Some of you may remember my story about the “cash dealer” (I’d give him a percentage of the cash he’d give me). At that time, the shortage of cash was hitting hard. But now, things are a lot worse.

The little kiosk where my “dealer” sells candies and magazines is now bleak. Neighbors would spend a few minutes in line before buying a pack of cigarettes, but now the salesman is mostly on his phone. “There’s barely any connection to the bank, so there’s no way people can make payments with their debit cards, and nobody has cash. I’m losing 70% to 80% of sales because no one can buy stuff.”

“I can’t give you cash because I have no cash.”

For a business like this, no cash or no bank connection is fatal. “We made an investment buying this and now it’s worthless” he said, holding the small point of sale. “Everyday there’s less people with money, and if you have it, you can’t spend it. The cheapest candy is Bs.800, and lines at ATMs are huge, for Bs.10,000 at most.”

A country with no cash sounds like a futuristic idea, but in Venezuela it’s disastrous, and folks like Miguel, a 50-something taxi driver from eastern Caracas, find solutions any way they can: “I have my clients that I’ve kept for years, and they transfer to my bank account. No, I don’t work with people on the street. You can’t with the cash issue.”

But his method is not bulletproof: “The other day I did a carrera (a taxi ride) for Bs.80,000, and I never got the transfer.”

The lines you stand in when you have no choice and you’ve become a hostage of circumstances.

Most businesses in Venezuela today depend on how reliable their point of sale is. You may try a transaction four times before giving up half an hour later, an exercise in frustration where everyone’s a loser. Stores that only rely on cash are dead in the water, exposed to both a breakdown of business and crime.

And on paydays, the frenzy must be seen to be believed.

It’s not only those looking for shelter and what little fun can be found at bars and restaurants, it’s everybody buying groceries as fast as they can, knowing the next day everything might be dramatically more expensive. It’s lines everywhere, loaded with weariness, rage, fear and enough hope to make it all painful. The lines you stand in when you have no choice and you’ve become a hostage of circumstances.

“Most people don’t carry checks, there’s no cash and lines in banks are eternal. For us, this day is completely lost” says Luisa, the not so cheerful cashier at a little restaurant with a line of more than 30 people waiting to pay for their meals.

After almost two hours with broken point of sales, she just gave pieces of papers with the establishment’s bank account number and information. “Transfer the money please, it doesn’t matter if it comes from different banks.”

But she lowers her head in private.

“We are going to lose so much money today” is her grim prediction. “Los vivos no van a pagar.

35 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder why bartering has not become more widespread for these business if no other alternative is available. That was Chavez’s dream after all.

    You have to hand it to him. Years before his death, he had the vision to screw the economy in such a way that everyone is now heading toward his bartering distopia.

  2. About 25 years ago, my brother and one of his co-workers were on a trip to India. He worked for a company that bought oriental rugs and imported them into the US. He related this story to me when he returned.
    The 2 of them went into a bank a bank immediately after arriving in the country. They broke $200 US into Rupees.
    The clerk manually did the exchange math and then handed the figures to a supervisor to have his calculations checked. The supervisor, after checking the math, had it approved by a third supervisor or manager.
    After the calculations were approved the clerks began counting out the Rupees. The same thing was done with the counts being verified by all of the supervisors.
    They ended up leaving the bank with 4 bags of Rupees that they soon learned were absolutely useless.
    A taxi driver drove them 50 miles to one of the weavers that they had under contract. When they went to pay the taxi driver, he refused the Rupees and asked for “One American Dollar”.
    The Indian government operated casinos for foreigners. The casinos refused to take Rupees. They literally couldn’t find anyone that would do business in Rupees, even though officially possession of foreign currency was illegal. Even the maids in the hotel left the bags of Rupees alone. Perhaps it was in the hope of getting Dollars for a tip. Which they did receive.
    Before they left, they found a group of kids begging on the street and bestowed them with a couple hundred Dollars worth of Rupees.
    Venezuela has deteriorated to the third world status that so much of the world has climbed out of. A friend of mine could not get enough money out of an ATM to buy a candy bar recently.
    This world would have much less suffering if the truth of Socialism and Communism could be understood by the proponents of these failed systems.
    Instead people keep believing that there is a free lunch and that Capitalism is the root of all of their problems.
    Almost every invention, technological advance, medical breakthrough and product produced for the masses has its origins in Capitalist societies.

    • My wife still has distant relatives living in Venezuela. (the Communist branch of the family who fled Franco in the 1940’s). You will not get them to believe that there isn’t such a thing as a free lunch. In their minds eye, all of this misery is the fault of the Capitalist oppressors, and the sooner they are out of Venezuela, the sooner things get better. They actually believe that as more people leave, the more money comes available! Which, is a common thought process for Marxist “true believers”, who insist there is only X amount of wealth in the universe, (the Wealth Pie) and the less people using Bolivars, the more there is for everyone else! Its just a matter of printing more wealth!

