Photo: Betech

“???? POLLOS A DOMICILIO ???? desde ya trabajando pueden hacer sus pedidos al WhatsApp para el dia de hoy tenemos pollos Frescos disponibles. Trabajamos a domicilio sin costo adicional y aceptamos transferencias.”

I get that WhatsApp message every day. As a matter of fact, my status tab is littered with people selling all sort of things — my list of contacts is comprised of mostly people my age, and everyday more of them are turning into merchants so they can go to work.

That’s not a figure of speech; we are at that point in hyperinflation where wages don’t cover the transportation expenses of going to work, and everyone is thinking of new ways of making ends meet. Necessity has given way to a new distribution mechanism, and it’s surprisingly efficient.

I buy from WhatsApp all the time: right now, I have people selling chicken, yucca, cash, pasta, sugar, rice, cookies and bread. The lady next door sells cheese from Upata (she sells milk too, we’re gonna try that one soon) and that, like most products, gets delivered to my door in less than five minutes. I already have their bank info, as long as the webpage is working, paying is very quick. No need to deal with faulty points of sales or, God forbid, lines.

Necessity has given way to a new distribution mechanism, and it’s surprisingly efficient.

The yucca truck does rounds at night. After neighbors make the orders and transfer the money, the truck shows up at the parking lot, with the scale and everything. You bring your own bag, the guy gives you yuccas for the amount you bought, a lady scratches names off a notebook and the truck disappears.

Having a business in Venezuela is very risky. You can get robbed by armed gangs and the military alike. Just last year, a group of soldiers and SUNDDE officials went over informal businesses all over the city, confiscating their merchandise and cash. It came to a boiling point in San Felix, where store owners fought back and recovered their stuff.

Soldiers have also harassed merchants by making them sell them cash at a price they set. Remember cash in Ciudad Guayana can be sold with a huge premium (being looted is another risk).

So yeah, it’s easy to see why many entrepreneurs aren’t compelled to set up their tarantines on the sidewalks, the old-fashioned way, testing their luck instead on the message-encrypted WhatsApp. Nobody outside the transaction needs to know. One of the most advanced communities is inside the brick buildings of Río Aro. Several condos share a closed parking lot, everyone knows each other and every other neighbor is selling something. One has eggs, other hygiene products. You have services too, English classes, hair treatments, something called foot spa…

So yeah, it’s easy to see why many entrepreneurs aren’t compelled to set up their tarantines on the sidewalks, the old-fashioned way, testing their luck instead on the message-encrypted WhatsApp.

Recently, I went to a party at Río Aro and we ran out of booze at two in the morning. I thought we’d call it a day since it’s tough to buy rum that late, but my pals at Río Aro got rum at normal price without leaving the condo.

And prices are very competitive. A girl at Río Aro says she saw a 40 people-long line for sugar at 200,000 bolivars. She skipped it and went to her neighbor selling it at 180,000 bolivars. This is common everywhere but in Caracas. It might be the years of destructive controls on the economy and the subsequent scarcity, harsher in the province than in the capital.

I suspect, though, that it’s a matter of time — the incentives are there. More convenient than stores, it’s faster, and more importantly, a way to make ends meet in hyperinflation. People find a way to solve the problems the government creates.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting, good idea, especially where you live, where scarcity is even more intense than in Caracas, where, as you say, I’m not aware of his type of transactions being done yet. Anyway, I’ve programmed my personal Robot to order WhatsApp purchases, when/if they become available.

  2. Don’t know how these WhatsApp “markets” work, as far as daily pricing, but the XR reported on Dolar Today has been going (up) like shit through a goose, and is now 362,831:1 … The imperialist CIA is back at it again!

    • 420 in DolarPro. March ended, most Ven. corps. had changed $ for Bs. corporate income tax payments by original Mar. 30 final date, even though date was lately extended to 5/30–$ appreciation simply reaching for its upward linear trend, having seasonally paused in March (yes, I know rumor of Chavismo buying DT, but, even if true, new DP is indicating the true market).

      • Thanks, Charlie.
        I don’t know how AirTM works – but if someone in the USA wants to send a USD “remittance” (otherwise known as money) to someone in Venezuela to spend in Bs, does this mean they exchange it at their posted rate if I go through them, including whatever commission they charge?

