Hoodwinked Again

Osmel Almaguer
Osmel Almaguer

When I was first given my watch, it would fall a little behind on the time. That’s logical, since sometimes they can sit on the shelf for several months in the warehouse or store before someone buys them.

I changed the battery around two months ago, but it continued to lose time. So yesterday I took it to a government watch-repairman, because a private repairman wasn’t able to do anything, though he charged me thirty pesos.

The technician told me that the battery that I had put in it was dead, and that the mechanism itself was of very poor quality. He said those two reasons were why the timepiece didn’t work. He then immediately asked me if I wanted him to install a new battery, to which I responded yes, since I really liked the New Year’s gift from a friend.

I left the repair shop feeling pretty satisfied, the hands moved with no problems. Even though I had had to pay thirty more pesos -the same price that the private repairperson had charged me- what was important was that my problem had finally been solved.

However, today the watch stopped cold. What’s wrong with it? The battery? The mechanism? The repairman? What’s clear is that either my friend was cheated (for having been sold a cheap watch) or that I had been hoodwinked (for having repeatedly paid for half-dead batteries) – or that both of us had been taken for a ride.

This is something infuriating, because I have to live off my simple wage, and not an underground or black market income. I don’t have enough money to buy a watch like this, which in the store costs around US $24- or nearly two months wage.

I don’t know if the watch was dropped. It may even be in good condition, because neither do I know whether the first or second battery was good. I haven’t found any way to way clear up my uncertainties, nor is there anyone who I can go to resolve this problem, since the watch doesn’t have a guarantee.

So much disorganization aids and abets criminal activity. Managers collude with employees, and at the end of the day distribute the takings. This is not speculation; I’ve been witness to it in my previous workplaces.

Me, just like most other honest people, are now very vulnerable because the chain of swindling that has occurred in the last several years has reached astronomical proportions.

From the poor-quality products sold to us by the state, to theft by government employees, all the way to bad products sold on the black market – it’s all disappointing, to say the least.

This all started with the crisis that began in the early 1990s, when the economic situation was most critical. There was almost nothing to eat in the whole country, and national production plummeted to close to zero.

From this emerged a whole slew of stories, some involving even a certain degree of creativity. There were people who bought what they thought was pizza, only to find that the “cheese” had been made of melted condoms; or you heard of beefsteak breaded with ground washrags, or candy bars made with black beans, and a host of other horrendous rip-offs.

These days one can be cheated in national currency or hard currency, by day or night, in the country or the city, though not as radically as in the early 1990s. And sometimes, like in my case, it’s not even possible to be sure if you really have been duped.

3 thoughts on “<em>Hoodwinked Again</em>

  • May 5, 2009 at 1:39 am

    In the absence of widespread democratic community control of the workplaces in each area, government “watchdog” agencies, acting on their own, are second-best to fill the gap. But what Cuba needs — to overcome the corruption born of scarcity, and actually be socialist in deed as well as name — is democratic community control of the economic activity within each area that the community is responsible for. No workplace or economic actor anywhere should be allowed to carry on indefinitely in such shameful fashion, without all the local people as an organized community eventually having something to do about it.

    But the problem doesn’t truly end until there’s plenty enough to go around, unfortunately, right..? That’s just basic. So all that socialist governments in poor countries can really do is organize the distribution of poverty a little — or a lot — more fairly. Keep hoping for World socialist revolution.

  • March 27, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I’ve heard of counterfeit cigars made with hair and god knows what.

    But getting ripped off or getting dangerous products is a worldwide phenomenon. There was a spate of pet cat and dog deaths in Canada, because North American companies got their pet food made in China, and the factories in China, in an effort to save money, put poisonous chemicals in the food as filler. The same thing happened with toothpaste made in China that went to certain parts of Latin America, but that killed children. The same thing happened with powdered milk killing Chinese children.

    In Canada and the US, deregulation in food inspection and safety has led to food poisoning that has killed some people and made many more very very sick. Most recently the culprit was a Canadian company called Maple Leaf Foods, but it happens fairly often these days due to poor regulation and due to the fact that right-wing governments in Canada and the US cut funding to inspection agencies… Why? To save money was the excuse. I wonder how much money, not to mention emotional pain all those deaths and sicknesses have cost?

    I’ve found the best way to combat these kinds of problems is to find honest people and reputable brands that produce quality work and products, and then to let others know through word-of-mouth who to do business with. Of course the problem of organized theft in the workplace is much more intractable. Dealing with that will take a lot of time, and investigation.

    You need proper regulation, but you need independent outside agencies to actually investigate and enforce compliance with regulation. And those agencies that investigate must be built with a culture of honesty and tenacity. Otherwise they will succumb to corruption as well. None of these things are easy for any country, let alone one that faces as many hardships as Cuba does.

    But talking about these problems is a good start.


  • March 27, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    The real problem is that the movement is dry, this means that the oil in the watch is dried out.

    Bring it back to him and have him service the movement.

    40 years in the watch repair business

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