US exchange rates rise to fair level in community Visitors still best changing money at banks By Andy Stonehouse As every day's financial trading seems to see the value of the Canadian dollar further approaching that of the peso, American visitors continue to enjoy an unprecedented exchange rate when they turn in their greenbacks. And unlike the situation found just a month back, a new random survey conducted by Pique Newsmagazine shows that many local merchants seem to be doing their best to offer fair rates at the cash register to their U.S. customers. The Canadian dollar dropped to a new all-time low this week, sinking to approximately $0.6609 U.S., with local banks converting U.S. funds to loonies at an extremely attractive rate of $1.4936. The Whistler Resort Association's suggested exchange rate was established at 42 per cent this week, as advertised in the Whistler Question on Monday, but by mid-week, many merchants were already offering individual rates closer to the bank rate. Best rates could be found at Whistler's Roots clothing store, which traded U.S. cash at 48 per cent, or the nearby Allders Duty Free outlet, which offered its customers 47 per cent exchange. Of some 22 businesses contacted in the village, 11 offered a rate of at least 40 per cent or more, with only seven trading U.S. currency in the 30 percent exchange. Lowest rates were offered by two food service outlets, Misty Mountain Pizza and FORKS, which both traded funds at only 25 per cent exchange. Suzanne Denbak, WRA president, said she's happy to see that most merchants seem to be taking the huge exchange rate to heart and offering the community's many American visitors a fair rate for their money. "We've seen the response and we appreciate everyone pitching in," Denbak said. "I think they understand the importance of a fair rate to the whole resort." The WRA rate, which is set by consulting exchange rates set by the Royal Bank, Toronto Dominion and North Shore Credit Union, still remains a voluntary benchmark for local businesses, and visitor awareness of the rate may be feeding merchant participation. A different approach to the exchange game has been tried in the B.C. Interior as businesses in Nelson have banded together to offer an exchange rate even higher than the bank rate. Cam Bond, manager of Nelson's Heritage Inn, said he and other local merchants debuted the "Better than Fair Exchange" program July 17, with signs and an information program offering 50 per cent exchange on purchases made with U.S. funds. Bond said the program is run in conjunction with ads in the Nelson Daily News. He said a healthy dose of public humiliation goes a long way in getting wayward merchants to follow the Better than Fair rate. "We went around and did a bit of an embarrassment campaign for those who weren't participating, and we had the paper list the ones who were doing it," Bond said. "You'd have to be crazy not to offer the better rate." Bond said the result has seen the community's U.S. visitors happy about the high rate, although he's not sure if more are making their way across the border simply to get more bang for their buck. "The Americans are ecstatic, especially when you go that one step further and do something you don't have to," he said. Ron Hosner, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has no intention of following Nelson's lead and institute a similar program, although he does encourage local members to make sure they're offering a fair rate at their stores.