PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A penny saved is a penny earned, but too many pennies saved is a big problem for the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia.
Some area stores have been asking customers to dig for exact change as their cash drawers have run short of pennies in recent weeks.Meanwhile, stores and banks have sharply increased their orders for pennies, though no one can point to a reason for a shortage except the accumulations that pile up on dressers, in jars and in piggy banks, Federal Reserve Bank spokesman Bob McCarthy said.
"People do not take time to put pennies back in their pocket," McCarthy said this week. "Everyone hoards."
As area merchants feel the crunch, some have posted notes at cash registers asking customers for exact change.
Chris McDowell, manager of a downtown Wawa Food Market, said he has run short of pennies several times in the last two weeks, but customers have helped the cashiers cope.
Sometimes a cashier will return a little extra money to make the change come out even. At other times a customer will hand over a dollar for a 98-cent item and wave away the change, he said.
McDowell said he understood the tendency to pile up pennies.
"I have a five-gallon jug at home that I would say is three-fourths full of pennies. I just don't want to wrap them," he said.
The Federal Reserve Bank distributed 700 million pennies to financial institutions in eastern Pennsylvania, western New Jersey and Delaware from January through May of this year, a 22 percent jump from 575 million distributed in the same period last year, McCarthy said.
In addition, banks are not sending as many pennies as usual back to the Federal Reserve, worsening the pinch, McCarthy said. When banks have accumulated more pennies than they want to keep on hand, they return the coins to be put back in circulation.
Federal Reserve officials said none of the nation's 11 other federal reserve banks was encountering such a crunch.