Tramidators gain status

Igor Danin and his colleagues work as tramidators: standing in queues for others in return for payment. Of course, such work was popular during times of food shortage, when queuing at shops was essential, but how relevant are they today?
By Mikhail Denisenkov

It’s Monday morning and the summer heat has returned after a fortnight break, much to the dismay of those waiting to apply for visas at a foreign consulate. “Today, the queue isn’t very big, so it should only take around five hours,” explains Igor. Various people use his services, including middle-aged women who would rather pay money than queue themselves.
Several youngsters assist Igor, whose agency is officially registered for tax. He launched it a year ago as, at the time, there were problems with foreign currency, with queues at embassies and currency exchange offices.

The administration of one of Minsk’s districts initially thought the application was a joke. On accepting his story, they were unsure of which type of activity to classify him under. Now, Igor’s agency isn’t the only one in Minsk to offer such services; competition has appeared to help those needing to queue at embassies, consulates and state road inspections.

“Once, I stood in a queue at the State Road Inspection from 3am until 1pm. I was desperate to sleep and will long remember that night. I’ve even queued for a swimming pool but that only took 90 minutes,” recollects Igor.

Minsk tramidators charge Br23,000 per hour on average (around $3), with the price rising to Br30,000 in winter. The greatest demand for such services is seen in autumn. “Those who plan to travel in spring tend to apply for visas in autumn, while those going abroad in summer apply in winter,” explains Igor.

Meanwhile, our queue is moving. Heavy sighs are heard in front of us and behind, although tension is defused by the cheerful voices of those queuing for payment. Of course, it can be very dull to stand queuing, so it’s common for those waiting to play games on their mobile phones, read or, even, watch films. However, conflicts can occur.

“There was a case recently when one tramidator was occupying places in a queue for several people,” Igor tells me. “When all the customers arrived, the man standing behind the tramidator began to express his dissatisfaction, refusing to allow them ahead. Of course, he’d never heard of tramidators or of such agencies. I had to bring out the necessary documents of certification and tax declaration. Most people treat such situations calmly though, even expressing respect for students earning money in this way, saving the time of busy people.”

Within a few hours, Igor calls his customer, and they appear within 40 minutes, allowing him to leave. Igor receives his fee while the satisfied customer receives the pleasure of not having had to spend several hours queuing!
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