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Coin shortage poses big challenge for locally owned cash-only businesses

One coin laundry owner says the shortage is eating into his profits
Posted at 12:17 AM, Jul 14, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — Coin production has slowed as mints across the country take safety precautions. But there are some businesses that rely on change and say they're really hurting.

Cashiers at Kroger stores, including King Soopers, will no longer return coins to shoppers.

Customers there can either donate the change to charity or have it applied to their loyalty cards for their next purchase. But for local coin laundry businesses, denying change is not an option.

“Laundromats started as a depression era innovation,” owner of Colorado Springs’ Sunshine Coin Laundry Peter Cooke said.

You might call him a laundromat historian.

“The system, has been around for about 90 years now. And coins still dominate the industry,” he said.

Cooke bought Sunshine Coin Laundry on the Springs’ west side seven years ago.

“I was trying to do some handyman stuff and then I said… maybe I should just work where, it’s not the greatest of livings but it is steady,” Cooke said.

He quickly realized why, in our modern times, the cash-only business model is still needed.

“A lot of times, you’ve got people who can’t afford to get these machines, so being able to wash your clothes for the change in your pocket, that’s huge… that’s a staple of the industry,” he said.

But lately…

“We no longer are taking a bucket of coins in each week,” Cooke said. “Now, the bucket is almost empty.”

The coin shortage brought on by COVID-19 is not something he could have seen coming.

“I noticed it a couple weeks after the initial shutdown or slowdown, when a lot of businesses were closed up,” he said.

But it’s here, and it hurts.

“This year was supposed to be a year of expansion and adding newer and larger machines,” he said. “But once the orders hit, we realized it’s going to be a year where we’re just gonna try to make it through. And so what was going to be a nest egg has become more of a war chest.”

And after hearing stores like King Soopers won’t be handing out coins to customers—

“That almost sounds like some are trying to push a cashless economy,” Cooke said.

He’ll have to try to adapt to a cashless future.

“Even if you were just to try an electronic upgrade, it would still be tens of thousands of dollars to implement.”

For shoppers at King Soopers and other Kroger brands, the Kroger company says customers using self-checkout will still be able to receive coins.