Kroger is making another drastic change, but it's due only partly because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As WKYT reports, the supermarket chain will be offering customers who pay cash a number of other options instead of receiving coins.
Erin Rofles, a spokesperson for Kroger, confirmed on Friday that the grocer will give bills for change, but not coins. Customers can instead elect to have the remainder applied to their customer loyalty cards, which can be used automatically toward their next purchase. Additionally, customers are being encouraged to "Round Up" to help support the company's Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Foundation.
While using cash has been widely discouraged throughout the pandemic, Rofles said the change had more to do with the coin shortage currently being experienced by the Federal Reserve. Another Kroger spokesperson, Allison McGee, explained that the coin shortage is affecting chains beyond their store, and impacts any business that accepts cash as payment.
The coin shortage, however, was caused by the pandemic, as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell testified at a June 17 hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. "The places where you go to give your coins, and get credit at the store and get cash — you know, folding money — those have not been working," Powell explained, via The Washington Post. "Stores have been closed. So the whole system has kind of, had come to a stop. We're well aware of this. As the economy reopens, we're seeing coins begin to move around again." Additionally, the Federal Reserve said its measures to help replenish the inventory won't be enough to solve the shortage in the near future.
Back in May, Kroger asked employees to repay some of their "Hero Pay" that they earned over the spring, during the initial phase of the pandemic. Dissent Magazine published a report that the employees had been informed that they had been overpaid by mistake. The chain had paid employees an extra $2 per hour throughout the early part of the coronavirus outbreak, which was considered unofficial hazard pay due to the risk.
The company had come under scrutiny that same month for ending "Hero Pay," even though the pandemic is still going on. UFCW Local 400, a labor union that represents 13,000 Kroger employees, has advised workers not to sign anything about the repayment plans until it thoroughly examines each claim.