14ymedio, Havana, 10 June 2020 — The Cuban Government has surrendered to the evidence of the failure of its virtual stores and has ordered their temporary and staggered closure in order to restructure the sales. “Despite the different measures taken to meet customer requests, we recognize that we have not achieved the expected result and instead of decreasing, dissatisfaction has grown,” admits Cimex in a statement.
According to the commercial vice president of the state entity, Rosario Ferrer San Emeterio, the demand has overwhelmed a system unable to provide the service. In the future, stores will sell food and personal hygiene/cleaning modules for 10, 15, 20 and 30 CUC.
In November 2019, the TuEnvío virtual stores began to take off, going from 100 visits a day to between 6,000 and 8,000. According to official data provided this Tuesday by Héctor Oroza Busutil, president of Cimex, it went from processing 1,356 orders in February and 6,000 in March, to 73,386 in April. In the first fortnight of May, orders had already totaled 78,893.
The increased demand for food and hygiene products during the pandemic has collapsed the system. “Furthermore, the organization of the processes and the amount of trained personnel required is not in adequate for these conditions,” Oroza said on State TV’s Roundtable program.
Despite the recognition that the service was neither ready nor capable of withstanding the enormous increase in demand, Cimex only partially assumes responsibility and attributes the remaining blame to the United States embargo.
“Along with the country’s acute financial restrictions, which have significantly limited the supply of products in the network of stores, problems persist related to the performance of computer systems, inadequate completion and preparation of personnel, insufficient transportation for distribution, the problems in the areas to place orders, failures in the payment and return processes, among others,” the statement highlights.
When stores reopen, the number of modules to be put up for sale will be based on “processing and distribution” capacity, and when they run out, the service will shut down until the next day. These packs will be limited to one daily per customer and will be delivered in store or at home within a period of up to 10 days.
The official press has released a planned closure plan.
Amilkar Odelín Ante, commercial director of the Chain of Caribe Stores, also took stock of the situation in its stores. The manager explained that in the first quarter, in 5tay42 3,000 orders were placed, while in May the number rose to 24,000.
“These stores did not have the operational capacity to face this demand and at no time was the flow of order generation or the schedule to carry them out regulated. In addition, there is the underlying problem related to the availability of high-demand merchandise, which has led to delays when these items are ordered,” he recognized.
In Villa Diana the 1,100 daily orders were exceeded, an amount that could not be dealt with, according to Odelín Ante, causing great dissatisfaction among customers, which has forced the closure to be able to comply with the accumulated orders and solve the marketing problems.
In this case, the sale by modules and options will be based on availability and the minimum will be 250 CUP. Purchases are limited to one food and hygiene module per day in the combo mode, and home delivery is extended from 5 to 10 days. In the specific case of 5tay42, when it distributes the overdue orders, it will assume it can fill 500 daily orders.
Odelín Ante indicated that two telephone lines are planned for customer service for Villa Diana, in addition to an employee to deal with the complaint emails. “This weekend more than 3,000 orders were delivered and, with the calculated rhythm, Villa Diana will be able to restart their services on June 20,” he said.
The avalanche of protests has been so difficult to contain that not only has the service been stopped until the improvements have been resolved, but the official press dedicated extensive coverage on Wednesday to report various cases of customer discontent.
Among them is the story of Ana María, who after 23 days waiting for a package from Villa Diana, found that the products in the package did not match those on the invoice. Her attempts to contact Caribe stores through all channels were unsuccessful, but she was confident that her money would be returned. When it was not, she appeared at the offices, where she found a line of about 20 people waiting to make claims.
Customers lamented the “very poor attention” by the store staff, from the manager herself, and excepting “the decent, patient and pleasant doorman.” In addition, they denounce the alleged diversion of products — that is internal thefts all along the supply chain — as a cause of the lack of products in their boxes.
The report quotes a client who waited from eight in the morning until five-thirty in the afternoon on June 2 to claim her order and reported abuse by the business manager. During this time she saw packages of chicken arrive, which the website did not offer, and which were later “taken out of the warehouse by two workers.” She also claims that they replaced her detergent with cookies, when she herself could see, when a door opened, the warehouse full of detergent.
Neither of the two affected who went to make complaints in this case had their problems satisfactorily resolved. “Today I feel that my rights have been violated, not only as a customer, but also as a citizen, and I am very sorry that people like this manager behave as they do, and the work of Dr. [Francisco] Durán, the health care personnel and the State Council is tarnished,” say those affected, stressing the responsibility of employees — or minimizing that of the authorities.
The text quotes another customer, in this case of the store at 5th and 42nd, who went to the offices to demand a delivery that she had been waiting more than a month for. “The main problem, in addition to the delay, is the uncertainty of whether the products you bought will ever arrive,” she regrets, adding that as long as that purchase does not arrive, you have to figure out how to put other foods on the table, if you have the money to do so. Cubadebate tells the stories of several people in this situation.
Other stories speak of the problems with getting money returned, which is incomprehensible after the digitalization of the purchasing process announced by the managers of Cimex and Tiendas Caribe.
The text includes a multitude of substitutions in the products included in the combos. “How is it possible that the order is ready to deliver or pick up and in the end products are missing? Why, if the customers’ phones are in the account, do they not call beforehand to confirm what they are going to deliver? Why does an order placed after yours include an item that you ordered but did not receive?” protests a customer.
Technology is another of the trouble spots. Users spend hours on the web to get some of the most desired products, such as chicken, which forces them to shop at dawm. “I understand that demand is greater than supply. But this marathon only achieves that there are a lot of fractional purchases from the same home in order to guarantee necessary products before they run out,” says another Alamar client.
This way of supplying, also becomes a vicious circle, since users are waiting so long to see what is on offer, and they update the page so many times that the servers are overloaded “I wish you could put all the available products on the site and people could make their purchases,” says a computer scientist.
Other complaints related to this aspect is that the product is not removed from stock once it is selected by the customer, since sometimes it is not discovered until the purchase is closed that the selected item is no longer available because another user got it before you finished shopping.”
Logistics is another element that has not worked properly. “If each of these stores has different inventory, why not unify the one destined for virtual stores, in addition to checking that the integration of warehouse inventory and computer systems always works like a Swiss watch, reflecting the real amount of products,” questions the report, which adds that the poor quality of what is available generates many small orders resulting in a high delivery cost, with all that this implies (fuel, vehicles, human resources …).
Despite everything, the report continues to insist that electronic commerce has come “to stay” although it needs better management of resources.
“It is real that the products available to not meet the demand in the case of Cuba, and that part of the blame is borne by the economic problems of a country surrounded by the economic blockade of the United States (…). Added to that is the scarcity, or complete lack, of national production of many of those assortments that are marketed in the retail trade network,” says the newspaper. However, after all this commentary on the failed project, the text indicates that it is “worthwhile to recognize the political will to promote this commercial scheme.”
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