HOLGUÍN, Cuba.- “Since six in the morning I have been in line at the bank. When I arrived there were already many people waiting. That’s every day ”, comments Marcos Álvarez, who tries to deposit euros in the balance of his magnetic card to buy in stores at MLC. “I don’t know if the queues are due to the reduction in working hours due to the coronavirus or because the employees are slow,” Marcos says with marked anger in his tone of voice and facial expression.
Finally, Álvarez gave up the process and paid 500 Cuban pesos to a person who the next day, on his third attempt, will allow him to be one of the first three. “It’s the only way to make the deposit without getting up early and losing the whole morning in line,” he says.
Dissimilar are the inconveniences that make it difficult for Cubans to buy in stores in freely convertible currency (MLC), a form of sale with magnetic cards associated with bank accounts established in more than 70 state establishments open throughout Cuba.
Despite its two years, and after a precarious start and an unstable performance, this marketing system shows flaws in the procedure. The perpetual difficulties are in each client’s management: the request for the magnetic card, its collection, the realization of the bank deposit and the purchase in the stores.
The agony begins when applying for the magnetic card at the bank. The history of the long lines and the payment to get one of the first turns is repeated. The constant demand for cards has forced banking institutions to organize the process. From Monday to Saturday, at 8:30 in the morning, an employee collects, depending on the queue, 15 identity cards and calls customers in that order.
Another factor against it is the daily blackouts that paralyze banking procedures. “I have four people ahead of me to apply for the card. I arrived very early and I am here praying that they do not turn off the power, ”says María Karla Gómez, who, along with another group of people, fears that a blackout will stop the process and lose all morning in the queue at the Banco Popular de Ahorro ( BPA), located at the intersection of Maceo and Aguilera streets in the city of Holguín.
During the tour of several banks, CubaNet appreciated how the organizers of the queues, with different pretexts, prioritized some people. It was not verified if they did it in exchange for money, although those present did not rule out that possibility. “That lady was sneaked in because five minutes ago she asked me for the last one. And when I complained they told me that she had priority because she was continuing a procedure. If that’s true, she wouldn’t have asked me the last one, ”says a man who stands in line at the Banco de Crédito y Comercio (BANDEC) on Arias Street.
Once the application process is completed, the bank’s delay in delivering the card could take more than two months. During the collection of the card and the deposit of the money in the account, the interested party will have to live a similar experience to that of the application management: get up early, queue or pay and pray.
As of June 21, the Cuban regime temporarily suspended the acceptance of US dollar cash bank deposits.
However, in the banks the endless lines continue for the cash deposits of other freely convertible currencies accepted in Cuba.
“Since seven in the morning I have been in line at the bank to deposit 60 euros and I have not been able to. I want to buy a piece of meat for the girl, but first I have to deposit the money on the card ”, says a lady.
Another user who blames the bank’s management for not solving the problem comments that he arrived at six in the morning and “it is one afternoon and I have not yet been able to deposit the euros on my card. It is a single queue for all banking operations. They come to deposit the workers of the wineries, the gastronomic centers and the stores ”.
After queuing for the deposit, it takes time for the money to be credited to the card. “I put the money in at ten in the morning. It’s already three in the afternoon and I still don’t have it on my card. they are only offered in that establishment.
At the time of buying
But the stumbles do not stop there. On several occasions the stores in MLC have stopped their sale due to an interruption in the connection to charge for the magnetic card.
“I have been here since they opened at 8:30 in the morning. It’s already 12 noon and the store cashier is still offline. I have not left because I have been here for many hours hoping that the connection will be reestablished. I need the chicken breast and mayonnaise. All the people who were in front of me have already left. I have no other option but to wait, “says Estela, who has already visited the MLC stores in the city center” and they all have the same problem. “
He thinks that “if the stores were private this would not happen”. Estela lives in the distant San Field neighborhood: “it’s a four-kilometer round trip on foot that is not easy for me to walk due to my health problems. There are people who are working and cannot wait like I am retired. Not even with dollars can things be solved ”, the lady sentenced.
Many ask and knowing that there is no connection, they continue their march, feeling that the reestablishment of the connection will take time and the wait will be in vain.
The store scam
Within the chain of difficulties, perhaps the one that most irritates the customer is the discount of the balance of his card and not receiving any product in return. A fact that many define with one word: scam.
“I tried to buy two packages of chicken breasts that cost $ 14.70 ($ 7.35 each). They swiped my card, they deducted the balance, the system crashed and they didn’t give me the breast because the operation was denied, “Beatriz Pérez tells CubaNet, to whom the store gives a document that they must take to an office of Financiera Cimex , SA (FINCIMEX) for the refund of the money.
However, “after queuing at FINCIMEX they told me that they have no responsibility and from there they send me to the bank,” where the process becomes cumbersome. “At the bank they begin to review the last ten operations on my card. But the last operation did not appear. I’ve been at it since April 24 and they haven’t refunded my money. They comfort me by telling me that one day they will give it back to me ”.
Beatriz confirms that she is not an isolated case. “In front of me, a man was deducted double the same as me, and they did not give him the merchandise. This is not just a scam, but we are assuming the consequences of a problem that we are not guilty of. Not counting the loss of time in the store queue to enter, waiting for the document to be prepared, at the FINCIMEX offices, at the bank and in the end I still don’t have my money, ”says Beatriz.
A similar experience related Alejandra, who used a magnetic card associated with a bank account abroad. “They deducted 74 euros from my husband’s MasterCard card. Supposedly the connection dropped. Every time the clerk swiped the card through the payment slot, the balance was deducted, but the clerk wouldn’t tell me. I was in a position that I couldn’t see the balance. I found out later when I called my husband who lives in Italy to check the balance. They had discounted 70 euros without me receiving the merchandise. They do not give you the product because the cashier says that the operation is denied, but they discount the balance and do not inform you. That is not ethical ”.
Alejandra recommends always checking the balance, “because they deduct you from the card, they don’t give you the product and if you don’t claim it, they don’t give it back to you.” Her husband made a complaint from Italy and after a week did not get an answer. “When he threatened a lawsuit, they immediately deposited the money. A lawsuit between banks does not suit Cuba, ”says Alejandra.
The bad work that persists from the request for the magnetic card to the purchase of the product in the stores in MLC conspires against the efforts of the Government to face the economic situation of the country. “They are inefficiencies that cause the deficiencies of the people. With this mismanagement, it is very difficult for the country to emerge from the crisis. The only place these things happen is in Cuba and everything is to screw the people, ”says a young woman who waits in line at a store.
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