Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Polish martial law smokes


Express Wieczorny [?] reported back in 1982…

‘A thief broke into [one of the few] cars parked outside a block of residential flats in Warsaw yesterday, and stole a cartoon of (rationed – pictured above are meat ration cards, I think) cigarettes.

But this was an honest thief, as he left on the backseat of the car, where the cigarettes had been, 51 zloty – the exact price of the cartoon of cigarettes.’

The thief was obviously out of ration coupons and desperate for a smoke!

6 comments:

opamp said...

The thief was obviously out of ration coupons and desperate for a smoke!.

The problem was that in addition to money and coupons you also needed luck to find the shop that was not out of product and time to stand in the queue to get it.

Interestingly though, you could obtain the coupons on the black market, as well as hire someone to stand in the queue for you. So in essence, you could assign every product a market value, being the sum of the official price, and (black) market value of coupons and queue time.

To make matters even more interesting, you could buy stuff on the black market (by black market price), or, in a special shop, called PEWEX. PEWEX was another curiosity, because you could buy everything with no problems -- you just had to pay in U.S. dollars. How to get the U.S. dollars was another issue altogether -- but, as always, black market people had these available as well, with the exchange rate being 10 times the official one. (Side note: in 1989 Balcerowicz stopped inflation by essentailly equating official exchange rate with the black market one). Yet another notable curiosity was "bon towarowy PKO" (PKO marchandise voucher), denominated in U.S. dollars, allowing one to purchase goods of equal dollar value in PEWEX. The vouchers were practically a second official currency.

As you can guess, a good illegal business could be made by exploiting the different exchange rates between the goods, zlotys, dollars, vouchers and coupons.

Behold the wonders of the socialist economy...

beatroot said...

I absolutely love these memories, Opamp. Cheers. All Polish people over the age of 30 are a walking archive of amazing stuff.

The PEWEX dollar shops are always mentioned.

Interestingly though, you could obtain the coupons on the black market, as well as hire someone to stand in the queue for you.

There was a system of queueing wasn’t there? That’s fascinating for a British person like me, as we are infamous for our queue instinct. Same as we are known for our obsession about talking about the weather.

Truth is: Brits know nothing about either compared to the Poles….

Renegade Eye said...
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Renegade Eye said...

Atleast you didn't bring up health issues.

Anonymous said...
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