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Can you change a 10,000 yen bill?

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A customer walks into your business for a cup of coffee and a copy of the Deseret News. The total: $2.50. The customer hands you 6,000 yen.

During the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, businesses may face an influx of foreign customers armed not with dollars, but with euros and yen and pesos.

Though it may not happen frequently, Downtown Alliance executive director Bob Farrington said businesses — particularly those close to Olympic venues — should be prepared to address their patrons' needs.

That doesn't mean businesses need to handle foreign currency, Farrington said.

"Businesses may be under the impression they need to set up some elaborate currency exchange," he said. "I don't believe they need to be prepared to accept foreign currency. What they do need to know is perhaps where to direct people downtown where they can exchange their currency."

Most travelers will know they must make arrangements to have their currency converted to the dollar, Farrington said. But businesses would do well to know where a money exchange facility is.

Zions Bank spokesman Rob Brough said the bank offers currency conversion at its downtown headquarters, with limited service at each of its branches.

During the Games, Brough said Zions will step up staffing, provide additional training to bank employees and may extend bank hours at select branches to handle currency exchanges.

"During the Games, the Park City branch and the Broadway branch at Main Street and 300 South will be able to do both selling and conversion of currency," Brough said. "We'll also be doing additional employee training, just to make them aware of foreign currency exchange issues."

Any Zions Bank will be able to exchange foreign currency for dollars, Brough said.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Rita Garry Esposito said the bank is still formulating its plan to deal with money exchange issues. Wells Fargo operates a currency conversion desk at its main branch downtown.

"Right now Wells Fargo is developing a plan to accommodate the needs of our customers and visitors during the Olympics," Esposito said. "This is a priority, and we will be fully prepared to meet their foreign exchange needs."

Theoretically, any business may accept and exchange foreign currency, said Paul Morely, spokesman for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Salt Lake branch.

"Any business can accept payments in any form that's agreeable to them," Morely said. "Just like all businesses do not have to accept checks. It would be up to the discretion and the judgment of the institution."

Private businesses take a risk when they handle "unknown" currency, Morely said. Simple transactions become complex, because companies have to figure out exchange rates and find a partner (generally a bank) where they can exchange and deposit the currency.

"It's something they would have to look at very closely," he said. "It is a matter of a private business making a business decision."

Farrington said it might also be a business opportunity for entrepreneurs.

"One thing you don't see much of in Salt Lake, like you do at banks or in other international cities, are the storefront currency exchanges," he said. "I don't know if that's a business opportunity or not. But either way, I think that with the banks being able to do that, we're pretty well-covered."


E-mail: jnii@desnews.com