Xiomara Reinoso Gomez

Street vendor selling pineapples. Photo: Alfonso Aguilar
Street vendor selling pineapples. Photo: Alfonso Aguilar

HAVANA TIMES — There are days – particularly the weekend – when we want to sleep in. After a week of work, we want to get some rest.

Often, however, this proves impossible. Street vendors make a point of getting you out of bed. The vendor’s cry reaches us from the corner: “Cassava for sale, brooms for sale!” The words combine in my head and I find myself thinking about sweeping away cassavas.

Another cry issues from a different street corner. “Garlic for sale, bleach for sale!” I picture a clove of garlic bathed in bleach.

We hear cries from vendor selling products that have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Yesterday, someone walked by selling aromatic products for bathrooms and tomatoes. I wanted to buy tomatoes, but then I thought: “What if the tomatoes are covered with the cleaning product? No, I best buy them at the market.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of this. They’re earning their daily bread. They’re not stealing from or conning anyone.

Some, however, come and announce things like: “I’ll buy any empty brand perfume bottles you have!” These people later refill these bottles with any perfume and sell them as though they were the brand on the bottle to the gullible, in other provinces. This is a common con.

But that’s not the end of it, we’re not just talking about street vendors who con people. The other day, my nephew bought a bottle of Havana Club rum at an Infotur store. When he had his first sip, he realized it was alcohol mixed with water. He offered me a taste and I confirmed this. The curious thing is that the bottle was sealed.

I suggested he go back to the store to get it replaced. He didn’t want to. He said to me: “They won’t replace it, I’ve opened it and they’re going to think I was the one who watered the rum down. I insisted. I said to him: “I bet you they will replace it, because they probably have several dozen like these.”

He followed my advice. They replaced the bottle without saying a word. They could have refused, but it wasn’t in their interest to do so. Ultimately, we don’t know how they water down the rum and seal the bottle again. Cubans haven’t learned to fly because they don’t have wings. Well, if they had wings, Cuba would be almost empty.

It’s a shame, isn’t it? This land we were born in is so beautiful…even if street vendors wake us up every morning.


2 thoughts on “Cuban Mornings

  • That’s not a con, Moses, that’s the market.

    A con, in this context, is when you’re sold one thing which actually something else. But when I buy a mojito in Cuba or anywhere else, they’re not telling me that I’m getting 4 CUC’s worth of rum. I could go buy my own bottle. I’m paying for the ambience, the bartender’s labour, the convenience of having a place to sit down and relax…

    If the price of mojitos gets too outrageous, then smart bartenders will start attracting customers away from the high-priced bars by offering more reasonably-priced mojitos.

    Now let’s look at perfume. It is a con to get an empty bottle of a high-priced perfume and fill it with cheap scent.

    But what about that original perfume? Was its ‘legitimate’ high price the result of the high cost of making scent?

    A recent newspaper article (from a right wing British newspaper) can set us straight:

    “Consider the price of the perfume. The liquid in the bottle represents only 3 per cent of the total cost of producing it. The other 97 per cent goes to marketing, packaging and advertising. And the selling price allows for a 95 per cent profit margin. ”
    [From: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-550511/Perfumes-trial-The-truth-scent-industry.html#ixzz3tuWv79jq%5D

    So bartenders invest 5, and earn 40. The (legitimate) perfume industry would laugh at such miserly profits. They invest 5 and earn 95!

  • As I have commented many times here at HT, the most famous Cuban drink in the world, the mojito, is the biggest con of them all. Cuban bartenders buy a bottle of rum from their own pocket for 5 cuc. From 1 bottle, 8 -10 mojitos can be mixed. Every mojito is at least 4 cuc. Do the math, for a 5 cuc investment, that bartender will earn 40 cuc….plus tips.

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