      Magic!

      • I believe it. I lived in the Caribbean as a teenager in the late 1970s. This was the height of the Cold War, and the USSR and Cuba were trying to “convert” as much of Latin America and the Caribbean as they could to be anti-US.

        One of their most effective lies was the concept of economic zero-sum game. Poor people in these regions think that there is a fixed amount of wealth. And if someone is rich, it is only because they took wealth from someone else. So when you are poor, it is because it is a rich person’s fault.

        It is easy to see why they think this. It is because they literally see it every day in the form of corruption. The elite are above the law, and run the government, and the police. They only see corrupt rich people getting rich by stealing. They never see rich people who get rich by working hard, working smart, and creating value.

      • Socialism relies on blame.

        There’s a lot more wrongness to be brought to light than just that, but that is one aspect of it. Life will probably never be perfect for everyone, but one can’t very well blame the successful people for inadequacies that individuals create for themselves as justification for taking from the successful That only makes matters worse.

        Man – all of life – is inherently social in nature, and does not require and will not tolerate artificial impositions upon that nature of things. Millions of people live in cities with rare instances of crime. Charities amass billions to assist those down on their luck. Capitalism and free markets have brought prosperity and conveniences that 400 years ago were undreamt of luxuries. Hot and cold running water, electricity, light bulbs, automobiles, air conditioning, refrigeration, radio, television …. Socialism has brought nothing but death to over a hundred million individuals since the infection started a little over a century ago – and untold misery to their friends and families, economies, production, and nations.

        The thing named “Karl Marx” is the worst mass-murderer and bringer of misery in the history of Earth, and should be labeled as such, Socialist writing should bear a “Poison” warning label.

        The inherent problem is a lack of definition of life and its function, and that allows insanities to creep in. An MD, Dr. Gaylin, wrote a book titled “Hatred”. It covers more than just hatred, as he goes into motivations and also the opposite side of hatred. That’s just one example of many writings which are surfacing about life.

        Socialism preys on Man’s liability towards insanities. If ever there was anything that incites to riot and mayhem, it is socialism. A massive witch-hunt.

  3. Good story! These days, we all know Venezuela is a disaster zone, but many, like me, have a hard time imagining the precise local effects when a government is both incompetent and also unwilling to bend its ideology to help its citizens.

    This sort of detail really helps us “see” how things are. Thanks!

  4. Nearly 13,000,000% devaluation of the Bolivar since Chavismo, today. (73,219 @ DolarToday.com)

    Wasn’t it just 9,000,000% on Saturday?
    10,000,000% on Tuesday?

    I think Maduro needs to start printing a 1,000,000 Bolivar note… in case someone needs to buy a donut or something.

    • “I think Maduro needs to start printing a 1,000,000 Bolivar note…”

      The “Cien mil” note is actually a “one hundred MILLION” in terms of the “old 4th republican bolivars”

      shiabbe made the minus 3 zeroes converson in 2007 to hide the rising inflation per advice of the cuban invaders.

      • Correct. In the 1970’s one bolivar – a very nice coin – would get you a “lisa” (a draft beer) served in an iced glass mug. Of course, being dirty rotten stinking capitalist imperialist thieves, they hoped you would also buy some food to go along with it, pasapalos, tequenos, papitas fritas, perro caliente, hamburguesa … you know, “junk food”. But if all you wanted was a lisa, have a seat at the bar my friend!

  5. Interesantísimo aporte sobre el día a día en Venezuela que se agradece. Una cosa es repetir las estadísticas del dólar, la inflación… que están en cualquier parte y otra es conocer de primera mano lo que pasa en la calle.

    Ojalá toda esta tortura se termine para ustedes lo antes posible pero lamentablemente llevo dos años diciéndolo y sigue sin verse la luz al final del túnel.

      • por desgracia es muy posible que sea así y hasta que no ocurra el choque con ese tren no se empezarán a arreglar las cosas pero ojalá nos equivoquemos por el bien de todos y sea posible una transición sin violencia ni muertos.

        • “…sin violencia ni muertos.”

          Recojo una frase que leí recientemente que decía que “En Venezuela el tiempo se cuenta en cadáveres”

          Pero ya saben, cuando alguien les diga que “esto es trabajo de hormiguita que tardará décadas en verle el queso a la tostada” ya saben que es es porque ese está con la nevera llena gracias a algún guiso con los rojos.

