I grew up in East Germany – a similar economic environment as there was in the former Soviet Union. For (equally) poor East Germans, buying a new dryer would have been utterly impossible. Firstly, central planing never allocated enough resources to buy cloth dryers or virtually any other consumer product. Secondly, income levels were too low to afford a $500 cloth dryer. Hiring a state-approved dryer repair man was also not a option as there were only very few. These few professionals were busy meeting the needs of state officials.
However, under these conditions there was a thriving black-market of covert repair men. Through hearsay, one would to know the home address of such a “miracle worker,” meet him at home, and posed as friends and not as customers (since private businesses were not allowed), ask for the repair of the dryer. These “customers” typically didn’t pay with paper money, instead with more valued commodities such as high-quality meat, imported bananas or oranges, rare booze or, as my dad often did, with cleaning clothes which he found in the trash of the textile manufacturing plant he was working for.
Thanks to you and other Austrian economists, I begin to understand many “peculiarities” of socialist economics of my former home.