WILLSBORO — It was springtime in the North Country, but locals didn't rush into banks to swap their rolled up coins for cash.
"A lot people save their coins all year long and then they cash them in in March and April," Jackie Hallock of Champlain National Bank told the Press-Republican. "We would always see a huge influx.
"That's what some people use to go on their spring vacations."
The vice president and director of marketing called it a "hyper local" tradition that was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
"People weren't going on their spring trips," she said. "It just didn't happen."
NATIONAL COIN SHORTAGE
Businesses across the region and the country have been spreading the word on the nation's coin shortage, with many hometown convenience stores and shops sporting signs that read, "card payments only," or "exact change needed."
Hallock called the situation less of a "shortage," and more of a circulation issue, saying more coin was out there today than a year ago.
"Coin normally circulates through the economy," she said. "People spend it in stores, it comes back to the bank and we turn it out to businesses.
"The pandemic set off a chain reaction; a lot of businesses that tend to be cash heavy had closed, therefore coins weren't being spent at those businesses and those types of deposits weren't being made."
In addition to that, as well as locals keeping their jars of change at home, Hallock said there was a big push for contact-less payments at stores via cards and mobile wallets.
"There has been a shift away from using cash," she said, noting the pandemic. "We all know that money is pretty dirty."
Champlain National Bank, which was founded in 1909 and now has 10 branches across the North Country and the Adirondacks, caught wind of the coin shortage about a month ago.
"It was when the economy started opening back up and people started paying for things again," Hallock said.
The bank also realized the U.S. Mint, the Department of the Treasury bureau responsible for producing coinage, had limited its coin orders.
"We would order so many boxes of dimes and they would only send us half of that, for example," Hallock said.
Hallock felt gas stations, convenience stores and laundromats were the most heavily impacted businesses at this point.
Newhall, California, resident Joe Garel administers a private Laundromat Owners Facebook group with his wife, Racheal. The group has more than 2,000 members located across the U.S. and the globe.
Garel said the industry as a whole had felt the impacts of the shortage, but added that some areas of the states were feeling it more than others.
"And it varies by store," he told the Press-Republican, saying coin-operated stores were those most at risk.
Garel, who has been in the business for about four years, said other nearby businesses have used his laundromat's coin machine as a source of change, leading him to post a sign against that sort of usage.
"I think this is happening around the country," he said.
Near him, banks were only giving out $10 per day in quarters, so his business had to hop from bank to bank to get coins each day. From what he has seen posted in the private page, Garel said some laundromats were adapting by adding credit card readers and QR codes to their machines, as well as some converting over to token systems.
THE BRUNT OF IT
Hallock thought the coin shortage could be especially harmful to those who, for a variety of reasons, have elected to not have a bank account.
"They tend to be lower-income people and they pay for everything with cash," she said. "When you're looking at going into a store and seeing that you have to use exact change or a debit card, those people might end up having to overpay, because they're not getting the change that they would expect to get.
"These people that can least afford it tend to be the ones who are taking the brunt of the coin shortage."
Eli Joseph, owner of Lucky's Mini-Mart in Morrisonville and Eli's Market on Sailly Avenue in the City of Plattsburgh, said his businesses haven't been impacted just yet.
"So far coins have been available," Joseph said, adding that his shop had no plans to keep anyone's owed change, like he had seen some big box stores starting to do. "I don't like that.
"If they owe you fifty or sixty cents, they just keep it. That is taking advantage and blaming it on the shortage."
BRING IN COIN
Champlain National Bank recently encouraged locals to pick up free coin wrappers and bring their change back to get it circulating in the North Country again.
Since making that announcement last week, Hallock said the region had listened.
"The community's response has been overwhelming," she said. "They have really stepped up and are looking on their dressers, looking in those piggy banks and in their mason jars."
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