Friday, August 22, 2008

Got D-marks? Get euros!

It’s been over six years now since the German mark was replaced by the Euro. The year of the currency reform, you could walk into any bank with your stash and walk out with a handful of shiny new euro coins and brightly colored banknotes. That’s all over now, but it turns out there are still a lot of German marks lying around in private households, and people don’t always know what to do with them. A survey this spring carried out by the Association of German Banks suggested that one out of three Germans misses the mark and would prefer to be using it instead of the euro, which in the popular imagination is widely associated with inflation and price gouging. The C&A department store chain—pretty much the equivalent of Sears in the U.S.—has responded to this nostalgia by offering to allow customers to pay in marks at any of their stores in Germany. But for those ready to face the fact that the euro is in all likelihood here to stay, there’s a relatively simple solution: the Deutsche Bundesbank, which has branch offices in all larger German towns, will convert D-marks to euros weekdays between the hours of 8:30 and 12:00. You might have to stand in line a bit. When recently I visited the rather elegant Deutsche Bundesbank building in Berlin, I found over a dozen people crammed into a waiting area in front of a row of four doors, each of which had a red light shining beside it. A rumor was circulating among the people waiting here, emanating in particular from an elderly gentleman with a large suitcase who appeared to be a regular, that the machine that counts the cash is prone to breakdowns because the money people bring in to have counted and exchanged is "too dusty." Be that as it may, we stood there for a good half hour without anyone from the bank coming out to tell us what was going on even after I waxed impatient enough to start pressing the button on the call box helpfully located right in the center of the waiting area (no response). But eventually the red lights changed to green, and each of us bid farewell to his little stash.

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