Fall Color 2020
Carol Marin: To very early memories

Got quarters?

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For sake of my tenants, please spend them.

I wasn’t aware of the quarter crisis caused by the pandemic until I got a pleading email from a tenant in August. The local supermarket would no long sell him $10 rolls of quarters. Neither would his bank. Without quarters he couldn’t wash his clothes.

A second tenant chimed in, calling them “exceedingly difficult to find.” When she visited her parents in the suburbs, the local banks would give her only $5 in quarters.

When Covid-19 struck in the spring, the normal circulation of currency was disrupted. Small-dollar purchases often made with paper and coin – that morning cup of coffee – simply weren’t being made. People were staying home. Those who ventured out found their local bakery closed, and if it was open, they were encourage to use credit cards.

No segment of the economy has been hit harder than laundromats. According to an association count, 56 percent of them require customers to insert quarters into their machines.

In the meantime, I am doing what the banks wouldn’t: selling $10 packets of quarters.

I own the machines, so I collect the quarters, and I developed a system: For every $10 they add to their monthly rent, which tenants pay electronically, I deliver a packet of quarters. Two months in, it seems to be working.

In fact, it actually saves me money. Banks long ago stopped using coin-counting machines and may not accept a roll of coins.  My only real option is Coinstar, which has installed machines in supermarkets and other retail outlets. It charges a 15 percent service fee. So, I have every incentive to take care of my tenants first.

 I win. They win. And some coins remain in circulation, even if they don’t leave the building.

The Federal Reserve insists there is no shortage, it’s a matter circulation. If people would just start spending quarters, all would be fine. But they aren’t, and who knows when, or if, they ever will.

My tenants can’t wait if they want to wash their clothes.

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