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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 19:37 GMT
Getting the euro mix right
Hofpfisterei
There is no problem getting hold of the bread
by BBC News Online's Tim Weber in Munich, Germany

Europe's newest cash currency has had a smooth launch in Germany, at least for the country's shop keepers.

Hofpfisterei logo
The exchange rate produced some complicated euro prices for Hofpfisterei's customers
According to retail organisations, there were hardly any hiccups.

Newspaper reports that many shops might refuse to accept Deutschmarks proved to be unfounded.

At the Hofpfisterei, a 150-shop bakery chain in and around Munich, months of preparations have paid of for Daniel Weijs, who is in charge of the firm's town centre outlets.

His firm's biggest challenge was to calculate the right amount of euro change in the tills.

With price increases ruled out, the euro exchange rate has created a lot of "unattractive" prices: Andechser Brot, a speciality bread based on an old monastery recipe, used to cost 6.99 Deutschmarks (DM). The Hofpfisterei now charges 3.57 euros. The Parisienne white stick, once priced at DM5.89, now retails for 3.01.

Such prices result in a lot of euro cents changing hands. Mr Weijs estimates that his branches will need about 50% more change than usual.

Nifty tills

Every large Hofpfisterei branch received 1,375 euros worth of coins to last the first few days, and so far it has worked, says Mr Weijs.

There was just one scary moment at the Viktualienmarkt branch early in the morning, when three customers in quick succession paid with DM50 and DM 100 notes respectively.

Having no euro notes in the till, Mr Weijs feared that at this pace the shop might run out coins fast. But by lunchtime the number of people paying with euros and Deutschmarks was about fifty-fifty.

"Overall, the changeover is going exceedingly well", says Friedbert Foerster, in charge of the bakery's marketing department.

The only hiccup was on his way to the interview. He got stuck at the exit of his car park, which was euro-only. Amidst the changeover preparations, Mr Foerster simply didn't have the time to get any euros himself.

But at the Hofpfisterei tills, nifty software keeps the queues short and moving fast.

Customers can pay in euros, Deutschmarks or both combined.

Nobody needs to employ any maths to calculate the right amount of euro change.

Hungry, but patient

A few market stalls further down at the historic Viktualienmarkt, things are not that easy at the fast food counter of Vinzenz Murr, a butcher's chain.

The shop assistant takes a minute or two to find the price for the spicy Bavarian version of a hamburger.

The queue is long, the tourists and locals are hungry, but patient.

And the new notes can still cause wonderment.

"That's the first 50 euro note I've ever seen," says Paul at the counter of the easyeverything internet café, just opposite the main station.

He carefully checks the note for its security features.

"I guess that's not a fake", he says, shoving it into the till.

Getting employees euro-ready

If there are any queues, they are at the banks, where Germans have rushed to get hold of the new currency.

And that, says Wolfgang Neubart, is just as it should be.

He is in charge of the euro changeover at Hertie, one of Munich's largest department stores.

The faster people are swapping their Deutschmarks for euros, the easier it will be for his staff of 1,000 - not that there have been any problems yet.

To set a good example, he offered employees the opportunity to change their old money on the morning of 2 January at Hertie's internal cash counter - before the store opened its doors, and most have used the facility.

The travelling nation

Mr Neubart sees little changeover problems. All the worries were created by eurosceptics and media eager to sell copy, he says.

And indeed, at the Hertie department store, there are hardly any queues.

At one till, the cashier has run out of 10 and 20 euro notes.

The problem is solved in minutes, a colleague quickly goes to the cash deposit in the basement and gets more change.

Mr Neubart believes that there is not that much cash in circulation in the first place:

"Most people have 150 or 200 Deutschmarks in cash at best. It will take just a week or more, and then we will see hardly any Deutschmark notes here in the store."

Until that is the case, there is only one key mission:

"Customers must be able to leave the store and say 'I didn't have any problems with the euro at Hertie'."

Confidently he predicts that soon everybody will use the euro with ease and see its benefits:

"We Germans are avid tourists. We are accustomed to using many different currencies. The euro is just another currency - and we should have introduced it many years ago."


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