Dunkin’ Donuts and Deal Making: A Moscow Minute

This past weekend was a whirlwind tour of the biggest, and my new favorite, city in Europe: Moscow. Rather than giving you a full minute-by-minute overview, however, I want to tell my Dunkin’ story.

Dunkin’ donuts is easily my favorite coffee place in the United States. The taste of iced coffee from this café, from any location, is literally my taste of summer. The warmest day of spring is usually accompanied by such a treat. I knew that there were Dunkin’ Donuts cafes in Moscow, because Sasha, when visiting Russian classes to try to recruit people for this year’s program, brought Старбакс and Данкин Донатс coffee mugs to the classes, as samples of “Russian” culture. Although I had already sold my soul to the program, I was excited by the juxtaposition of cultures, and knew that my trip to Moscow would include a visit to a Dunkin’ Donuts and the purchasing of one of those ceramic mugs.

However, it wasn’t that easy. On Friday afternoon, we arrived to Moscow’s main pedestrian shopping area, the Arbat. Within five minutes, the group descended upon the Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts cafes, which were situated across the street from one another. I walked into the shop only to find that everything was written in English, except for the banner outside the restaurant. The straws, the napkins and even the cups of hot coffee warning the drinker about the dangers of hot beverages, were written in English, just like in America. They had souvenir mugs, but only in English, and nothing else. I asked the server if they had anything, and she said no, so I sulked away with my iced coffee.

I was rejected, dejected, but the game was not over. When I expressed my disappointment to Sasha, he suggested that it might be possible to find the ceramic mugs in another location, one that wasn’t located in the tourist center of Moscow. All I would need was time to find such a location. So, on Sunday morning, I checked the Dunkin’ Donuts website for Moscow locations, and made a list of the most convenient locations, before departing on my quest.

I didn’t have to go far, because I found what I was looking for at my first stop. Unfortunately, however, the mug that I wanted was one of their special mugs, only used to serve tea in. I begged the cute Russian boy behind the counter to sell it to me, and he told me it was impossible, until I was just obnoxious enough for him to ask the manager, who also said no. I sat down for a couple minutes, before ordering an iced coffee and making my game plan, when the manager himself took the stage. I ran up to the counter and started explaining myself in a very interesting version of tourist-Russian, explaining that in America they don’t have cups with Dunkin’ Donuts written in Russian on them, and that the chain was founded in Massachusetts, which is where I live. Upon explaining the situation, manager and employee had a secret conversation, and the manager walked away. As I paid for my coffee, the cute Russian boy told me to go to the back of the restaurant, where the manager would cut me a deal. I walked around the corner, and handed the manager 300 roubles, and practically frolicked out of the restaurant with joy.

It seemed like it should have been easy enough for them to sell it to me, or for me to waltz out of the restaurant without their noticing. They could have just as easily given it away and said somebody broke it. On the one hand, it took a surprising amount of effort to make the deal, but on the other, the effort proved my Russian language skills strong, and allowed me to experience a quasi-genuine Russian-black-market deal. Not only did I achieve my goal of getting a Данкин Донатс mug, but also I successfully experienced a real Russian business transaction – one that involved secrecy and quasi-bribes! When all is said and done, my Moscow Dunkin’ Donuts experience was not exactly what I was planning on, but it couldn’t have been better, and I know that I’ll never have that same sort of cultural experience at the Dunkin’ Donuts at home.

Read more about my adventures at my personal blog: http://monikawithak.blogspot.com!

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