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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 16:40 GMT
Munich's smooth euro switch
Munich skyline
Munich takes the first day of the euro switch in its stride
By BBC News Online's Tim Weber in Munich, Germany

It's a busy day at Munich's main railway station. Thousands bustle on the concourse, piling into trains to travel home from Christmas holidays or New Year's eve parties.

The station's shops are open, doing a roaring trade. But all shoppers face the same question at the tills: "Will you pay in euros or in Deutschmarks?"

The majority of customers are still using Deutschmarks, but a few proudly hand over the crisp notes and shiny coins of the new euro currency.

There are few hiccups thanks to modern cashtill technology.

All goods are priced in euros. At the flick of a switch, the till converts to the Deutschmark price and registers the payment in "old money".

When the switch is pressed again, the till shows the change in euros and cents.

In a kitschy souvenir and photo shop with an old fashioned manual till, prices are converted with a handheld blue "euro calculator."

Counting very carefully, the shop assistant hands over the change, paying particularly close attention to cent coins.

It is equally easy to spot customers receiving euro change for the first time.

A moustachioed man in his thirties lays out the coins on his palm, shifts them around with his index finger, and examines both sides of the euro notes before pocketing them.

Queues moving fast

Despite the crowds, most of the queues move quickly.

Munich's euro parade, May 2001
Munich held a euro parade in May 2001
At railway ticket counters, signs advise customers to pay in euros or by debit or credit card in order to cut down on waiting times.

There is just one slow-moving queue. At a kiosk selling tobacco and spirits an elderly man grapples with the new currency.

"How much is that in Deutschmarks?" he asks in an exasperated tone.

When the cashier hands him a few cents' worth of change, he rejects it with a resigned wave. "You can keep THAT", he grumbles.

Cash drain fear

Since most retailers' biggest worry is that they will run out of low denomination notes and coins, the elderly shopper is doing the cahier a favour.

At Mayer Minimarkt, a large sign warns customers that for now the shop will not accept any bank notes larger than 50 euros or 50 Deutschmarks (DM).

Burger King, the outlet with by far the highest cash turnover in the station, won't take any notes above 50 Deutschmarks either.

A young man, keen to get some euro change, tries to pay with a DM100 note regardless. The woman at the till politely informs him of the limit.

Without much protest, he fumbles for smaller notes, and promptly falls into the euro price trap.

His meal costs 8.30 - but euros, not Deutschmarks, and the DM10 note he proffers won't cover the bill.

A bit more fumbling for another DM10, and the bill is settled, with change given in euro.

Some shops are more strict. At Munich airport, a chocolate shop warns customers that it will not accept any Deutschmark coins, and bank notes only up to DM100 - if the bill is sufficiently large.

Here at the railway station, there is a bit more flexibility. A father, hoping to buy a chocolate croissant for his daughter, has a DM100 note - and nothing else.

The shop assistant at Croissanterie Wagner hesitates, then bends the rules a little. She offers to give change in Deutschmarks, hoarding her precious euro change.

The next Deutschmark customer, paying with a DM20 note, receives euro change again, as prescribed by law.

He is another euro newcomer, carefully scrutinising the new currency in his hand.

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01 Jan 02 | Business
01 Jan 02 | Business
01 Jan 02 | Europe
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