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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 10:18 GMT
All quiet at the cash machine
Euro cash withdrawal in Germany
The main euro cash changeover will come when shops reopen
By BBC News Online's Tim Weber in Landshut, Germany

Ten minutes past midnight, Tuesday, 1 January 2002. There is no queue at the cash machine at the Sparkasse - a local savings bank - in the Seligenthaler Strasse. But then the machine doesn't work either.

"Sorry, this cash machine is currently not available," say bold letters on the screen.

Deutschland, no euro land?

Thirty minutes past midnight. At the nearby Fuerstenhof Hotel, the musicians are packing up at the end of a long New Year's dinner. They are being paid with crisp, new bank notes. Not euros, though, but Deutschmarks.

Do they mind not getting euros? A smile and a shrug: "We've got two months to spend it," says the man carrying a guitar.

Forty-five minutes past midnight. Second attempt at the cash machine. This time there is a queue of one. Is the man in front of me struggling because the machine is not working, or because he is drunk?


You know the German perfectionists. Everybody wants to be the first using the new money.

Inge Mohler, pharmacy owner

Ah, he is just examining each and every bank note he received.

Finally it is my turn. The screen invites me to select a euro amount.

A few seconds later, there they are: Seven colourful notes, two fifties, one twenty, two tens and two fives - 150 euros.

The real thing

Back at the hotel, the revellers are keen to have a first look - those that don't work in retail, that is, because they saw the real thing weeks ago, during their training sessions.

There is a holiday feeling about the new euro notes. They look vaguely familiar, like currency used in some holiday in the Mediterranean many years ago.

But large security features - broad silvery strips with holograms, numbers that change colour when the note is tilted, massive watermarks - proclaim that this is new, modern money.

Waiting for the roll-out

At the petrol station down the road, they have removed the temporary DM and Pf stickers - for Deutschmarks and Pfennigs - to show the new euro and cent signs at the petrol pump.

The real changeover day, though, will be on Wednesday, 2 January, when shops open again.

So far, there has been no rush for euros. Cash machines have not run out of the notes, as some had feared.

Inge Mohler, owner of the Seligenthal-Apotheke, a small pharmacy, believes the changeover will be swift: "You know the German perfectionists. Everybody wants to be the first using the new money."

She expects only some of her older customers to be paying with Deutschmarks.

Ms Mohler plans to spend New Year's Day with her computer system. Four hours, she reckons, it will take her to update the prices of all the drugs she is dispensing.

Shop threat

Germany's government, meanwhile, is calling on the country's retailers to keep their promise and accept Deutschmarks until 28 February.

Because of a legal quirk, Germany is the only country where the old "legacy currency" ceased to be legal tender at midnight, 31 December 2001.

The government relied on the promise of retailing organisations that their members would accept Deutschmarks two months into the changeover period.

Now some small shops say they don't have the resources to cope with two currencies, and will accept euros only.

This attitude has brought harsh words from government spokespeople - and from the retailer's own lobby organisation.

Hubertus Pellengahr, spokesman of the German retailers' association, said shops that refused to accept Deutschmarks would make a "grave mistake, driving customers to their competitors".


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