Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Owe, I Owe, So Off to Pay I Go

Have I explained how one pays bills in Moscow?

I pay bills in one of two places: either at the Post Office (like I did in Slovakia; I pay the house phone bill this way) or at these free standing machines found all over town.

I use these machines to put credit on my mobile phone. If I do it at any old machine, the machine company takes a commission (maybe 1% . . . I can't remember). But if I do it at the machine in the phone store (which is right next door to my bank . . . very convenient), then the machine does not take a commission. If I have my act together, I do it this way.

Yesterday, The Spouse reminded me that I needed to put more money on our СТРИМ (STREAM) account. As STREAM is our Internet provider, this is important to me. STREAM also provides our local cable, which is important to The Spouse and who was watching Law & Order dubbed in Russian when we had this conversation.

He told me to put 1300 or 1400 rubles on the account.

This morning I went to the grocery store because I had some things to pick up and because there is one of those machines just inside the door.

The machines do not make change, so I needed to buy groceries first. I had three 1000-ruble notes and some small bills (but not enough to deal with the STREAM account). My groceries came to 1032.03 rubles. Apologetically, I handed the clerk two of my 1000-ruble notes.

"Don't you have anything smaller," she asked. "Not even a hundred?"

No, I lied. I did not. My hand to God, this was all I had. I fished out 2 rubles and 3 kopecs for her. I'm not a total asshole. She dealt with it and all was forgiven.

Then, with my three bags of groceries, I went to the machine by the door. Many places in Moscow have double doors because of the cold. At my grocery store, there are two machines in the space between the two sets of doors. So when I enter the Sedmoy, there is a set of automatic doors, and then a very small foyer with the two machines and a DVD vending machine (we think this machine burns copies to order for about 300 rubles or around $10). And a portable heat blaster. Then another set of doors.

I try one machine, but it doesn't seem to handle STREAM. I do this every month, but I can never remember. In the meantime, a guy has stepped in front of the other machine and begun his transaction. The heater is going full out in this tiny space, and I am starting to sweat in my (new, down) coat. Thankfully, he is a pro and finishes quickly.

I stab at the touch screen until I find what I want. But the format seems different this time. I have to chose between two options. I don't remember seeing this before. Shit!

I call The Spouse. I will read the options to him over the phone, and he will help me. Oh. But that means I have to say the words (for some reason I can't send photos from my phone since we moved to Russia . . . this account doesn't let me).

Better start practicing.

While the phone rings, I sound out the words to myself.

Duh-oh! HURRAY FOR COGNATES! It wants to know if I want to identify my account by account number or phone number! I have the account number; I save it in the address book of my mobile. That's what I usually use. I stab at this option with my finger.

The Spouse answers the phone. I can't talk to anyone now! I need to look up the STREAM account in the phone address book.

"IhadaproblembutIsolveditIwillcallyoulater!" I tell him and hang up.

STREAM account number successfully entered, I feed a 1000-ruble note into the machine. The screen reflects this. I feed in 100 rubles. And another 100 rubles. And another 100 rubles.

Damn. The commission seems really high. The Spouse said to put in 1300 rubles, but after the commission the account doesn't have that much.

The heat is getting to me.

I feed in another 100 rubles. Now the account balance says something along the lines of 1320 rubles. I wish someone would come in or out of the store so the damn doors would open and I could get some cooler air.

But what if he said to put 1400 rubles? Rats! I can't remember. I think he said "1400 to be safe." Heck, in that case, another 50 ought to be enough.

I feed in a note.

The screen announces I have 1900 rubles worth of credit.

Shitshitshit! I have just fed in a 500-ruble note instead of a 50-ruble note.

Oh well. It will just sit there in my account until next month. When I have to do this again.

*****
Wanna know a secret? In about an hour, I am going to be interviewed by a Russian TV station for a show about expats in Moscow. I'll post all the details when I get back.

8 comments:

Real Estate Feast--South Florida real estate blog said...

It really is like reading about life on another planet. How come no one has set up a pay online system? Are there no credit cards?

Tina in CT said...

Whenever my daughter tells me she has to go through, I shake my head. I don't know how you all do it! And she speaks fluent Russian.

I can relate to how hot you were in your down coat. When I was there, I would whip off my down coat the minute we entered a building. Plus, they keep everything so damn hot there. I like buildings at 65 degrees and not 75 to 80 like it is there.

TRex said...

Give the interviewer the "figs to you" sign and spit at the camera whilst chugging from a .5 litre Vodka bottle. You'll be famous!!

Tami said...

I can't imagine - actually I can. When we were in Ukraine last winter getting Maddie I was forever getting overheated. Thankfully I wasn't trying to read Russian at the same time. ;>)

Jen said...

I know you'll be dazzling on the telly :) YouTube!

The Expatresse said...

it is possible to pay somethings online, but setting that up can be complicated. Credit cards exist, but generally only in bigger shops. if you order things online, generally someone will call you and schedule deliver COD.

Re: the TV thang. I am told there will be a YouTube link. I'll let you know.

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