Thursday, August 21, 2014

Is there really a Moscow Markup?

S was in the US for 8 days: a conference in San Francisco 4 days, one day on each end for "provisioning," plus one day travel on each end.

Provisioning is the activity known to all expats (and others who travel from Russia to the US) of acquiring things which are lower price in the US or only obtainable in the US.

All basic needs can be met in Russia, for a price.  But we had left things at Grandma & Grandpa's house in southern California, so S went "shopping in the attic" to bring back a few things we couldn't carry last year (including 20 lbs of books! and a 16 lb winter coat).  

Oh, and then there were the 30 lbs of books from the conference, too.

But she also made 3 trips to Target and two to Costco to get stuff which can only be found in the US--Land's End girls swimsuits & dresses, bike shorts from Target, baking powder and liquid vanilla--or are much cheaper in the US (contact solution, for example).

Except that the price for contact solution is only cheaper at Costco.  The Target price, for example, at $10 for a 12 oz bottle, isn't much less than what we pay here 355 rubles for 300 ml.

So, after over $500 of purchases, S got to the airport with three large checked bags of 50 lbs each plus a wheeled carry on of 35 lbs, a backpack (also 20 lbs), and the 16 lb coat.  From Moscow to LAX, on Aeroflot each traveller may take 2 bags for free, and Frequent flyer status entitles the traveller to one extra free bag.  That was three.  But for some reason, flying from LAX to Moscow, each traveller may take 1 bag for free, and the one extra for frequent flyer.  So S had to pay the third bag price ($150).

So, are things really cheaper in the US than in Moscow?

Only for things found "shopping in the attic."

For everything else, there's Mastercard.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Moscow Markup

Everything in Moscow costs more, but this is especially true for childrens things.  But with only children, having two parents and four grandparents doting on one child, maybe the cost of gifts isnt so bad.  Maybe 900 rubles (not quite $30) for a brand name stuffed animal doesnt seem a lot. Maybe 2000 rubles for sneakers doesnt seem like much if you dont have three kids to buy for.

But then, maybe we have been out of touch.  S (the mom for these thre kids) is currently in the US for a conference, and prices arent as cheap as we remember.

The difference is that $30 buys a brand name toy of high quality, or $60 buys a good pair of shoes, in the US.  In Moscow, that equivalent in rubles buys a cheap pair of shoes which fall apart.

In the US, you can shop in fancy stores and get good quality, or Walmart and pay less for junk.  In Moscow, the junk is junkier, but if you know where to go, you could pay walmart prices, but thats shopping on the street or open air market.  Anything in a store is more.  But going to a store doesnt guarantee great quality.

For example, cheap dollar store stuff costs 100 rubles, or $3.  Thats the Moscow Markup.