14ymedio, Pedro Espinosa, Havana, 15 December 2023 — GD-Mart is the new Cuban Chinese business that practices the policy of apartheid, although Cubans have not been long in finding a way to take advantage of it. The official press announced with great fanfare last week the inauguration of the establishment, located on Infanta Street in Havana, which is actually a delivery point for the products that are purchased in the online store, a website that only accepts payments in hard currency from abroad.
The place, presided over by a huge poster hanging from the arcades, hosts a small sample of products, as announced by José Ernesto Madan Cambó, Cuban representative of the Chinese company Guangdong Stationery & Sporting Goods, Corp. and an ally of Tiendas del Caribe, of the Gaesa military consortium, in this new operation to collect foreign exchange.
“We have set up a product counter so that customers can see first-hand the offers we have online,” the manager explained to the official press in reference to the user, since the buyers, who live abroad, cannot see them.
A shelf houses a brief sample of flat-screen TVs of different sizes, fans, microwaves and other small appliances
A shelf houses a brief sample of flat-screen televisions of different sizes, fans, microwaves and other small appliances. Meanwhile, at ground level, one can see half a dozen electric vehicles of the Onebot brand, with prices ranging from $999 for an electric motorcycle to $2,600 for a tricycle that is already available Havana’s resale websites for $3,200 and more.
An employee explained to a 14ymedio reporter that the buyer abroad must name the Cuban beneficiary who will later pick up the product. “People have to come with a screenshot, an identity card and the guarantee.”
Although some curious people approached to nose around the store, the employee affirms that there is “movement” for the Christmas season. The products are already on the resale pages, uploaded just two days ago and advertised as new, but the conditions of purchase are a mystery.
The website, the only way to buy, has a frequently-asked-questions section that is empty. The terms and conditions refer almost exclusively to the online environment in terms of navigation. The guarantee is not mentioned in the return policy, and in “About Us” one can barely read an empty paragraph: “GD Mart Online Shop is our digital emporium, dedicated to shortening distances between loved ones and creating memorable moments. With a single click, you can send your family or friends everything they need.” And little else.
The employee explains that she does not know for sure what warranty period the products have, but “it is said” that it’s six months, a tiny amount of time for products of that profile, which in most cases are covered for at least one year.
“Scan the QR code or go to the link. Tell your friends to share it,” the saleswoman insisted with kindness.
Among the brands that can be found, according to Luis Orlando López, head of the purchasing group of Tiendas Caribe, will be LG and Samsung, although the truth is that all the appliances that are currently on sale are from the Chinese brand Konka, well known on the Island, but little known outside it. The company, despite its 45 years of experience, began selling in Europe just a year ago.
The Cuban Government opened the first stores for appliances only in dollars in 2019, when it decided to compete against the mules that imported quality products to the Island. Although the first sales were a success, the pandemic and the aggravation of the crisis have emptied state stores of these products, but the regime is determined to continue capturing foreign exchange from relatives abroad, now partnering with its foreign allies.
GD-Mart has a hard time, however. Numerous digital sites, some of them based in Florida, have long offered the online purchase of appliances with shipping included to Cuba, in addition to offers of products that are already on the Island and are delivered to the recipient’s home between 7 and 10 business days.
The Cuban Government opened the first stores for appliances only in dollars in 2019, when it decided to compete against the mules that imported quality products to the Island
Portals such as Cuballama, DimeCuba or Cubamax have a more varied offer of brands. They include U.S.-brand appliances, more valued by customers on the Island than the Chinese brands, and the customer can track the shipment until its delivery. Other portals add bonuses for future purchases, Christmas discounts and a more intuitive shopping interface.
The Konka-brand televisions that in recent years have burst into the Island’s market, mostly by the hand of official establishments, do not get the best evaluations by buyers. Some require an external decoder box because they don’t comply with the standard for capturing Cuban digital television.
Other televisions of the same brand have less up-to-date technologies than those found in markets in Panama, Mexico or Miami, from where many Cuban travelers import these devices. They also do not have a wide range of sizes, with the 32-inch Konka televisions being the most common in Cuba, at a time when the demand for devices with larger and thinner screens is growing on the Island.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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