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It seems, as a nation, we have a problem, specifically a problem with change. Change is in the air. It is, however, not in the cash registers.

Apparently, there is a nationwide change shortage such that in about 45 days, stores aren't going to be able to give you coins back if you present more money for a purchase than that purchase costs.

Change is good. Change is inevitable. Be the change you wish to see in the world. But in about a month and half, don't expect any back. At least in the form of coins. That is, if you're still actually using money. Both of you.

Now, before we panic about the country running out of money, well, that's not happening. For one thing, we can print and mint money till the cows come home. And have. And will likely continue to.

But when it comes to physically having coins on hand, well, most institutions that actually engage in the process of exchanging hard currency for product are running out of the metal part of the change option.

Why? Well, there is a more technical reason than "everything's insane and nothing works anymore/COVID." And, as with most things, it's your fault.

Ok, maybe not you, specifically. Although, I bet if the coin police (and we don't have those yet, but, after Portland, you never know...) came to your house they'd find a jar somewhere just loaded with coins. And the odd spare button, but that's another story. And explains why, if you were actually wearing shirts with collars and buttons, you'd be short one.

Same with your car. And your purse (ok, not MY purse. I'm speaking broadly here). And that tray thing the kids got you for Father's Day about 10 years ago that you put your wallet on so you won't lose it, and then forget to get your wallet off of so you can't actually pay for that basket of groceries that has ice cream, which is now melting, in it. Ok, maybe that's just me. But, having been in a store or two, I doubt it.

All of which leads to a problem. Namely, that with all of us locked away snuggly and happily (?) in our homes, we're not using and exchanging cash. I for one, have been more than socially distanced from vending machines, parking meters, that claw thingee that never works for me so I can't get a stuffed animal for my granddaughter or even using a penny as a ball marker on a green for about, oh, 2020.

And since I doubt I'm alone, all that loose change I typically circulate (after leaving it in my pants pockets and almost tearing up the washing machine. As someone is pretty quick to point out) is on hiatus in my house.

Because at a time when we don't physically want to come in contact with anyone, using actual hard currency is about as realistic as heading to Walmart with a cow and two chickens to barter. And it is REALLY tough to make change for a cow and two chickens.

For one thing, thanks to Every Day Low Prices, what you thought costs a cow and two chickens actually only costs a cow and a chicken and a half.

What does all this mean? Well, a lot of it falls under the heading of "unintended consequences." Ok, maybe not exactly under that heading, since I don't know if there were any intended consequences to a worldwide pandemic. More accurately, it falls under the heading of "unexpected downstream consequences of unprojected circumstances." Which is business-speak for, "hmmm, well, uh, ya, hmmm...I supposed that might be a problem..."

It also illustrates a scary aspect of our current situation. Most of us would see a nationwide spare change shortage as, well, an oddity. We're equipped with bank cards and phone apps and all that stuff that we get to cuss when we can't remember our passwords but allows us to pay for a certain basket of groceries because we forgot our wallet but did remember our phone (see earlier digression).

But some folks aren't. Their economies and worlds are different from ours and stuff like coin storages or reduced hours or not being equipped to shop online make them a lot more vulnerable at a time when we're all feeling that to some extent.

So, maybe it's time to do that coin dump. And think of those people. And wear a mask. Which has nothing to do with a coin shortage, but is a very, very good investment!

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