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  Edition # 135  
San Francisco, 09-11-2020


Figure [1]: Der "quarter" coin is still an important form of currency.

Michael Once a week is laundry day in our apartment, we're hauling several baskets full of dirty laundry down to the in-house laundromat and use the washers and dryers there. Each of them wants to be fed with quarter coins, and since one wash cycle costs $2.50, this requires ten coins each time. Each additional load adds more, and after the finishing spin cycle, the wet laundry needs to go in the dryer, which costs an additional $2.00 per load. In this way, it's not uncommon, that we spend 40 quarters per week, just for doing laundry.

Figure [2]: The washer in the in-house laundromat downstairs requires lots of quarters as payment.

No one carries that much small change in their wallets, of course, which is why we go to the bank every couple of months, bring a big shopping bag and carry home a kilo of these quarters. When I started doing the bank runs many years ago, I tried to be funny and asked the cashier if they could get me one of those cotton bags with an imprinted dollar signs for my loot, just like they do in cartoons, but this joke got old at some point. Recently, however, something rather surprising happened: The other day, the cashier told me that she could no longer provide me with $200 in quarters, as all banks were rationing them, and the maximum I could get was a single roll with $10 worth of quarters (40). What!?

The reason for this predicament was revealed recently in the news: Due to the economic slump caused by the Corona virus, customers have drastically reduced their visits to brick and mortar stores, and hence have stopped handing over their hard earned coins in exchange for desired goods, preventing the stores from returning these coins to the bank, which in turn caused a disruption of the natural flow of small change through the economy. I would have thought that hardly anyone around here pays cash anymore, let alone with small change, because most people use credit cards, but what do I know! The sad truth is that quarters are extremely hard to come by these days.

Figure [3]: Luckily, we've been hoarding quarters for the laundromat for several months.

Some tentants already offered their landlords to buy back the quarters burried inside the machines. In our building, however, this isn't quite as straight forward, as the washers and dryers are being operated by a commercial service company. Laundromats in our neighborhood reportedly exchange dollar bills for quarters for their customers, but insist that the coins are being used on the premises and won't allow them to be carried home. If you're now thinking "Jeez, just set up washers with card readers!", then you have no idea about the amount of inertia working against any progress that involves large scale investments without immediate payoff in America.

In the end, it will most likely lead to shady businesses peddling quarters at inflated prices to desperated customers, similar to what happened during the international toilet paper crisis of 2020. Luckily, I had just been to the bank shortly before this mess started, and our quarter storage drawer is filled with several months of supplies. Hopefully, this will help us with our laundry needs until the quarter circulation problem has been fixed. Otherwise, we'll be skimping and stretch out the laundy schedule, washing our clothes only once every two weeks to save quarters should be feasible in a pinch. Edit

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Latest update: 10-Jun-2022