Kabir Vega Castellanos
HAVANA TIMES — The internet isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Plus, the 2 CUC (US $2.30) price tag for a 1 hour access card is still a great blow to the Cuban people’s economy. However, the problem isn’t only the government’s expensive price, but also the cruel initiative that resellers take.
They take advantage of the fact there are very few ETECSA retail outlets and that employees there would rather sell them in bulk in exchange for getting a few cents extra for each card sold, since when these are sold directly to the general population, they don’t get a cut.
The only option Cuban people have when these cards “are lost” from the sales points is to go to one of these resellers and by this time, the price for 1 hour of internet isn’t 2 CUC anymore but 3.
The same thing happens in other areas of trade. Sandals which cost 100 CUP (less than 5 CUC), is something a worker can afford, however not without sacrifice. Prices in hard-currency shoes shops or at self-employed sellers markets are a great deal more expensive.
However, when products come out onto the market, there are some people who come, almost immediately, to buy not one or two pairs, but boxes and boxes so that they can then resell them at exorbitant prices. Towels, sheets and even bottles of bleach run the same fate. The latter is sold in its pure state for 8 Cuban pesos and resellers water it down and sell it in bigger bottles for 20 pesos.
In regular Cuban peso stores, you know when some kind of highly sought-after product has come in by the chaos that forms outside in front of the shop. Groups of resellers who dominate the line are extremely brusque in their behavior.
Even in stores where used clothing is sold, (the cheapest solution Cuban people have to dress themselves), employees themselves handpick the best pieces and separate them and only put the extra large sizes on sale (which only an obese person can use) along with the most dull, out of fashion and even ripped clothes.
If you want to get your hands on something worthwhile, you’ll have to become friends with an employee in one of these stores, pay more for the clothes than the stipulated price or exchange it with a favor to the new owner.
Now, let me ask a question: is reselling a business? Yes, and it’s very useful too. Since the most ancient of times, tradesmen used to buy goods in one area and then distribute them where these kind of offers weren’t available.
However, from the way we’re looking at it in this article, it can’t even be considered a job. Hoarding all of the goods in one place, only to resell them there in the same place, for a higher price, is nothing more than a scam. Like Cubans commonly say, it’s putting your foot in it.
Even though the current situation in Cuba is complex and business freedom is extremely limited, there are always some gaps which some business people can fill to make a profit, or in the worst of cases, survive. Creating a similar product and putting it on the market, thereby creating competition, would be a starting point for real progress.
Of course, this is next to impossible a lot of the time. However, you can’t say that the only way to get ahead is by taking advantage of the general population’s need, hoarding a product sale which is especially destined for ordinary Cubans, which are once again the ones to lose out.