The Dangers of Shopping in Venezuela

Slice of life

They all had their hands on their guns. There were four of them blocking the door. There was a crowd of people looking on. Then some other men wheeled out a cart. The cart was full of…

Laundry detergent!

The people with the guns were the police there to “ensure order”. I live and teach in venezeula where we haven’t seen laundry detergent in stores for about a month or two. People were shouting, pushing, and fighting to get closer to the cart of laundry detergent. I was never in any real danger (unless it was danger of getting elbowed or stepped on because both happened to me at that time).

I left them to fight and looked toward my goal. The cash register. I had been waiting in line for 50 minutes at this point and I didn’t want to leave it to push and shove with others to get some laundry detergent. I would just hope to find it at the black market for double or triple the cost.

The store was extra crazy because they also had toilet paper that day! I hadn’t seen toilet paper in the store since before Christmas! They had a limit of only one container of toilet paper or I would have bought one for friends. The stores insure that each person only gets one by checking ids.

I was able to get in front of another lady because she was waiting for her mom to show up with her ID so they could get two containers of toilet paper.

Happily after most people pushed and shoved to get their laundry detergent the store brought out another cart of detergent (probably to “thank” the police). A man saw that I was waiting silently next to my cart and that I had let his wife put her stuff in my basket so they could get some detergent. He told the police that I wanted a bag, I waved at the officer, and they passed me the bag without getting out of line.

Yes, it took me more than an hour of waiting in line to buy less than $20 USD worth of stuff, but I left happy.

It was a fruitful shopping day in Venezuela and these kinds of days are rare.

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6 responses to “The Dangers of Shopping in Venezuela

  1. When you were describing the guns for protection, I was there, remembering that around the banks and I could totally see all of what was happening. But I didn’t know that goods were coming in to the country so slowly like that. What’s going on?

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    • As far as I can tell, people in charge here have squandered much of the oil money, so the country doesn’t have money to pay foreign companies. Then the local businesses don’t have access to enough dollars so they can’t import the items that they need to sell. And finally, the local producers can’t sell their products because they are forced to sell them at a loss. I’m probably missing something, but these are the reasons that I hear most often!

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  2. “I hadn’t seen toilet paper in the store since before Christmas!” — Say what?!
    Amanda I think you mentioned the existence of a black market for money exchange in Venezuela before, but you should do a post about black market for toilet paper and detergent. (Sorry if you did and I missed it!) I just can’t imagine why it is like that!

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