Buying on the Cheap

Yusimi Rodriguez

Havana Park. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, June 1 — You know what happens when you do.  You can’t expect much quality, for instance, if you pay 80 or fifty cents for a tooth brush.  A cheap tooth brush usually won’t last more than two weeks in good condition.

And this is the part when you say:  Cheap compared with what?  Because fifty or eighty cents (CUC hard currency of course), can be a day’s salary, considering that in the real economy of this country you get paid between 15 and 20 CUC a month.

And if you buy a tooth brush for ten pesos, the currency in which you are actually paid, you are paying more than half a day salary for a tooth brush.  Well, I know all that, but I actually meant cheap compared with those good-quality-looking tooth brushes costing 1.70 CUC or more that I see sometimes at stores, knowing they will surely last a year.

Their price alone is enough to make my mouth water.  A price I can’t afford.  So I buy those costing 50 or 80 cents, knowing already what happens when you buy on the cheap.  But, do you know what happens when you buy on the expensive?

I can tell you what happens, because some days ago I happened to go to a store in the Habana Libre Hotel, having more money than usually in my pocket.  I wanted to buy a gift for a friend on “Mother’s Day”.  I bought her a chocolate bar and I was looking for an eye liner too, when I saw tooth brushes for 1.70 cents.  I had been using mine for almost one year already, in spite of the advice you can read on the package whenever you buy a tooth brush:  they must be replaced every three months.

Well, every three months is usually a little bit fast for my pocket, but given the quality of the 80 cents tooth brushes that I always buy, I would have to replace them every fifteen days.  Some stingy voice inside me advised me not to buy that expensive tooth brush, but I decided I was just tired of buying on the cheap and I paid 1.70 CUC for this good-quality-looking tooth brush that I would be able to use for at least six months or maybe for a year.  It was a good investment and I couldn’t wait to use it that night.

The hairs of the 1.70 CUC brush just split completely.  It wasn’t on the second week or the second day I used it, but right on the first time.  If I had kept the receipt I was given at the store, maybe I could have written an article about what happens when you ask for your money back because the item you bought is not in good condition.  But I didn’t keep it, I was so confident that the quality of this tooth brush would match its price.

Did I deserve this for buying something I can’t usually afford?  I haven’t dared tell my mother that I just paid 1.70 for a tooth brush, and least of all that it was worse than the cheap ones (or I should say worse than the less expensive ones).  How can we be cheated like this at State-owned stores?  The same State that knows how low our salaries are, because it pays them.

Now it occurs to me that maybe prices have nothing to do with quality.  Maybe the idea is that people who want to show they have money pay high prices and satisfy their egos.  Maybe it is some way to punish those who have money.  I don’t usually have it.  My conclusion, now, is that you can’t really expect much quality if you buy on the cheap, but if you buy on the expensive, then you will have to buy the item many more times.

One thought on “Buying on the Cheap

  • Shoddy merchandise is everywhere in the World. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people in the West would agree with me that many things here R even more poorly made 2day than they were years ago. But we buy nonetheless; then R dissatisfied — & yet we put up with it, because these things were cheap 2 buy, etc. However, people do ‘vote with their feet’ in the “Free Market” World 2 a certain extent. But not completely — as the Market shills keep loudly insisting otherwise…

    In a semi-socialist country like Cuba, what should be a strength of socialist planning — the ability 2 *NOT* B swayed by “market forces” — has instead become its opposite: lack of adequate & realistic responsiveness, primarily because of the lack of democratic control over the process, in whole & in part. U people really, really must solve this basic issue immediately. The Bloqueo is not enough of an excuse. U don’t have all that much time to “evolve” out of stalinist ‘command economy’ methods either.

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