By Safie M. González
HAVANA TIMES – “Inventing” in Cuba is something that has become “normal” over the years. Without wanting to defend criminal behavior, these actions have helped many people to resolve their financial problems. Overcharging goods, even in state-run stores, is common practice today. The Cuban people accept this and pay because they have no other choice.
Complaining doesn’t resolve the problem because we have learned over the years that everything carries on as it is. But it’s particularly annoying that you get robbed in front of your face.
In Cuba, it is quite common for a cashier (in stores and markets) not to have any change “apparently”, for bills, large or small. I say “apparently” because it’s expected that they have change for small bills all the time.
The core idea of an establishment that works with the public should be to always make the customer happy, but that clearly doesn’t happen here.
Without going too far back in the past, I experienced this just a few days ago, when I went to buy detergent at a store in Central Havana. After lining up, I went to pay for my product.
I bought four small packs of detergent and a bigger one too. The total came to 98 pesos. When paying the cashier with a 100-peso bill, for a bill of 98 pesos, she figured that she didn’t have to give me anything back and continued with the next customer, without even giving me an explanation.
I asked her for my change, and she replied that she didn’t have any. I told her, “but you always have to have change to give back to customers, she gave me an evil stare.
Her assistant, who was also looking at me scornfully, told her: “look for the change in my purse.” The cashier finally opened up the cash register to give me back my 2 pesos, which is nothing supposedly, but every cent matters in this country. If I was the one short on paying, there’s no way I could have bought the detergent, there’s no doubt about that.
The 2 pesos were never the problem. I have always left a tip whenever I can. It’s a matter of respect, values, ethics.
On my way home, I wondered how many people would say the same thing? Robbing someone who has saved up with a lot of sacrifice, maybe even cent by cent, isn’t the solution. But who’s responsible for putting the bell on the cat?