NEWS

Euro ‘starter kits’ are a hit

Newly minted Greek-issue euro coins sold like hotcakes yesterday, when banks started selling 5,000-drachma starter kits to familiarize Greeks with what will be the country’s new currency as of January 1. But bureaucratic complications were rife. Some banks would only sell one set to each customer, and others sold two. There were banks that would only give the officially stamped plastic bags to people who could prove they were their own clients – or told customers they had to open accounts to get the starter kits. Many prospective euro-customers were asked to give their particulars and tax registration number, which they had to back up by displaying their police identity cards. And then there were the banks that charged a commission of up to 300 drachmas on the euro coins, effectively treating them as foreign currency. There were long queues all morning in central Athens branches, where demand was highest. Not all bank managers had foreseen this. I think there is no point in issuing citizens with euro coins just now, Kalliopi Mitroglou, manager of the Kolonaki Square Alpha Bank branch told Kathimerini. People will only get accustomed to the euro when they are forced to use it in their everyday transactions. The bank sold in record time all 200 of the 45-coin starter kits it had ordered. Most people spoke favorably of the new currency. I am glad the euro is entering our lives, pensioner Giorgos Vamvakopoulos said. I have been practicing for the past year by converting all my public utility bills into euros. The coins became available in Greece, Germany and Portugal yesterday. On Friday and Saturday they went on sale in the other nine euro zone countries.