Arbitrage and speculation get a bad rap sometimes, but they're incredibly useful.
I'm leaving Ulaanbaatar shortly and I'll be heading to Japan. I went to stock up on some basic supplies - personable consumables and work stuff.
Strikingly, paper is really expensive here for Western-grade, Western-style paper. The local shops literally don't carry it. Instead, they have this checkered sort of paper. It's like graph paper, but with thick black lines. I prefer black ink, and after trying out one of those notebooks, I couldn't read what I'd written.
I tried some of the upscale department stores (Sky Department Store, State Department Store) and there's literally no Western-style, 60 sheet lined notebooks in the $1 to $2 range like you'd see in the USA. They have high end notebooks for $6 to $12, and they have these thin flimsy 20-page booklet-type things for around $1. I settled for the booklet.
Now, if there was the demand to make it worth it, someone importing Western style paper from China at 20 cents a notebook and selling it here for $2 per notebook would be creating a lot of value. If this presented a large enough opportunity, eventually you'd see the margins go down towards cost, as happens in almost all industries.
On Mike Dariano
I hate delaying things, and especially paying bills. I don't take my shoes off before walking around the house if I'm bringing a bill in from the mailbox. Nearly all of our bills and payments are now done online and here's how we manage them.
First I've created a notebook in Evernote labeled Bills. Anytime I pay money for something it goes into this notebook.
Within Bills I can find everything I've paid. For labeling I include the type of bill in the note title and the date it arrived to me in parentheses. I also take a picture of the bill. A lot of people online suggest scanning these documents but I've found that simple images from my iPhone 4 are clear enough for me to go back and find important details. The second note - my OPlates registration - is just the confirmation copied from their site. Evernote really makes it easy to copy those confirmation numbers that are a jumble of letters and numbers.
Finally, once I take a picture I'll include how I paid the bill and when that payment is scheduled to arrive. I do a lot from my iPhone so usually the note will say "Payment scheduled from iOS to arrive on 1/21".
Saving these Bills to Evernote has been a wonderful experience because now the mail gets sorted immediately upon entering the house and we have a lot less paper.