Paying through the phone rather than the nose
I may be in the minority in mall-mad Moscow, but I do try to spend at least part of my life in places where it is physically impossible to make a cash transaction, like topping-up one’s mobile phone, because there is not a payment terminal, phone shop or supermarket in sight.
In bed, for example. Even if I wake up and put on my dressing- gown and slippers, I cannot conveniently get to a terminal. Likewise at the dacha. Occasionally on the weekends, I like to forsake the mall for the peace of the countryside. I have yet to find a forest or lake provided with a payment terminal. And how often does one find, when travelling around the country, that one is in a car which the owner has failed to equip with an on-board QiWi terminal?
The same is true of busses, trolley-busses, marshkutki, elektrichki and aeroplanes. And I have yet to find a terminal in a Church. One does not, after all, want to have to interrupt one’s Sabbath devotions in order to go outside and look for a way of topping-up one’s phone when one has suddenly realised, half-way through the Creed, that one has left one’s lunch cooking in the oven and one’s wife is likely still to be asleep, with her nose on stand-by and therefore unaware of one’s mistake, or sin.
The bottom line is that, unless you are one of the intellectual elite who has managed to figure out how to open a credit account with your service provider, you are likely to be in a position where, telephonically-speaking, your are from time to time going to be caught short. Remember the old advertisement for the well-known credit card: “When you need it, you REALLY need it.”
How many times in the last year have you had to phone someone to tell them that you cannot find the building you are supposed to be meeting them in, then discovered that you do not have credit in your phone?
What do you do? You look round for a terminal, and see only half-derelict factories, guarded by hystericallybarking dogs and surrounded by completely derelict Ladas and Volgas. Elsewhere you might see the high, blank walls of video-monitored Rublyovka, and find yourself listening, in rising hysteria yourself, to the snoring of chauffeurs as they lie slumped behind the wheels of their masters’ black BMWs or Bentleys. And it is raining. And you are desperate to get to that meeting because it is cold on the street and the tea you drank at the last meeting is demanding immediate transmission to the Moscow sewerage system. There is not a phone shop in sight! Koshmar! Caught short indeed!
There are many other situations in which similar agony is experienced, a common one being when you can actually see a shop or payment machine but cannot get to it, for example when you are sitting still in a never-ending traffic jam. There is nowhere to park near the shop and, even if there were, you could hardly move an inch, and certainly not across five lanes of angry Muscovites who are blowing the horns of their red Mazdas in order to make sure you realise they, too, are annoyed with life in the stationary lane. But at least they have credit in their phones. You don’t. So what do you do?
Until recently, your only option would have been to sit quietly, close your eyes and switch on the CD of meditation chants which Swami Borden sold you at your last Maharishi class. That would undoubtedly calm your karma, but would it get your message through to Charles about your revised ETA at the wine-tasting, which you are now heading for at a breakneck 0 kms/hour? Obviously not.
Until recently, I said. But now MTS has come to your rescue. You can set up an account called MTS-Pay and top up your phone while sitting calmly in your car listening to the cool echoing of the galaxies and the tinkling of Tibetan prayer wheels. Nothing, I find, soothes the trauma of parting with money like the sound of Tibetan prayer wheels, especially when accompanied by the massed car horns of Moscow blowing out of tune in the background.
And there is more! Hitherto, all the ways of paying, short of going into an MTS shop and a few other specialist outlets, cost you a wicked 4% commission—sometime more. And it is not unknown for the machine to swallow your money and not pass on the credit. Being able to top up your account without paying commission is more secure as well as cheaper. It will save you money, time, hassle, blood-pressure and toothgnashing.
And there is even more! Through MTS-Pay you can transfer credit from your bank to a number of different service providers, like your email and digital television host, or your domestic electricity supplier. And you can do all this by SMS, at a cost of only 10 roubles per transaction, while sitting in your car listening to those prayer wheels; or kneeling in Church, apparently reciting the Creed. What could be better?
The only improvement I can imagine is a mechanism that enables you to pay-as-you-sleep. But until that is invented, we will have to content ourselves with MTS-Pay, about which you can find further details on the website: www.vis.mtsgsm.com/payment/