In ?91 when I went on my first trip, there where no customs taxes! We had come by train and nobody asked a thing about it. There were no customs taxes, nothing at all back in ?91. Later they started adding taxes and issuing laws: that you were allowed to bring back goods worth up to 100 dollars without paying for the customs and stuff like that ? But at the beginning there was really nothing of the kind ? At the end of ?92 and the beginning of ?93 they started issuing receipts at customs: you paid for ten of these blouses, for five of those blouses, you paid for everything ? It wasn?t much, the prices were very low, less than a dollar per blouse. You paid 20 dollars for a leather jacket ? The prices for fake precious stones were very low ? You rarely paid more than a hundred. That?s right, they called us self-employed. There were no firms at the time, you did everything individually. Later on they said that you were allowed to bring goods worth not more than a hundred dollars without paying customs taxes, to which you could add your personal luggage. You had to pay for anything in excess of that. After that they said that you weren?t allowed to leave the country with more than 1500 dollars on you. And the list continued ?
Back when business was good, you would sell your merchandise for twice maybe three times its value. It all depended on the demand and the market. In time, as competition developed on the market, the prices started going down. You couldn?t estimate the financial growth easily. You placed the goods in stores and you couldn?t simply wait to see how it would sell in the end ? Anyway, we used to travel with only small sums on us, not more than 1000 maybe 1500 dollars and we couldn?t wait to get more because we weren?t allowed to travel abroad with more. You couldn?t plan anything in advance. As soon as you had 1500 dollars you hit the road again! I didn?t try to leave the country with more than that because I wasn?t allowed to. Even if, later, you could leave with more money on you ? Yeah, but when we started leaving with 5000 dollars on us, we were already shipping containers and the market had already got worse.
I said that at the beginning we placed our goods on consignment because you couldn?t get a store of your own. They were all owned by those who had managed trade before 1989 and you just couldn?t kick them out. In time they went bankrupt, one after another, and you moved in and reopened the stores, set up firms and got equal working conditions because, starting virtually at the end of ?94, you were allowed to make imports only through a firm. My first store was a rented stall in the Exhibition, then the next one was at Prisma and later, in ?96, I managed to rent a store in Dorobanţi Street, downtown.
In ?99 I bought from the city hall a store at Gara de Nord, next to the Ministry of Transport building. I am still the owner but the situation is very complicated because sales aren?t that good right now ? Taxes are very high. I think that we are the only ones who pay their state taxes. We are the owners of small firms. Because the big ones and their owners, as the press also writes, owe hundreds of millions and they never pay ? I don?t believe that small firm owners owe the state a single leu. It can?t even be so because, as soon as you owe them something, the Financial Guard shows up and puts a lot of pressure on you.