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"How much does it cost?" - The Process of Hiring Moldovan Services

Posted by on in Stories From The Field
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If you're the type of person who scans to the end I'll save you the trouble. The answer to the title question is "No One Knows"
...or perhaps "I won't ever tell!" (which is also the name of a rather unfortunate song from Fat Joe). 

Ok, what are we actually talking about here? Let's start at the beginning. Ever business needs services. Some of these are easier to farm out than to do internally - often legal and accounting fall into this category. This post is about our experience trying to hire an accountant. This process has turned out to be rather difficult in Moldova. Partly this is because most accountants are uninterested in working with a restaurant due to the high numbers of transactions but it is also because of meetings like the following. 

So, we go to meet the senior accountant at a small firm. She came highly recommended to us by a friend who's parent's company contracts with her and she speaks English Russian and Romanian well. Seems perfect. When we arrive we are ushered into a room with her and her firm's Director. It is possible I have mentioned the status of directors in Moldova in the past. In short their importance in an enterprise is only surpassed by their self importance. 


RUSSIA 2569148b

"Why yes I am the director of the village kindergarden"


This woman did not speak English and promptly suggested we all learn "Moldovan" so that we may communicate together. Leading any business meeting with a highly political joke never failed right?

 Diversity-Day-michael-scott-492791 796 498



Ok, I'm being overly critical. The reality was that over the next hour and a half we got a lot of great information about how accounting in Moldova works and what their services are. Yes, it is true that since they had no information about this in writing we had to haphazardly circle around in the hopes of finding the right question. Yes a brochure would have been nicer. Yes we spent an absurd about of time bickering about silly things totally unrelated to accounting (e.g. Vlad explains that we will all be company directors when our documents finish. The "director" explains this is impossible because there is only one "director." We explain that it is very possible under Moldovan Law. Bickering ensues... and this is totally unrelated to accounting). Nonetheless it was pretty good information. Until this happened, (paraphrased - it took MUCH longer than this with a lot of repetition from all sides)Me: wonderful. Thank you for the information. What are your prices?

The Director: Well, you see that is very complicated... [much information here about all the papers the will (presumably) need to stamp 4+ times]

Me: Ok, I understand. That sounds like quite a lot. What are your prices?

The Director: It's complicated, you see we need to go to this and that office for approvals... etc etc etc

Me: What are your prices?

The Director: [more about complications] well it will cost you 2000 lei (about $140) for a 3 month startup period

Me: Great. Thank you for that. How much will it cost monthly after that

The Director: Well that is terribly complicated. Every business is different after all!! [more about complicated documents]

Me: so you can't tell us what it will cost to hire you?

The Director: well it won't just be one cost but based on a number of factors!

Me: ok, what are they?

The Director: it's often based on number of transations [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: I understand. What would a sample cost be per transaction and how many such transactions can we expect per month?

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Matt: Please, can you just tell us what a normal price is for a small cafe similar to us? (during this time Matt and Vlad have also spoken a lot - Vlad translating everything - but this is all the gist)

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: I'm confused. Are you telling us that you are unable to give us any information about how much it costs to hire you?

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: Is it a mystery? (this elicited a chuckle from the accountant but had no effect on the director)

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: I'm confused...

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

Me: WAIT!! let me get this straight. We hire you for 3 months at 2000 lei and after that. After signing the contract. You tell us how much your services will cost us ongoing. Furthermore you are 100% unable to provide the slightest glimpse as to what this price might be until we have signed that contract?!?

The Director: Yes.

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

The Director: [more verbal vomiting about complications]

triple facepalm

Lacking the Nazi uniforms this is exactly how we looked.


Any Peace Corps Volunteer can tell you how difficult it can be to get a real answer from someone in a meeting here. What I realized in this process is how much different it feels when I'm talking about my money. Which is when it clicked. 

This is about grants

This woman made multiple attempts throughout the conversation to figure out what our "budget" was. Now it isn't that we don't have a budget, just that it's most aptly described as "small and shrinking." In Moldova however when you see a foreigner 9 times in 10 they are not here for business but for international development. This is the crux of the problem. Like I said above (in bold) we're talking about my money here. If I were working off a development grant it would be someone else's money. Moldova is very used to people with the later. Furthermore, the economy practically spins around on trying to find out what price a bureaucrat in a grant giving country decided a service might be worth in Moldova. By figuring out the budgeted price they can charge "exactly that' and they get their maximum price while not technically disappointing a grand giving entity. In fact anyone who has ever worked to spend grant money knows that you get mega points for spending it all exactly as promised and exactly zero points and occasional animosity for saving the granting agency's money

So is this a concrete example of the culture (*cough* addiction) to international aid interfering in the Moldovan services market? I won't go that far but it's made me think for sure.








(Site Admin, Entrepreneur, Contributor)
David is a native of the great Commonwealth of Virginia and lived there through high school in Fairfax County. After high school he pursued a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta Georgia. During his studies his traveled to Singapore for a semester and gained a respect and love for traveling and immersing in different cultures. After graduation David joined the United States Peace Corps and was posted first in Kazakhstan as an English Teacher and later in Moldova as a Community and Organizational Development Consultant.

When not working on his startup David can be found maintaining various web based side projects (check out: salutmoldova.org) and working on his 1986 Lada Жигули 2101 named Надя (Nadia).


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Guest Saturday, 17 April 2021