Professional Stand-In-Liners, a Venezuelan Profession

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/22/2015 01:30:00 AM
"Everyday I dream dipeys don't run out once I finally get into the store."
To be sure, professional waiters-in-line are not unique in Latin America. In countries like Brazil where red tape was (still is?) prevalent and people had to stand in line at government offices to obtain various licenses and permits, there already were folks offering to wait for you all day long. There is a term for them; it's on the tip of my tongue but I forget at the moment. (Do e-mail me if you can provide the correct Portugese term.) Indeed, it is not only a "third world" phenomenon as those buying Apple iPhone 6s have relied on those offering to stand in the queues outside Apple stores. (Such meaningful lives these people lead, living for the release of new Apple phones.)

The recent Zimbabwe-fication of Venezuela, however, is setting new standards in this, ah, line of depravity. In the absence of anything better to do--abundant workers and no real jobs to be found can do this to you--there are now legions of Venezuelans who line up without anyone asking them to. Their logic is that desperate folks will come along later in the day who will pay relatively great sums in today's inflation-hit Venezuela for their places in line to buy necessities of life which are in short supply:
There's a booming new profession in Venezuela: standing in line. The job usually involves starting before dawn, enduring long hours under the Caribbean sun, dodging or bribing police, and then selling a coveted spot at the front of huge shopping lines.

As Venezuela's ailing economy spawns unprecedented shortages of basic goods, panic-buying and a rush to snap up subsidized food, demand is high and the pay is reasonable. "It's boring but not a bad way to make a living," said a 23-year-old man, who only gave his first name Luis, as he held a spot near the front of a line of hundreds outside a state supermarket just after sunrise in Caracas. 

Unemployed until he tried his new career late last year, Luis earns about 600 bolivars, a whopping $95 at Venezuela's lowest official exchange rate but just $3.50 on the black market, for a spot. He can do that two or three times a day. "There's a lady coming at 8 a.m for this place. She's paid in advance," Luis said, patting his wallet despite nods of disapproval around him. "I'll have a break and then maybe start again. I chat to people to pass the time, the conversation can be fun. If it's not, I play on my phone."
Apparently, there is another variation on this practice. Another group of these folks eager to queue all day long as long as it earns them some money are more like professional grocery shoppers who wait in line to buy your orders:
Krisbell Villarroel, a 22-year-old single mother of two small children in Caracas, makes a living by queuing up to buy things she then sells to clients who pay her for the time she spends standing in line. “Every day, I have to get up at two in the morning and call my friends to find out where things are for sale or what is for sale,” Villarroel told AFP.

“That is how I spend my day. I get out of the first line at 10am and then perhaps go to another to see what they are selling,” she explained. “In one store, I might get milk, sugar or coffee, but in another – flour, rice, diapers or shampoo.” Villarroel said her customers are families who do not have the time or really the need to wait in line – business people who have their own lives and money to pay someone to do this kind of thing.
Once more, there is an analogue Stateside since there are those who purchase groceries for seniors who are not active enough to do the grocery shopping themselves. Still, that young, active Venezuelans in the prime of their years are literally being paid to waste time suggests the brokenness of their socialized economy. A lot of this nonsense could be subsidized when oil was at $120 a barrel; nowadays, what you see is what you get.