14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, December 13, 2018 — Last summer testing began for online shopping in national money (Cuban pesos, or CUP) in Cuba but the official launch happened this Wednesday in the Caribbean Chain of Stores on 5th and 42, in Miramar. After months of waiting and tests on the web, the first shopping site in CUP, accessible only from within the Island, registers many errors and has set off the complaints of users.
Customers, who must take away the merchandise acquired in a face-to-face manner, have confirmed the slowness of the page, which has suffered successive issues this Wednesday (its first day available) and security risks due to lack of an SSL certificate to guarantee the privacy of bank details entered by users.
Mario, one of those who yesterday was showing his discontent, said that the page “seems to be designed so that people get tired and give up.” He also pointed out that, to choose a product, previewing is very slow. “If they don’t improve it, customers won’t accept it,” he maintains.
According to its creators, the website will be available at any time of the day, but it will be suspended between 8 and 9 in the morning for maintenance and to update the available products. The products on sale, for the moment, are food, drinks, home goods, and cleaning products, although previously they included others such as electrical appliances, furniture, and hardware.
In this first phase, online shopping is only available in this store in the capital but it is predicted that the service will be extended to at least one store in each province during the first half of 2019, as Marta Mulet Fernández, commercial specialist in the sales department of the Caribbean Chain of Stores, indicated to the official press.
“This service is aimed primarily at the capital’s residents, but if you find yourself in another province of the country you can do the same thing and shop for friends and family from the capital,” she added.
“How lovely, doing shopping for friends in the capital…We peasants for the dear residents of the capital,” mocked another user, visibly annoyed by the privilege for Havana residents.
The head of the sales group of management of the technical market, Aurora Milanés, specified that Camagüey and Holguín would be the next provinces where users would be able to shop virtually.
Mulet Fernández explained that upon accessing the site, a warning appears informing the user that he is entering an unsecured connection because it doesn’t have “a certificate supported by any certification authority… The great majority of these authorities are American and the blockade prevents them from being sent out to .cu domains,” explained the specialist, who added that “the store is designed as a secure portal.”
The executives of the Caribbean Chain of Stores recommend that to shop online the user access it from a computer because the interface is “friendlier” from this device, although it is also possible to do it from a mobile device, a piece of advice that some have criticized, demanding that the company adapt itself to consumers and not the other way around.
To be able to use this page of electronic commerce one needs to use a magnetic card from any banking entity of the country and in national money (CUP), in addition to having one of the service cards for electronic banking (Teleblanca) distributed in the branches of Banco Metropolitano, BANDEC, or BPA.
Another of the users, happy with the launch of the store, wonders nevertheless how one would buy with Telebanca if they are not making cards at the moment. He also complained about the slowness of the website and suggested “a little more RAM and CPU for the server” where the page is housed. “It’s very slow and the images don’t load entirely,” another customer was lamenting.
This morning, after 9:30, the website was not available, as 14ymedio was able to confirm. Upon attempting to access it, the user could see the warning that the site was in “maintenance mode” and that the store would be “temporarily offline.”
Once the shopping is done, the bill and receipt for the transaction are sent via email. The payment system via which the products are purchased is managed by the Company of Information Technologies for Defense (Xedit), as the national press reported when the testing period began in July.
Mulet Fernández explained that for now only the method available for pickup will be in store, always starting 48 hours after the purchase and between 9:30am and 7:00pm from Monday to Saturday. Home delivery will not be available until the end of January and will cost an additional fee, yet to be specified.
Cubans, who for years have had to wait in long lines to shop in the country’s stores, have been thankful for the beginning of this type of sale, but many still wonder what sense there is in shopping from a distance if it’s still necessary to go to the store to pick up the product.
Translated by: Sheilagh Carey
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