried to go cashless in an attempt to minimize the contact that comes with touching cash.
As a result, coins simply aren’t circulating the way that they used to. They’re apparently piled up in people’s homes, not out in the world. The U.S. Mint, which manufactures new coins, has produced a limited supply. They scaled back operations, reducing staff, as a coronavirus precaution. They can’t keep up with the demand.
Therefore, the Federal Reserve, which allocates the coins, has had to place limitations. That’s why the banks aren’t getting as many quarters as before. They’re aware of the problem, though. They’ve resumed full staffing at the US Mint. Hopefully the national coin shortage won’t continue on too long.
National Quarter Shortage Makes Laundry a Challenge
I don’t have a lot of options for doing my laundry if I don’t have quarters. There is only one laundry machine in my entire building. It requires quarters.
There used to be a Laundromat a few blocks away when I first moved into this San Francisco apartment ten years ago. However, as the neighborhood got more upscale, it was replaced with a fancy clothing store. Or maybe it’s a makeup store. I can’t keep track. In any case, there isn’t a laundromat anywhere near here that I know of.
I live car-free. Therefore, if I want to trek to a laundromat elsewhere in town, I’d have to take my laundry in a Lyft. Alternatively, I can use a service like Rinse that will pick up my dirty laundry and deliver it back to me all clean. It’s a nice service. However, it’s definitely not frugal.
How Do I Find Quarters? Solutions to the National Coin Shortage
The first week that the bank told me about the national coin shortage, they were able to give me $10 in coin. The following week, they had none. I went to a Chase bank nearby, even though I’m not a customer. They were able to give me $10 that week.
Since then, I haven’t found a nearby bank that has quarters. I put the call out to my local friends. A few of them are lucky enough to live in apartments with coin-free laundry. Many of them had a stash of quarters left from their laundry-coin days. Or from the days when they had to pay for parking with coins. So, I was able to trade them cash for coins so that I could keep doing laundry.
But what will I do after that if this quarter shortage continues?
Have you been affected by the national coin shortage? Where would you go get quarters if your bank didn’t have any?