Customers outside the Maisí store in Havana (Photo Ana León)
HAVANA, Cuba. – Wait a minute, I’m having lunch,” one of the stalls of the downtown El Cadete store, located at the intersection of Monte and Águila streets in Old Havana, told customers on duty. Nothing has changed since Resolution No. 54 of 2018 on consumer protection in the internal trading system came into force on 3 June. For Leticia, a resident of Centro Habana, “the thing is not only that we have rights as consumers, but that they also have as sellers”. A fair analysis that very few would be able to understand, because no one can be in solidarity with inefficiency and mistreatment in state institutions.
It is enough to stand at a counter for five minutes and collect some impressions to understand the odyssey that is to buy between 11 and half in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.
“Do you know how many times I’ve gone without buying anything because I’m not looking for a problem?” asks a client. Another alleges that, if you have a relationship with a salesgirl, you may have better luck.
“If you take any of them with you, go and let go of the well and attend to you. They have the right to lunch and we what?” asks the woman.
“In Carlos III, enchanted by life, they close an entire apartment for you because the girl went to lunch,” says another client about a situation that is repeated over and over again in most Cuban stores.
For its part, the “Sensación” shop, one of the kiosks in Belascoaín, claims its right. “People are wrong, one is a human being too and I have to have lunch. This is not capitalism,” he says.
“If this were capitalism, they’d be shitting their pants,” says a woman named Xiomara. According to a friend, in other countries things don’t stop, that is, what she is having lunch, there is another cashier replacing her so that the sale doesn’t stop and people continue consuming.
“They neither stop nor close for lunch,” explains Xiomara, who seems to have a less distorted idea of what services and rights are in a system like capitalism, always caricatured in the official media.
Another Ultra store contributes its reasons to the debate and believes that the main problem is lack of companionship and mistrust.
“I prefer not to be replaced for a minute, which, if I move, I get. It’s happened to me several times, and what’s missing, I have to put in my pocket,” says the woman, which explains how inside each store there can be a group of saleswomen who obviously are not doing anything and can never replace those who need to be absent for an instant from work.
“Here it was taken as a measure that no one replaces anyone to avoid misunderstandings,” says a saleswoman in a store in Alamar, who claims that “not everyone knows how to do this,” as if to serve the public, sell products with a smile and give a correct change, you should do a master’s degree in science.
A Focsa clerk who didn’t want to identify himself correctly assures that “everyone who comes to work in a shop can’t do anything” and explains the network of “overcoming” that increases the category and possibilities of the workers.
“Because the nail is also mistreatment,” says Cecilia. “Then they don’t want to be called thieves, and we’re the snitches if we complain,” he adds.
The list of maltreatment in stores and shopping malls is long. Many times they don’t get back at any time of the day no matter how much they’ve sold. Others do not allow more than four customers within the markets, while the rest queues under the sun. Meat and refrigerators that are locked with keys. In many cases there is no one in charge of taking out the products. All this coupled with more institutional mistreatment that responds to regulations that nobody knows where they came from or who dictated them.
Cecilia believes that all these situations have led people to lose perspective on the issue: “Sometimes we treat each other as if we were animals.