When you run out of money…

This post is part of my Russia travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

How I ran out of money in spite of having lots of it; and how I saved my ass.

Sochi… glittering up for 2014 Winter Olympics

I was not sure of writing this post since after reading it you might think that I have earned a masters degree in mismanaging money on my travels (Blogged earlier: running out of money in Bhutan). I went to Sochi with lots of cash – some roubles and lots of dollars. Exchanging money is very very easy in Russia, there are banks and private booths all over the place, so I was comfortable with my dollars. Unfortunately the dollars I was carrying were… Canadian. 😀 In a completely hopeless situation like that in India, people would simply go to a store and get money against a fake purchase on their credit card.

Since when did CAD become a universal currency? I completely missed that fact that Sochi, unlike Moscow, is a small town and may not have a CAD exchange.

My credit cards did not work in the bank machine for some reason, nor did my debit cards. It was a real panicy situation, since I had only about RUR 1000 (USD 50) and I needed atleast RUR 2500 (USD 125) for a comfortable 2 day stay (Sochi is somewhat expensive).

In a completely hopeless situation like that in India, people would simply go to a store and get money against a fake purchase on their credit card. The store owner would keep a hefty percentage of this transaction as his commission, but atleast your ass got saved. I decided to try the same in Sochi.

So a foreigner who barely spoke the local language was going to ask a storekeeper to cheat, using a credit card issued in another foreign country.

It might sound like a ridiculously impossible feat, but somehow it happened. 🙂

: : :

I went inside a swanky apparel store near the Sochi waterfront. Walking straight to the cashier, (wo)manned by two young girls who are addressed as Devushka (like Señorita in Spanish) I had the following conversations in Russian:

Me: Hello devushka, do you speak English?
Her: Not at all!
Me: Okay, I speak some Russian, I will try. Help me please. I have a credit card and some Canadian dollars, but I have no Russian money. In bank, no exchange Canadian dollars…. bad… So I have no Roubles. I am thinking, maybe you give me some roubles… I have credit card of American dollars.

Apparently such ‘tricks’ are not popular. OR they did not understand anything I said.

Plan B.

I picked up a shirt and asked if I could pay by credit card.
She: Yes, RUR 800.
Me: Ok, so this cost RUR 800. Maybe I give RUR 1000 on credit card. Then you give me RUR 200. You understand?
I tried saying that atleast five times in different ways. Finally the girls talked to each other and understood what I was trying to say.

She: umm.. okay.
Me: Can you give me more money?
She: Yes, how much do you want?
Me: I will need RUR 1000
She: Okay, so the total is RUR 1800.

I had no intent of buying anything. The girls were about to lose patience, I thought.

Me: I no buy shirt, but I buy socks, is that okay?
She: Ok, but you dont want the shirt?
Me: No, I just need money, roubles.
She: Ahhh now I understand. No problem, I can give you money. Don’t buy anything.

And thus after struggling at the counter for 15 minutes, using every possible word I knew in Russian, surrounded by other employees who had stopped their work to watch, they finally agreed to give me money against a fake purchase on my credit card. 🙂

Me: What time store close?
She: At 8
Me: That’s late, I want to buy you coffee. Because you help me.
She: No, no need. *blush*
Me: Please, I want to buy for you.
(Oh, what an un-gentlemanly language… I wish I knew more words…)
She: Okay there is Mc Donalds outside

Ah, McDonalds! Probably the most favorite restaurant in Russia (more about it later)!

I bought four coffees for all of them and left the store with my pockets full and an ear to ear smile on my face. First thing to do now was to go to a Georgian food joint and eat some Caucasian food. I shuddered at the thought of what would have happened if the girls didn’t help me.

Khachapuri (Georgian food) – Bread filled with cheese.

Yet another example of outstanding helpful nature, tremendous patience and modesty shown by ordinary Russians. Their gesture completely swept me off my feet – they had stopped their work to listen to a foreigner asking for an outrageous obligation, without getting frustrated. Salutes.

This post is part of my Russia travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery