Yes, We Take Euros: Riding a Currency Shift As the value of the dollar plunges against the euro, some merchants in New York City are accepting the foreign currency instead — especially in areas rich with tourists and European visitors.
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Yes, We Take Euros: Riding a Currency Shift

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Yes, We Take Euros: Riding a Currency Shift

Yes, We Take Euros: Riding a Currency Shift

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The euro hit an all-time high against the dollar today. One euro now costs $1.50. It's no wonder that the streets of New York are filled with European tourists looking for bargains.

As NPR's Robert Smith reports, some American business are only too happy to use the weakness of the dollar as an opportunity to rake in a more colorful currency.

ROBERT SMITH: At Billie's Antiques in the Bowery, there's plenty of head-turning merchandise.

Mr. BILLY LEROY: It's a stuffed baboon from Africa.

SMITH: There's a carnival fortune-telling booth.

Mr. LEROY: We have a Hannibal Lecter painting, a favorite.

SMITH: But Billy Leroy(ph) says lately, people have been streaming into the store to gawk at something that no other American store has - a big handmade sign that says…

Mr. LEROY: Euros only, and there it is, right there.

SMITH: The euros-only sign started as a sort of protest after Leroy got back from a buying trip to France.

Mr. LEROY: I couldn't buy any antiques at all. It was impossible to be able to buy something to resell here in America because it's 50 percent more. I mean, it's impossible.

SMITH: So he thought he'd try to level the playing field by taking in more euros. So when he put up the sign and got spotted by a neighborhood newspaper, and then the news story went global.

Mr. LEROY: It seemed like, last weekend, 50 percent of my customers were European.

SMITH: I think one of the reasons why we're paying attention to it and paying attention to you is that this taps into a fear that some Americans have about their dollar and their standing in the world. You're kind of thumbing your nose at the American economy here, it seems like.

Mr. LEROY: Yes. And I got a hate mail, too, saying it's un-American and all that. And I, you know, wrote back and said, on the contrary, it's very American. I'm adapting to the times.

SMITH: Now, before we make this seem like the beginning of the end of the American greenback, there are few things you should know. Leroy will still take dollars if you offer. I mean, he's not stupid. And he's only holding about 1,500 euros - not enough to move the currency market.

It's more of a convenience issue. I walked to the Diamond District today on 47th Street, and my informal survey found that about half of the jewelry stores would accept euros. Money is money, said one dealer. Not that many Europeans even try.

Outside the Abercrombie & Fitch store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Toby Hadrick(ph) from Germany is trying to get one last shopping trip in before he flies back.

Mr. TOBY HADRICK: Most of the times, we pay with credit cards. It's not popular in Germany to take all - a lot of euros here to U.S. because we don't know it. If the shops will do more advertising on that, I think then the people will bring the euros with them because they don't have to change their money.

SMITH: Just be warned, my international friends, that we're still a long way off from giving up the old-fashioned American buck. At lunch time today, I pulled out an old five euro note now worth about $7.50, and tried to get something to eat. The sandwich shop wouldn't take it. Starbucks said no way. Even Mohammed Baheladeen at the hotdog cart turned up his nose.

Mr. MOHAMMED BAHELADEEN: I can't accept it.

SMITH: But how…

Mr. BAHELADEEN: This is the America, you know? Only American money would do.

SMITH: If I manage to prove to you that this euro was real, how many hotdogs can I get for five euros?

Mr. BAHELADEEN: I'll give you, like, two hotdogs with soda.

SMITH: So, in other words, if I'm going to use euros, I won't go hungry, but I might not get a very good deal?

Mr. BAHELADEEN: No problem.

SMITH: In Times Square, I'm Robert Smith for NPR News in New York.

Mr. BAHELADEEN: Thank you. Thank you very much. Have a good day, man.

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