May 01, 2010

Seeing Red

Seeing Red

I am not ashamed to say that this issue’s column was inspired by toilet paper. Точнее (rather), by a recent purchase of toilet paper at an itinerant Moscow рынок (market), otherwise known as a row of trucks and minivans parked by the side of the road, selling their cargo.

The product in question was branded “Красная цена” (“Red Price”) and the paper, produced by the Adischevskaya Paper Factory in Kostroma region, reminded me of my favorite American idiom: “you get what you pay for” (or, in bureaucrat-Russian: cooтношение цены и качества – price/value ratio).

In fact, красная цена is an idiom related to haggling (торговаться). What visitor to Russia hasn’t heard that “red in Russian often meant beautiful, hence Red Square.” But when applied to ценообразование (pricing), things get more complicated. The Dictionary of Economic Terms gives the following definition: “Красная цена — цена сделки, удовлетворившая и продавцов и покупателей” (“Red price – the price of a deal that satisfies both sellers and buyers”). But I prefer the definition in the dictionary of the Russian Language Institute: “Самая высокая цена, которую можно дать за что-либо” (the highest price one is willing to pay for something).

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