14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, 16 October 2023 — There is a certain point on Havana’s Independence Avenue, better known as Rancho Boyeros Avenue, where there is no internet signal. At that spot, which is at the intersection of Palmar Street in the Cerro district — 2701 Rancho Boyers to be exact — the state-owned Industrial Company for Information Technology, Communications and Electronics (Gedeme) has opened a bricks-and-mortar store.
The grand opening on October 11 was marked by a small ceremony and a press release. The news item, which appeared as an article in Cubadebate and the provincial newspaper Tribuna de La Habana, explained that customers could go there to pick up purchases made through the store’s website or could purchase those products at the store itself using a QR code, both through the EnZona payment app.
The store’s location, it continues, “was chosen due to the urgent need to make the service more accessible to the public.” Previously, customers had to go to the Gedeme factory in Marianao, at least half an hour by car from the center of the capital, to pick up products they had purchased online.
The article claims the store offers a variety of products including lamps, computer equipment, mattresses, pillows and bases for refrigerators. However, what most people go to Gedeme for, as 14ymedio confirmed on Monday from conversations with regular customers, are light bulbs. “It’s the best thing they have in stock,” says José, who was at the store on Monday.
“To do this, I would first have to tell you to walk at least one block to the bus stop [where there is an internet signal] so you can pay, and that is not feasible”
The state-run company, which just a few days ago was visited by delegates from the National Assembly, seems to have given its employees only vague information about what it actually sells. “First, the electricity went out,” says José, “and then the service they provided was terrible.” He reports that, while he was there, a young man came in wanting to buy some light bulbs using the QR code and the EnZona app. The employee explained that EnZona does not work there because there is “a very big problem” with internet connection. “To do this, I would first have to tell you to walk at least one block to the bus stop [where there is an internet signal] so you can pay, and that is not feasible,” José claims the woman said.
Similarly, he complains that the employees do not inform customers of either the courier or transportation option as mentioned in the official publications. Instead, they only ask customers to buy online and pick up their orders twenty-four hours later.
The items listed for sale on its website, which can only be accessed from Cuba, are limited. Under “Telecommunications” the only thing the company had for sale on Monday was a landline telephone with a cable but no screen. The “Electronics” section offered a surge protector for household appliances while the “Computer Science” section only had a motherboard for those wanting to build their own desktop computers.
The website boasts of the company’s “innovative thinking, with quality and sustainability in its processes” yet still directs customers to pick up their purchases at the old Marianao address. The online catalogue’s largest section is devoted to office furniture, which includes desks and shelving made of pressed wood and metal. The company also installs aluminum marquetry and lighting systems.
“From what I heard, they said that they were already in talks with Etecsa to provide them with a phone so that customers could buy it right there along with the app,” says José, “But just think, why would you set up a technology company that sells online in an area where there is no internet coverage?”
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