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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 14:13 GMT
How easy is it to spend euros in London?
Euro notes being counted
Many stores have said they are ready to accept euros
Many retailers in Britain have said their shops will now accept euros as well as sterling in payment for goods. The BBC's Alex Ritson took a trip round London, determined to spend his pocketful of euros:

The introduction of euro notes and coins has heightened debate in the three European Union member countries which haven't joined the single currency: The UK, Sweden and Denmark.

In the UK, popular newspapers have been warning of "Eurocreep," a term used to describe the gradual spread of euro cash through the country.

Some commentators have also argued that the decision by retailers to accept euros alongside sterling will help convince the public that the time has come for the UK to join the single currency.

But just how easy is it to spend euros outside Euroland?

Mixed success

No problem at the Eurostar rail service to Paris in Waterloo station.

"You can buy a ticket to Paris in euros because we always used to accept French and Belgian francs here at the terminal in Waterloo, so we now accept euros," said Eurostar's Roger Harrison.

Not so successful at the taxi rank outside Waterloo station.

"I haven't got a conversion chart, I don't take euros," said one cab driver.

"Until such time as the carriage office give me a conversion on my meter I don't know what the market rate is," he said.

Getting there

None of the high street shops which have gone on record in the press as saying they accept euros, were willing to be put to the test on tape when contacted, except the Virgin Megastore on London's Oxford Street.

And even there, while the shop assistant said purchasing a CD with euros would be no problem, there were practical difficulties with the transaction.

"The exchange rate has been placed onto the system at 1.72, it says yes we can accept it, but for some reason once we highlight euro or any currency at the moment it's saying we can't take it," she said.

But the transaction could be completed manually and half an hour later, the purchase of the CD using euros was complete.

Shopping at a profit

British teenager Richard shields last week got a pleasant surprise when he changed his pocket money into euros and went shopping at a Debenhams department store in north London.

Debenhams accepts euros as well as pounds, but computers in the store thought the single currency was worth two and a half times its actual value.

On current evidence, the euro will probably have to do a lot more creeping before it is really welcomed in London's shops.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alex Ritson
"The euro will have to do a lot more creeping before it's really welcomed in London's shops"

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