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Business

Germans Called to Boycott Shops

An Internet chain letter has been circulating in Germany is calling for consumers to stay away from stores on Monday, July 1st. Thousands now say they’ll keep their wallets closed on the first day of the month.

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"None of this on Monday!" a grassroots campaign says.

Don’t mess with the German consumer.

That’s the message Christoph Kastius, a 25-year-old Berlin resident who started the "call to arms" among German consumers. He is calling for action: stay away from shops on Monday, July 1st , keep your wallets closed, and teach a lesson to retailers who have turned the "euro" into the "teuro" - a new word for the new currency that disgusted consumers are using these days. It comes from the German "teuer," meaning expensive.

The call for a "people’s uprising against the teuro," as Kastius puts it, began as an anonymous e-mail that started circulating throughout Germany several weeks ago. It called for people to find other ways to fill their time on the first of July besides spending money.

Now thousands have pledged to do just that. The chain letter seems to have grown into a small but determined resistance movement which could have a significant impact.

"We are all being ripped off," Berlin residents Carola and Karsten Hänsel told reporters. "This is just one way of showing that we disapprove of the euro."

Perceived Price Hikes

According to recent survey, more than half of Germans are unhappy with the new money. Although the switchover from the mark to the euro at the beginning of year went smoothly, soon people began complaining that prices had gone up. They accused retailers of using consumers’ unfamiliarity with the new money to sneak in price hikes.

The euro became the "teuro" and the scapegoat of a nation.

According to economists, even before the Internet call to arms began, there was already a "strike" mentality among German consumers. A new EU survey shows that one in two Germans say they have bought less since the introduction of the euro.

"The consumer is very unsure about the overall situation," Klaus Wübbenhorst of the Society for Consumer Research told Germany’s n-tv news network. "Price hikes in connection with the euro aren’t the only reason people aren’t buying, but the discussions around the subject have taken hold in people’s heads and have been blown up somewhat."

Statistics show that prices have not risen substantially since the euro was introduced, but studies show that 82 percent of Germans believe they have.

Not Worried?

Despite the grassroots call for action, Germany’s main retail and consumer organizations say they are not worried, nor are they taking the threat seriously. However, they added if such a strike were to be successful, it could costs retailers millions.

"Spending less right now is not the thing to do," said a spokesperson from the German Retail Association. Economists say flat consumer spending is hurting the German economy. Germans should be spending more, not less, they say.

Nils Busch-Petersen of the association said he understood people’s concern about higher prices and he agreed that prices in some sectors had gone up. "But I don’t know who this will harm the most," he said. "This will hit the smaller trader when it is the bigger supermarkets and chain stores that have ramped up prices."

The German government says it disapproves of a consumer boycott and hopes "common sense" will prevail.

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