By CBSLA Staff

FULLERTON (CBSLA) — Coins have become something of a treasure due to a nationwide shortage caused by the pandemic.

Shoppers like Liz Savage say she recently had to stand her ground to get 12 cents in change at a Ralphs in Fullerton. She gave the cashier $6 in cash for her $5.88 in purchases.

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“He bags my stuff, gives me the bag and the receipt and he doesn’t give me my change,” she said. So she asked for her 12 cents.

“’Oh, we have a shortage. We don’t have coin,’” Savage recalls the cashier telling her. “And I said, ‘well that’s not my problem.’”

Savage says she finally got her change. But when she looked at her receipt, she noticed the cashier had put the 12 cents “coin change” back into the total of her purchase so it was a round amount. She later learned the money had been put onto her rewards card.

“There were no signs, there was no warning. There was no explanation. Nothing,” she said.

John Breyault said that what the cashier did was akin to charging the consumer a fee to pay with cash.

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“It shouldn’t be on the consumer to spot those and dispute them. It should be on the merchant to not do it in the first place,” he said.

Twelve cents is small change, but it all adds up.

“That may not seem like a lot to you, but you multiply that over hundreds, thousands, or millions of customers and that can mean billions of dollars in revenue for these companies. It’s up to all of us to say this isn’t acceptable and call these companies out for trying to do that,” Breyault said.

Ralphs parent company, Kroger, announced earlier this month it was adjusting to the coin shortage in several ways, including allowing customers to change their payment type, load change onto their loyalty cards or donate the money to charity. But Breyault said customers need to know they can still pay how they want to pay.

In a statement, Ralphs says customers still have the option to pay in cash and receive their change in the form of coins and not credit.

Savage says she refused the rewards card credit because she isn’t a regular Ralphs shopper, and that she felt a need to speak out because people need to know what’s happening.

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“People who don’t really think about it and they hand over the cash and then they go,” she said. “When do you look at the receipt? After the fact.”