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Black Markets You Didn't Know Existed

The Cheese Market In Russia Rivals Prohibition-Era Bootlegging


After the West imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014, Vladimir Putin struck back with a ban on meat, cheese, and other food imports from the U.S. and EU. Since everyone on Earth loves cheese, mozzarella and brie became hot commodities on the Russian black market.


Thus enters the intrepid, daring cheese-leggers. Authorities arrested one smuggler for transporting over 1,000 pounds of cheese from Poland to Russia. His trunk and backseat were crammed with enough cheese to last five Wisconsinites most of a week. Police busted another racket which smuggled in illegal European rennet (a product used to make cheese), then made the cheese themselves in Mother Russia before putting European labels on it. This isn't "slap on the wrist" territory; footage shows the always-terrifying Russian police pinning illegal cheesemongers to the ground in the dead of night. The government created a hotline for people to report suspected cheese and meat traders.

Smuggling Cows From India To Bangladesh Is A Huge Market



In India, Hindus consider cows sacred. But Muslims in neighboring Bangladesh eat beef. Cows are frequently smuggled across the border into Bangladesh. The practice accounts for half of the beef eaten in Bangladesh, a full 1.5 million cows every year. It's a high-stakes market, too; you can buy a cow for around $100 dollars in India, then turn around and sell it for $350 in Bangladesh.


Once these contraband cows disembark from whatever train or truck took them to the border, all their handlers have to do is lead them across the border and into the waiting Bangladeshi slaughterhouses. In 2017, Indian authorities found a 100-meter long tunnel reaching from one side of the border to the other, made solely for black market cattle rustlin'.

A North Korean Lapel Pin Was An Acceptable Alternative To Money


In North Korea, lapel pins are a huge part of everyday life. Everyone in the country has to wear a pin with Kim il-Sung's beaming face to show their loyalty to the regime. So it's not surprising that one of the hottest black market items in the country was a double portrait pin featuring both Kim il-Sung and his glorious progeny Kim Jong-il. It's the holographic Charizard card of lapel pins.


The regime created the double portrait pins as a gift for elite members, to help differentiate them from the filthy masses. Since they were a clear symbol of high standing, the black market bought them en masse following Kim Jong-il's death in December 2011. For a while, the pins sold for 130 Chinese yuan (the equivalent of $21 American), which is damn good money in the DPRK. It's common practice for North Koreans to keep a little meth on hand because it can be converted easily into cash, but the popularity of the pins even surpassed that of methamphetamine for a time. But as with all things, cheap Chinese knockoffs soon began to appear. Sourced through traders in neighboring Chinese towns, the knockoff pins eventually flooded and crashed the market.


But another force contributed to the demise of the pin market: the ruling government. In a special meeting they held about the pins in July of 2015, the party called the trade "commercialization of supreme dignity." They declared that anyone who participated in the buying or selling of pins would be punished. The party's disapproval was the final nail in the coffin. Now, very rare real pins still fetch a high price, but the Chinese fakes are gone, and the ability to pay for your groceries with a little picture of two of modern history's greatest monsters went with them.

Buying And Selling Girls' Phone Numbers Is A Popular Practice In India



In India, you can top off your cellphone's prepaid balance in "phone recharge" stores. But you obviously have to give the clerk your phone number, and that means some skeevy, unscrupulous types might get some skeevy, unscrupulous ideas. Some recharge stores keep their female customers' phone numbers ... so they can sell them to horny dudes. And buying these numbers is a booming goddamn business. The price depends on the woman's attractiveness. An "ordinary-looking" woman goes for about 80 cents USD, but a "beautiful" woman can break a cool tenner. Before dialing a woman's number, some phone stalkers buy a new SIM from the same recharge shop - a lot of the stores keep stacks of fake IDs to help the process along.


90 percent of the complaints registered on a police helpline over four years had to do with women getting unsolicited calls from dudes dialing with their dicks. To combat this harassment, police focus on arresting the recharge store owners who sell those SIM cards to people using fake IDs. According to the police, they would quickly overcrowd the jails if buying and selling numbers was a crime, so the law deals with the stalkers the only way it can: Operators of the police helpline call them up and give them a stern warning.

There's A Black Market For Sperm In China


Chinese couples who want to avoid the years-long queues of the official sperm banks sign up on online donation forums and pick from the many, many amateur yogurt - slingers. Aspiring parents can opt for either artificial insemination (a cup full of wank and a turkey baster) or actual sex. Most try artificial injection first, but some end up settling for the much more reliable direct insemination.


Donors have a good work ethic, too. The organizer of one group vowed that their members absolutely would not stop trying until there's a successful conception, and made sure to emphasize that they'll help any client, whether they're pretty or not.

None of this is "regulated," or "safe," or "accepted by a social morality" which makes fatherhood a thorny issue. Even if the donor agrees to never contact the child, that agreement means jack to the law, and he has the same rights as any other father. Also, there's no medical screening process when you hire some guy from a forum to come over and professionally plow you.


The official sperm banks require you to attempt insemination three times, charge you 3,200 yuan ($506) every time, and come with those absurdly long lines. Meanwhile, the going market rate for a professional black market sheet-stainer is 5,000 yuan ($790), with a waiting time of however long the cab ride is, plus five minutes and a short, awkward shower.

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