Some friends and I stopped by McDonald's last weekend. We ordered a couple trays of food, paid our money, and waited.
After a bit, the clerk came back with the food and said: "I'm sorry, but you can't take your cheeseburgers and fries now. The last customer didn't pay, so until he comes back and hands over the money, we won't give you your food."
Does that make sense?
Of course, nothing like this actually happened. But I don't understand how this imaginary McDonald's scenario differs from what is happening with public heating in Chisinau.
Natalia Morari blogs for RFE/RLs Moldovan Service.
"Buildings in which there are people who owe payments will not receive heat," we were told recently. Amusing, no? Especially if you consider that I haven't owed any money for at least the last two years. And what am I paying for? So that when it is minus 3 degrees Celsius outside I can walk around my apartment in five sweaters and eight pairs of socks?
Look, I'm not indifferent to the starving children of Africa -- I'm even ready to help them as much as I can. But I paid for my cheeseburger and I expect to get it. That's the basic law of the marketplace.
I ran into one of my neighbors, a woman who happens to be one of the biggest debtors in the building. She can't pay -- she has no job, her husband died, she isn't young anymore, she's helping out her children. I could understand her position, even sympathize with her and find myself hating the government a little bit more.
But then my neighbor suddenly says: "And anyway, even if I had the money, I wouldn't pay anyway. What's the point? They try to scare us over and over, but they just give us the heat anyway in the end."
Now the authorities are announcing that they will turn the heat back on. My neighbor was right -- there was no reason for her to pay. Last year they also threatened to turn off the heat, but it never happened and everyone was toasty all winter long.
So it turns out that Termokom, which is already bankrupt itself, has to continue serving people who aren't paying not because they can't, but because they don't feel like it. Termokom's position, then, is also understandable (looking at it purely from a market perspective and not saying anything for now about the company's pricing policies).
Of course, it is naive to think we can immediately switch over to unit-by-unit heating. They don't even have that everywhere in Western Europe. So what's to be done? That's the eternal, accursed question. Any ideas?