        • No idea how they do it, but you may be right. Another option; which I believe most people use, is to find someone who needs $’s and has an account in the US. Make a transfer to the US bank and they will deposit the Bs. in your designated account in Venezuela. Basically the same as you’ve described above, but at least you know the person you’re dealing with and this gives you some peace of mind.

        • Hey had a really interesting conversation with this today with a gringo in kleptozuela as well as another who has a friend working in the mines in estado bolivar. The remittance economy here is huge and DT has been stagnant, even after DICOM released their 4th taza. DT finally jumped today…YET…Leading me to believe DT is compromised. In the mines, they purely work for cash and that is another economy onto itself. But it is fueling the shortages of cash. But big time generals are involved in this and this is the only way the government is paying debt and in estado bolivar it is a scorched earth policy as far as debt payment and corruptido goes (fuck the left and all their talk about the environment, these cunts mine worse than “savage capitalists”). Also remember, that there are lots of enchufados and high brass making millions of dollars off of this…but they have to pay the miners in cash. The miners earn good money in cash and they can earn money off of the cash. ONLY IN VENEZUELA.

          As far as the other sites, I belong to a group of restaurant owners and we are all talking about this. DT does not hold a monopoly anymore and now everybody is shopping around. Some say that DT cannot adjust to inflation or is just flat out compromised. d

  3. “A girl at Río Aro says she saw a 40 people-long line for sugar at 200,000 bolivars. She skipped it and went to her neighbor selling it at 180,000 bolivars. This is common everywhere but in Caracas”

    No, this is common here in Caracas too. I don´t know why you assume otherwise. thats how i buy coffee.

    People everywhere are glad to skip a queue and be able to pay by transfer instead of shitty debit card spots or god forbid, cash.

    But even paying by transfer can be hard, Provincial for example have had issues for weeks with the online banking, you can only access if you are lucky or try several times

  4. Welcome to the 5th world:

    “40 people-long line for sugar at 200,000 bolivars”.
    “Fuck that. 200,000 al lado”
    “Quitasela de las manos”
    “The yucca truck does rounds at night.”
    “Roger that”
    “A veces trae cambur o lechosa”
    “Eso!” “Tengo el papel toale barato”
    “Fino. Te aviso”

  5. There were media reports saying that the Bolivar was overvalued on Dolartoday by 30%.
    It appears that they have made the correction.
    I normally use Dolartoday as a reference. I think this is the first time that they were so much different than other sites.
    It did seem like the exchange had become stagnant. Is this because the Bolivar notes are getting more and more scarce?

    • John,
      I’ve asked that same question in the past, i.e., was the black market exchange rate based on cash or electronic, because obviously cash has been “worth” nearly double due to its scarcity. I’ve never gotten a clear answer, and I’m not travelling to Cúcuta to find out!

      DT has definitely taken off. NET has explained that the rate is held down this time of year because companies trade dollars for Bs to pay taxes (more demand for Bs), but this does not make sense to me, since you would think that would be baked into the market, if predictable. Plus, what private companies are left in Venny that do business in dollars and pay taxes??

      • “baked into the market”… you sound like the Chicago boys who believe “the market is always right”! If you’ve ever operated in a market as opaque as the Vz foreign exchange, you often see that it is difficult to obtain complete information. If in huge, liquid markets there are problems like the 2012 Libor scandal, in the case of Vz exchange it is much more so!

      • ” Plus, what private companies are left in Venny that do business in dollars and pay taxes??”

        The ones that belong to the enchufados like luis zepppfllflfppdlt and others.

  6. I worked thru a couple intermediaries to send some cash last week. When I started DT was at 235,000 and accepted offer of 220,000. By the time it was finished DT was at 305,000.. not enough to help my friend with what was needed. Now at 360,000 he’s desperate again. Can’t help for trying.. just sad and sickened.

    • This happened to me too, apparently there is a new standard called DolarPro

      Dolartoday seems to have been replaced. Now you need to check Dolarpro or Airtm.

      No one told me tough, i sold some dolars way too short too a couple of days ago and apparently Dolarpro is close to 450k right now so everything rose in price and my money already went away.

      I don´t know when did people passed that memo, but thats how it is, chaotic , manipulated and subjective as fuck. The government starves people with marxim and then you are left with this ancap libertarianistic nightmare bullshit that the venezuelan black market is and you have to rely on it for almost everything.

    • Vero
      Have the people you are helping ask the exchange person if they have a US account that you can deposit into and what percentage they charge for the exchange. Many people in the black market have Dollar accounts to facilitate the transactions.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here