Amy Roberts: This year doesn’t make cents
If 2020 was a drink, it would be a colonoscopy prep. For most of us, this year has bounced between crazy, chaos and WTF more than a few times. While a pandemic that disrupted the global economy, devastating fires across the West and protests in the streets have secured a good chunk of the news coverage, several subplots have been introduced just to keep us all on our toes.
A quick sampling: We had a couple of earthquakes locally, there’s been destructive hurricanes along the coasts, the nation’s postal system is collapsing and the Pentagon confirmed the presence of UFOs. It’s a little terrifying to admit it, but somehow “Tiger King” seems to be the most normal part of 2020.
One storyline that has received little attention and even less action is the current coin shortage. Astonishingly, supplies are even lower now than they were the one week I had a swear jar back in 2002. Pocket change is the new toilet paper.
According to the U.S. Mint, coin stock is low because COVID-19 forced many businesses to eliminate cash sales in an effort to minimize contact. There’s also been a reduction in retail sales activity leading to fewer deposits from third-party coin processors and an increase in online shopping. The U.S. Mint says there are actually plenty of coins in the economy, but circulation is jammed, and the department has requested the pubic spend, deposit or exchange their coins for paper currency in order to, well, change the situation.
I’m all for fulfilling my civic duties, and honestly, I figured spending money would be a lot more enjoyable than running for school board, so last week I gathered up my jars full of spare change and headed to my bank. Since I was assured by the U.S. Mint that this was the right thing to do, it never occurred to me to first call my financial institution. After all, the U.S. Mint and Federal Reserve established a U.S. Coin Task Force in July complete with its own hashtag: #getcoinmoving — surely my bank would welcome such a deposit. Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
I had counted the money and divided it up into separate envelopes by type of coin. Quarters in one, dimes in another, etc. All told, I had roughly $132 in change. The teller I presented it to most certainly did not view this as the act of selfless heroism I assumed it to be. Rather he seemed a bit irritated by the whole thing and told me I’d have to roll the coins before depositing. “But don’t you have to count them to verify the amounts even if they’re rolled?” I asked him. He confirmed this was true, the bank has a sorting machine and they’d essentially drop them all in the pot where they’d be automatically counted and re-wrapped. “Can’t we just start at that step?” I asked. There was a firm shake of the head and something about a company policy. But he did offer me free wrappers to take home for a rolling project.
I figured this young teller was likely not following Steve Mnuchin on social media and was unaware of what he was turning down. I had errands to run and was certain another local business would welcome my coin collection. Determined to #getcoinmoving, I approached the counter at the Home Depot with my cart full of needed supplies, and I explained to the cashier that I would be paying with coins, pre-counted, but not pre-rolled. She was even less enthusiastic than the bank teller. A recap of our conversation:
“Don’t you want to hold onto those for something you need?”
“I need the items in my cart,” I replied.
“Well, all that change could come in handy one day,” she said, still trying to talk me out of it.
“It’s coming in handy now by providing me a way to pay for these items.”
There was a bit more back and forth as she not-so-subtlety hoped for a credit card purchase, but finally she shrugged her shoulders in defeat and accepted $50 worth of quarters.
Out of a general frustration from these two encounters and lack of desire to haul around 20 pounds worth of metal, I ended up depositing the rest in various charity donation jars around town. Perhaps a local nonprofit will have better luck in its attempt to #getcoinmoving.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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