Friday, March 24, 2017

Store Sales and Cuba’s Army of Resellers

Store Sales and Cuba's Army of Resellers
March 22, 2017
By Alexander Londres

HAVANA TIMES — Everything begins with an order "from above". Then the
paperwork comes down and nighttime preparations. The following day, from
the crack of dawn, the commotion, chaos, crowds… This isn't an
undercover operation; there's a sale.

Every once in a while, because of policies which fit in with the
jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance and Prices and the Ministry of
Domestic Trade, as well as the military's hard-currency stores, and
those belonging to CIMEX corporation, they comply with the centralized
government's decision to reduce the retail price of some consumer goods
according to national economic convenience and other commercial factors
(standstill, expiration dates, etc.).

Generally-speaking, when prices are cut on basic food items, home
products, or toiletries – the most sought-after items by Cuban families
-, it is the best time for the extremely criticized and scorned
resellers to come into action. They flood the stores with friends and
family, cause a racket and hubbub in long lines, and manage to get their
hands on the lion's share of sale items, whatever it is.

This is something which has become normal in the eyes of the public
because of just how frequently it happens. The authorities are
well-aware of what is going on and they have even tried to put a stop to
it by sometimes placing limits on how much you can buy at the state-run

Doing so proves counter-productive to a certain extent, as every
commercial store's main objective is to sell, not to regulate sales.
Nevertheless, taking into account the social peculiarities in Cuba, it
has been put into practice – in order to defend the country's
achievements, those who understand it say. An action against hoarding –
another name which this phenomenon goes by – which to tell you the
truth, has provided the desired effect on very few occasions: resellers
continue to do it come hell or high water, dedicating themselves body
and soul to scheming and making easy money.

At the end of the day, with or without a limit on purchases, the truth
is that the high prices on sale items remain after the long journey of
the item (manufacturer-distributor-marketer-store-reseller), which has
to be paid by the needy population who didn't find out about the "price
cut" in time, or simply couldn't buy because the amount put on sale was
very small and quickly ran out.

Nobody has been able to scientifically explain how resellers are always
the first ones to find out about the sales. I imagine that they must
have the most foolproof, better articulated and updated communication
network in the country. Or is it that they take advantage of
"accidental" leaks in information, caused by some "selfless" worker in
the retail sector? Who can say exactly?

Orlando, a salesman at a store, told me that, "there have even be cases
where resellers themselves carry out some kind of study, where they take
into account the three month meriod when a product can be reduced, and
then using this information, they demand the price cut themselves."

What is indeed clear here is that these street businesspeople aren't
being arrested, and their lives are being deliberately made easy –
although they also provide a great deal of work for the "brave and
virtuous" body of inspectors which are supposed to deal with them. The
resellers manage to masterfully avoid them in the majority of cases – or
bribe them to turn a blind eye – therefore giving them free reign to
their illegal trade, without a concern in the world.

I ask myself whether there is an effective way of putting a stop to
these individuals' "struggle" to make a living, which, although it's
true that they work with great determination and commitment, it's also
true that it isn't the most innocent or healthy way to make a living.

On the other hand, and taking into account the fact that the
government's unemployment rates in Cuba are so low, it would be
interesting to know what kind of job category these "workers" fall
under, who operate without a legal status. Are they non-government
employees in the non-private sector (which the self-employed are
considered)? Or do they appear as unemployed?

It would also be interesting if in the next population census, some kind
of instrument was used to find out the closest possible to real figure
of this large number of fighters in the world of reselling, who swarm
about Cuba's city streets, selling everything underneath the sun. Then
they would be able to assess what benefits these popular figures should
receive on a social level, which, by the way, are the same as the
benefits professionals, builders and the working population who honestly
contribute to the sustainability and socio-economic development of this

Maybe, in this way, with stats in hand, the (in)competent authorities in
our country would be able to take greater note of the issue – as a more
conclusive action to protect consumers, if they want to – always
defending these other Cubans, the majority, without a doubt, who also
seek out and find alternative ways to get by, in their daily fight to
eat, without pinching from other people's pockets.

Source: Store Sales and Cuba's Army of Resellers - Havana -

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