Cash customers are getting the nickel-and-dime treatment at Eagle Mart convenience stores in Elizabeth City.

With a nationwide coin shortage underway because of the coronavirus pandemic, Eagle Market owner H.J. Patel says it’s currently hard for him to get quarters for his four convenience stores in the region.

That means cash-paying customers are getting a lot of nickels and dimes in their change. That in turn is putting a strain on the supply of nickels and dimes.

Patel said he first started experiencing a shortage of coins a month ago.

“No bank has quarters at all,” Patel said. “You have to work it out with dimes, nickels and pennies. That’s a lot of usage when you don’t have a quarter.”

According to a press release from the U.S. Federal Reserve, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a nationwide coin shortage.

When stay-at-home orders caused businesses, including some bank branches, to close or operate on a limited basis, it slowed or even stopped the flow of coins through the economy, the Federal Reserve said.

Also, the U.S. Mint’s coin production decreased due to COVID-19 measures that were put in place to protect mint employees.

Patel, who said 99 percent of his customers pay with a debit card or credit card, gets around $240 in change a week for each of his stores, placing the almost $1,000 request once a week with his bank.

So far, $40 a day in change for each of his locations has met Eagle Mart’s needs but Patel said he has had to move coins from one store to another because of a run on coins.

“You can’t place an order every day,” Patel said of getting coins from the bank.

Coinstar owns and operates 22,000 self-service coin counting kiosks across the country, including five in Elizabeth City. Coinstar Chief Executive Officer Jim Gaherity said the company is making a concerted effort to quickly get coins back into circulation.

Coins from the kiosks are sent to a processing facility and then sent to banks where the coins are put back into circulation. Last year, Coinstar processed 37 million coins worth $2.7 billion.

Coinstar saw foot traffic at its machines slow nationwide during the COVID-19-related shutdowns but things have rebounded as the economy has reopened, Gaherity said.

“As lockdowns end, coin transactions and volumes through Coinstar kiosks are growing,” Gaherity said. “Accordingly, we’ve been making more frequent coin pickups to help get coins back in circulation.”