Beer Scam in Havana
September 26, 2013
HAVANA TIMES — The Bucanero beer had been adulterated. It had no foam,
tasted bad and gave my friend a strong headache. I don't think we'll be
buying anything at the kiosk at the intersection of 23 and G in Havana
anymore, what with the lousy service we got and the general lack of
Such anecdotes don't seem to be news to anyone these days. These things
happen so often nowadays that talking about them seems redundant. But we
should not grow tired of criticizing things that are ultimately nothing
other than a form of abuse.
If you pay for a beer in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC), you have the
right to be treated by the clerk with kindness and attentiveness, rather
than peevishness and indifference.
When we got to the counter, we looked at the two clerks so as to get
their attention. The woman seemed to be doing an inventory, as though
she'd just started her shift, while the other, considerably younger
clerk, sitting in front of her, was counting a large quantity of coins
on top of a freezer.
Neither paid us any attention. My friend had to speak to them. The young
man looked at her, without stopping the coin-counting, and said: "Yes?"
"Is the beer cold?"
"Do you have glasses?"
"Have a seat at one of the tables."
Two minutes later, the young man came to our table with two beers – a
Bucanero for my friend and a Cristal for me – but no glasses. He opened
the cans in such a way that his fingers seemed to dip into the beer
through the holes in the cans.
My friend, who comes from a country that, though not devoid of problems,
imposes strict hygienic regulations on all food and beverage
establishments, couldn't take it anymore and went off the handle.
The young man listened to her sermon and, with something of an altar-boy
look to him, said curtly: "I'll get you some glasses."
He came back with some glasses that looked dirty, as though they'd been
used many times and not properly washed. Haven't we been told there are
cases of cholera out there?
My friend had a sip of her beer and was almost tempted to throw it out.
It didn't foam, tasted bad and, to top things off, was not even cold.
The Cristal was a bit better, though also not cold enough.
So the woman behind the counter, who seemed to be the boss and looked
even more irritated than the kid, told the young clerk not to sell any
more Cristal beer, to tell anyone who came along they only had Bucanero.
Needless to say, the coolers were filled with both brands.
Had I heard wrong? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't they
stop selling the product in bad condition? Why was she intent on selling
the watered-down Bucanero? To screw the customers? As a
No. She couldn't have cared less about any of that. She simply wanted to
sell off the products she had brought to replace the ones she took. I'm
almost positive of this, which I know is the modus operandi in
situations like this one. I saw it with my own eyes when I worked as a
security guard in the town of Guanabo, on the outskirts of Havana.
What clerks do is buy several crates of beer of dubious origin at
lower-than-market prices and sell them, pocketing the difference.
As is the case in other areas, this is an open secret and no one does
anything about it. Someone may question the fact I am spilling the
beans, but not the practice as such. In brief, part and parcel of the
absurd system we live in.
For those who are reading this with good intentions: this happened this
past September 17th, at around five in the afternoon, on a day like any
other in Havana.
Source: "Adulterated Beer Scams are Commonplace in Cuba" -