14ymedio, Havana, 3 April 2018 — Thirty years behind the rest of the world, online shopping will arrive in Cuba this summer. The service will be available only to customers with magnetic cards in national currency, also known as Cuban pesos (CUP), and products must be picked-up in person, according to a note in the official press on Monday.
“In the first phase, it will only be available at the 5th and 42nd Shopping Center in Havana,” the note says, which also details that the new service is a part of the “computerization process of the country” in order to “make some things more accessible and fast for people.” Predictably, the service will be extended later to “at least one store in each province.”
For years Cubans have dreamed of being able to use e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Ebay or Alibaba, but all this has been delayed by the lack of internet connectivity in the country, the problems associated with obtaining a debit or credit card of any kind linked to a bank account, and the very poor quality of the postal service which preclude its involvement in package delivery.
The first operations of this kind in the country will be carried out by the Caribbean Chain of Stores, formerly called Hard Currency Collection Stores (TRD), which are managed by the Armed Forces and have retail locations throughout the Island.
The payment gateway through which the products will be purchased is managed by the state-owned Defense Information Technologies Company (Xedit).
“Some time ago we had been working with Xedit in the development of the payment gateway, which currently only works internally while we are evaluating its performance, but which as of the summer should be available for the use of the population. When you have connectivity, you can make your purchases at any time from your home, workplace or other places,” explained Martha Mulet Fernandez, sales specialist for the sales department of Caribbean Chain Stores.
The website to make purchases is already available at http://5tay42.xetid.cu according to the organizers, but a test carried out by 14ymedio showed a privacy error message and the site’s homepage was never displayed.
The online store will start working for the purchase of products this summer, but the official press release did not specify the date.
New users must register, choose the products they want to buy, enter their card data into the payment gateway and confirm the purchase. The invoice and proof of the transaction are sent via email.
Initially the store will only offer food, beverages and liquors, but “depending on the demand the remainder of the chain’s 14 families of products will gradually be added,” says Mulet Fernandez.
The customer must pick-up their products in the store within 48 hours after the online purchase, although the official does not rule out that “in the second phase we do want to deliver the purchases to each person at home, and in this way provide a more complete and higher quality service.”
In 1984, the world’s first electronic commerce operation was carried out. It was made by Jane Snowball, 72, who from her home in Gateshead, United Kingdom, ordered through the remote control of her TV, enabled as a computer terminal, a list of groceries from a nearby market.
In the middle of last year Cuban authorities launched Transfermóvil, an application for smartphones with the Android operating system to make payments from mobile phones, especially for electricity and telephone bills. The tool has been criticized for its slowness in registering new users due to organizational problems between the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) and state banking entities.
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