Venezuela’s consumer goods shortage now includes condoms

These won’t go far.
These won’t go far.
Image: Reuters/Jorge Silva
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Venezuelan shoppers have grown accustomed to waiting in huge lines to buy even the most fundamental items, from milk to car batteries to laundry soap. They are encountering shortages of McDonald’s fries. Now Bloomberg has spotted importers charging $755 for a 40-count box of condoms on an auction website (though you could probably save some money if you have access to the country’s black market exchange rate).

It’s just the latest item to be touched by Venezuela’s out-of-control inflation. In December, the country’s central bank reported that inflation in the previous 12 months had topped 63% as the economy officially slid into recession. (That the central bank made any announcement at all was something of a shock; like a lot of other things in Venezuela, data points on the country’s economy have been hard to come by.)

Kimberly-Clark, which makes consumer products like Cottonnelle toilet tissue and Huggies diapers, indicated in October how hard it was to run a business in a country without ready access to US dollars, which makes it very difficult to import raw materials. Tom Falk, Kimberly-Clark’s CEO, was seemingly exasperated by the situation: ”[A]t the end of the day, we’re trying to make sure we’re serving the moms in Venezuela that need diapers and need bathroom tissue every day to take care of their families,” he said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call.

There’s no sign that the pressure is letting up, not for commercial enterprises—and certainly not for consumers. From Bloomberg’s report:

“The country is so messed up that now we have to wait in line even to have sex,” lamented Jonatan Montilla, a 31-year-old advertising company art director. “This is a new low.”