Shopping in Russia Just Got Really Weird

Russians are doing strange things in response to the country's largest single-day currency drop in 16 years

Visitors look at a Porsche Boxster luxury sports car for sale at a dealership in Moscow on Dec. 15

Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

The Russian ruble lost as much as 19 percent of its value on Tuesday, partly because of Western sanctions and plummeting oil prices, but also because of mass panic. Russians of all stripes—traders, car buyers, and furniture shoppers—are clamoring to get their money out of the country. The hysteria has turned a slow-burning problem into a nightmare, and has also led some unexpected things to happen, both in Russia and elsewhere. A few odd side effects of Russia's currency horrors:

Customers test Apple iPad 2 on display at an Eldorado Group electronics store in Moscow on Aug. 25, 2011
Customers test an Apple Inc. iPad2 on display at an Eldorado Group electronics store in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011.
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

1. Apple stopped selling its products online in Russia. The ruble’s extreme ups and downs led the company to shut down its online store in the country. “Our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing,” Apple said in an e-mailed statement. In November, the company upped the Russian price of an iPhone 6 by 25 percent.

2. Rich Russians are doing the only natural thing for rich people to do amid a currency crisis: buy luxury cars. People are pouring their money into tangible assets—like convertibles—before the value of their cash evaporates in real time. Porsche sales are up 55 percent, and Lexus, which has seen demand increase more than 60 percent, “added extra staff to handle customer traffic that surged by a third.” 

The currency implosion is turning conventional auto economics on its head: “The rule of thumb that a car loses 20 percent of its value once it leaves the showroom isn’t valid anymore,” Andrei Rodionov, head of corporate communications at Mercedes-Benz’s Russian unit, told Bloomberg. 

Ikea's Khimki store in Moscow on Jan. 27, 2011
Ikea Group's Khimki store is seen in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011.
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

 3. The rest of Russia is doing what those of us with more modest means would revert to, given the circumstances: storming Ikea. Shoppers reported massive lines outside the Swedish chain's store in Moscow—at 2 a.m.—according to the Financial Times. IKEA announced it would not raise prices until Thursday, the Times reported, transforming cheap furniture into practically free furniture -- for a limited time only.