Colombian efficiencies

La Hamburgueseria – one of the 2
leaders in the burger market
Having my self-indulgent moment (or rather, self-destructive tendency) the other day, I craved for a juicy, meaty, fulfilling and ‘soul-warming’ burger. Instead of El Corral, the most popular burger brand in Colombia (it has a myriad of retail brands including ‘gourmet’, an American-style diner, fast-food and gas station points of sales), I went for the second competitor, La Hamburgueseria.
It was 3pm, so the peak-time lunch hour crowd has already dispersed. I was the only customer for them. I ordered a ‘Mexican’ style burger (that means it included nachos chippies and guacamole), received a vibrating device, and went to find my seat. The device finally made its moves 10 minutes later. I went to get my burger and was disappointed to find that it was unusually boring-looking. I clipped open the top bun, and discovered that it looked like any basic burger with just onion, tomato and gherkin! I asked if this was ‘Mexicana’, and they admitted that it wasn’t. So I had to go back to my seat to wait for the right burger. It was another 5 minutes. I was the only customer and it took 15 minutes to get my burger at a ‘fast food’ vender. Perhaps that was ‘fast’ in Colombian standard. Now, imagine in the major cities in China where there would be 40 people queuing at any one point in time at McDonald’s. How is Colombia going to cope with that?! The only consolation I had was perhaps that my burger was freshly-made.
Delays perpetually occur across the retail sector, including taking 5 minutes to buy 1 croissant at a bakery where only 2 people were in front of me (how complicated could that operation be?) and a 10-minute payment procedure at an outdoor shop.. You constantly find yourself queuing to give them your money. The response speed would drive even the most patient person to insanity.
The delays aren’t caused by any shortage of labour at all! On the contrary there are a lot of sales people on the floor, but you always find them chatting among themselves. Productivity seems suppressed in a labour scene that resembles that of a communist country where there are more people than necessary to do a job, such as having 1 person behind each till at the supermarkets to help you bag your things. You wonder how much cheaper the groceries would be if they got rid of all these helpers behind the tills, which could be 4 people in a small supermarket or 10 in a big one..
And to slow things down even more, my ID number is always requested for each sales transaction (even if it was in cash), perhaps because I am foreign-looking. You wonder for what an ID number was required. What crimes they want to prevent when the customers are paying in cash in full for their petty purchases like a pair of socks or a book!?


  1. […] – Grupo system!- so the supermarket sector in Colombia is really a monopoly in disguise). Exito‘s markups are super high because of the overhead that it is bearing, with lots of extra pairs […]

  2. so they think u’re member of the triads…how cool is that?

    1. right. yes that seems to be the case!

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