  6. At least Mugabe during his last bout of hyperinflation could print bills with many zeros! Chavistas are so utterly useless in running the country! They are certainly good at foisting misery on the people and holding on to power.

    I fantasize in the dissolution of the Venezuela’s Fuerzas Armandas de Ocupacion Bolivariana, a la Costa Rica, after this nightmare passes, and having a Gaddafi ending, replacing his gutter for el Guaire.

    Now I will go confess my evil thougths.

    • That would be cool. But the only thing what will bring about that change is an entire change in the Venezuelan “military culture”, as well as wholesale attrition from the military**. Otherwise, the military will take it upon themselves to “sustain their importance”, IOW, a military led coup d’état.

      Budget cuts under the guise of fiscal responsibility. No more tanks. No more planes. No more phony generals. The death must come from a thousand tiny cuts, not from a sudden decapitation.

      ———

      **The aunties used to say that if a man wanted a military career, he came to Venezuela. If a man wanted a medical/science career, he went to Colombia. I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment, but that’s what was said. I certainly don’t think of Venezuelan culture as being inordinately militaristic, nor the educational system catering to those lacking in mental acumen.

  7. Based on our daily cash intake average, we’re booked through the end of the month on exchanging cash for transfers. In so many words, those who make a transfer to our account today, may not get their money until the 1st of December. Of course, if a large influx of cash appears, we call them up and tell them to come in earlier than expected. We charge a very reasonable 15% for the service. And nobody bitches when you tell them they have to wait.

    The key to survival for the smaller businesses is dealing in FOOD because everybody’s gotta eat. The raw white corn we’re buying right now will be stored in drums to later be processed through a trilladora for cooking, grinding, and making the masa to build arepas. We sell raw corn, maiz trillado, and even the prepared masa when time permits. A kilo of maiz trillado produces 2 kilos of masa.

    My woman has decided to move her motorbike parts business to the city for her daughter to manage and will instead equip that space for cooking meals that she plans to sell 3 or 4 nights a week. She’s already got the guy lined up who will man it. He was a short-order cook in the city before his mother became ill and he moved back to this pueblo. We’re lucky in that we’ve got the space available for both the kitchen and the seating area out front for the clients. I wish I had her energy.

    • How do you treat customers paying in US currency? I only ask because we used to send cash to the relatives, and they were able to buy nearly anything that they needed… providing it wasn’t price controlled and scarce.

      I’m curious as to how commerce works for those who will deal in US currency, who are the interface between wholesale and retail.

      In other words, WHAT ULTIMATELY HAPPENS to the money I send?

      Thank you in advance for your forbearance.

      • El Guapo, in short, it’s very rare that anyone would pay with dollars here, not in this pueblo anyway. I buy dollars from time to time that walk through the door, but those are few and far between. If someone did walk in and wanted to spend dollars for goods or services, it would be a simple process of negotiating the value of the dollars.

        Having said that, any dollars you send to family in Venezuela are easily sold though the price likely won’t match that of DolarToday.

        Most of the christian Arabs here have accounts in the US (Miami especially) and they readily buy any dollars offered. They’ll accept dollars in cash or via transfer to their accounts in the States and then hand over the bolivares to the sender. They then buy products in Miami for shipment and resale in Venezuela, hence prices here are constantly climbing for their products because they’re paying open market prices for the dollars.

        Hope that helps.

        • “If someone did walk in and wanted to spend dollars for goods or services, it would be a simple process of negotiating the value of the dollars”

          Ah, Capitalism! The perfectly balanced system where a good or service is only worth what another is willing to offer for it. Works every time its used. (just like abstinence my Granny used to say!) And the “simple process” speaks volumes in regard to efficiency.

          Thank you again for the insight.

  8. I just asked my sister to go to the school were my little bro studies in order to pay the school fees. The school take cash, bank transfers from a very limited number of banks and also tambien hay punto. My sister does not have enough cash to pay the fees or to get a cab there to pay with a debit card, her bank account is not with a bank on the school list… so we cannot pay. We are just waiting for a friend go drive us there, but they are queuing for the next 5 hours at a petrol station because they do not have petrol in their car.

    In the meantime I’m am in London sending money to my cousin, who has a carniceria and offered us meat in our family WhatsApp so all the family is buying his “combos”, for 321.000 you get 1 Kilo de guisar, 1 kilo de molida, 1 Kilo de ganso, 1 Kilo de lagarto, 1 kilo de costilla, 1 kilo de bistec, 1 kilo de hueso and 1 kilo de callo.

  9. Chiamo, for reference, we’re paying 50,000 bs per kilo for meat here, good cuts such as lomito and solomo. Also paid the same for a brisket or sobre pecho as they call it here. I like some fat with my beef and that’s about the only cut that has it.

