A Trip to the Moon

A Havana Kiosk. Photo: Juan Suarez

By Kay

HAVANA TIMES – On a recent afternoon, the protagonist of this story went out to explore the stores in her neighborhood in search of batteries for her television remote control. A Chinese-made Atec Panda, which in its almost 20 years of use requires more than just a new controller, since it is hardly seen and barely heard. But, for now, a new remote is all its owner can hope for.

After passing by some stores crowded with people in search of food, she came to a kiosk where at first glance only clothes were hanging. For a second, she thought how useless all that paraphernalia was today. “If at least -she thought- they were space suits that could be used to escape to the moon and wait there for these unpleasant days to pass, it would be something else.” But no, they were just clothes hanging similar to bodies without souls. 

With these thoughts, she approached the counter and asked if they might have double A batteries. Immediately the “kind”, “affectionate” and “tender saleswoman” responded with a severe, resounding, and heartless NO.

Our shopper ran away bewildered. On the way back to her house, she thought that maybe she wasn’t the only one who needed a trip to the moon. This made her smile. It was her way of quickly forgetting that saleswoman’s bad mood.

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2 thoughts on “A Trip to the Moon

  • Two recent articles here in HT spoke directly about how some Cuban customers are treated when purchasing basic necessities in Cuba. Both shopping experiences referred to the customer’s perceived negative treatment at the point of sale. Let’s review the interaction between Cuban buyer and Cuban seller.

    In the first article entitled “A Trip to the Moon by Kay (April 14, 2022) the customer approaches the sales counter asking for double A batteries. Having none in stock or ready for sale the saleswoman’s response, according to the customer was “ . . . a severe, resounding, and heartless NO.” The customer shrugged off the aggressive response rationalizing that the saleswoman’s negative treatment was simply one of a “bad mood”.

    In the second article entitled “Eating Every Day by Nike (April 14, 2022) a similar situation occurs whereby a customer experiences a negative outcome. In this instance, shopping for food, the purchaser selected some fruit, specifically bruised but edible guavas, and proceeded to ask the seller if he could get a discount because of the fruit’s unappetizing appearance.

    The seller refused by stating in what appears to be a very terse manner: “What do you think? If they were good, I would have sold them a long time ago, they cost the same.” The customer felt the vendor’s stated negative treatment was worse than the bruised edible guavas.

    What’s the point here in these two similar seller/customer interactions? In Cuba providing customer satisfaction is an anathema. Trying to gain repeat business is not a mantra most Cuban business people follow. In the West the notion of customer satisfaction is ingrained and paramount in the business model because competition is fierce and without customer satisfaction the business would be history very, very quickly. Not so in Cuba.

    The Cuban business environment allows sellers to treat their customers with disrespect. One reason is the lack of competition for the product or service the customer wants or needs. In the case of the double AA batteries, the customer stumbled along to find after, I am sure, a long exhaustive retail search for a store that perhaps may sell batteries.

    Having none is stock, for who knows how long perhaps, days, weeks, months, the seller abruptly tells the customer no batteries are available probably with a multitude of other customers in the same store searching and making similar requests for unavailable products. No doubt the seller is frustrated on a daily basis from not being able to supply customers’ needs and therefore losing the possibility of a sale causing anxiety, stress, anger, all leading to the seller’s perceived “bad mood”.

    Whatever is sold in Cuba be it fruit or batteries in this case, one knows the Cuban government has its hands intrinsically involved in the Cuban business environment. The Cuban government could care less whether a Cuban has the opportunity to buy a much needed battery or some nutritious food. If the product or service is not available it is the front line seller who becomes the bearer of negative news and it is the messenger who is figuratively “shot” by the customer.

    The Cuban day to day sellers, vendors, producers they do their best to provide a product or service but when the government and its bureaucracy literally get in the way obstructing a sales interaction those very front line workers – the sellers/vendors – deserve not admonishment, but praise for their tireless efforts.

  • Dang! Here in the USA we can buy a 8 pack of AA batterys for $1.00 at the Dollar General store. They have hundreds of them.

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