    We buy only from reputable butchers as there are a lot of horses being stolen, butchered, and sold as beef.

  10. These currency shortfall problems dont exist in Bolivia or Nicaragua which are avowed followers of the Chavez creed nor in Russia or China which purport to be the regimes friends and allies, nor do these countries face our hyperinflation nor the absence of essential staples and medicines and other supplies nor the deluge of crime which drowns us . Is Venezuelan socialism different from those which other countries regimes practice ?? It appears so , at the same time we suffer from one of the worlds highest levels of official corruption and are told that some of our top leaders are personally involved in drug trafficking on an incredible scale . Is this a question of ideology or something more rotten and deeper that goes to the root of our national character in allowing these things to happen , in allowing people like those that head our regime to attain absolute power over our lives …..!! Even Cuba with all its well advertised failures and vices doesnt quite catch up with those of our rulers…….Maybe we should ask Bolivia or Nicaragua for a trade , we send them the top honchos in our regime in exchange for them sending them their regime leaders to take charge of things over here… !!

    • I suspect that the reason that Bolivia and Nicaragua, though Chavista allies, haven’t suffered the economic collapse of their Venezuelan mentor is that being poor countries, they were inclined to have more prudent economic policies. Whereas in Venezuela, there is the fantasy that the oil spigot provides unlimited riches, so there would always be present or future revenue to fund spending.

      Another reason is that being poor, they couldn’t borrow tens of billions of dollars (smaller countries than Ven.) because international lenders couldn’t envisage their having the cash flow to pay their lenders back. But when you can project $100 billion a year in oil revenues- as it was at the peak for Venezuela- lenders could easily anticipate being paid back.

      I don’t know about Bolivia, but there is ample evidence that the upper level Sandinistas are corrupt. After the 1990 election loss, upper level Sandinistas deeded to themselves properties that had been confiscated from the Somozas and their hirelings- a.k.a. the piñata. For the most part, they gave themselves mansions. Contrast that with the corruption of the Chavistas, where a mansion is just the beginning of the thievery.

      Even Cuba with all its well advertised failures and vices doesnt quite catch up with those of our rulers.
      The Castro brothers, while appropriating for themselves their hearts’ desires, kept a tight rein on the nomenklatura.

  11. Reports from this side of the country is that it’s almost impossible to make a transfer right now. There are all sorts of conspiracy theories that the regime is trying to force cash onto the streets, but I’m not buying. The more likely explanation is that, like everything else in the country, the system is collapsing due to lack of investment.

  12. Take into account that people are buying cigarettes with debit cards… a gazillion number of electronic transactions per minute… Another problem, you need cash to pay for the parking lot use if you move by car, currently at 2.500 or 3.000 Bs. for each time you park (no time limit). You can get cash by…. cashing a check… usually a maximum of 10.000 Bs. I try not to park if I am not sure I will find an ATM or if it is a payday and the ques at the bank are very looong…

    • Most ATMs are empty since weeks ago in several cities in the country, people now have to make a brutal queue to withdraw cash through the booking office, as it was done before ATMs were introduced in Venezuela more than 20 years ago.

      And even so, in some banks people is able to withdraw only as much as 5.000 Bs per day.

  13. Can somebody confirm the rumor that the regime is planning to restrict even the transfers from outside because “they force the rise of the black dollar”?

    • Transfers from the outside? I haven’t kept up with the changes, and had heard at one time that locals would be allowed to keep accounts in dollars, but that sort of dropped off the radar screen. Can transfers in other currencies actually be sent to Venezuela these days?

      • Lots of people are doing it, my former work partner, who lives in Argentina since past year, exchanges part of his salary and sends the bolivars via transfer to her parents’ accounts, his wife does the same.

        There are also several pages and communities online that buy dollars and pay through bolivar transfers.

        It’s sort of the “remesas” thing that cuban exiles are used to do to maintain their families who are kept hostage in the island, but chavista stupidity is so great that they’re hellbent on creating a worse dystopia than the dumpster isle.

        • Ulamog, I don’t know anyone who’s the beneficiary of such transfers so I can’t comment on your original question other than to say that we can be sure that whatever practice is worse for the economy, the chavistas will embrace it and then blame someone else for its damage.

          • MR
            I am told that the packages are in the possession of your stepson’s friend and on their way to you.
            I sincerely hope that this makes a difference.
            On my next trip to Florida, I will see what I can do about getting pesticides and fungicides to you.

  14. I just sent money to Citi bank….the trsnsfer is made in dollars…..there are Chavistas with lots of Bs looking for dollars…if you know one the process is still simple…but at the current rate… you must take a discount from dollar today…5%……
    So far there has been no problem with electronic transaction.

Leave a Reply