John Lewis, the department store have a marketing slogan, “Never Knowingly undersold”. It means, I am authoritatively informed by one of their young astute executives , that if a customer finds an item/service stocked by John Lewis at a cheaper price somewhere else, John Lewis will check and match the price.
This is common practise in the Nigeria, though not as sleek. Years ago, I remember going to Idumota market in Lagos for car spare parts. I would go from store to store trying to get the best price. The traders were quite fit guys from the east of Nigeria, with Roman Catholic names like Ignatius, Hygenus, or Calistus. If it was a hot day, they had their shirts unbuttoned, showing off hard muscled abs glistering with sweat from the heat. (For some reason the car seem to breakdown in the heat and I would need some parts; so my visits were well timed and a necessity in more ways than one). In an effort to get my custom they would accost me, saying “Fine man, how now? You no want buy from me today? I go give you good price’’, while holding my hand and guiding me into their store. They were very tactile (you can’t get that in John Lewis – Health and Safety and all that). To the innocent it looked like normal brotherly banter; to the not so innocent, I was getting my fix!!!……..I digress
Fast forward to now. I was in Cuba recently and I saw a bit of the bargaining thing happening in the most unlikely place. It was on the gay beach, Mi Cayito, which is about 20km outside Havana. The temperature was 28˚ C. The beach was not overtly busy, but there was a good turnout of people. I hired a beach chair and umbrella and settled myself beside a couple of guys. I will name them Lukas and Torsten – they were German. They both looked like they were in their mid to late 40s and both of average build.
As I lay on the beach chair soaking up the sun, I noticed that Cubaneros, (local Cuban guys) would arrive singly or in groups of two or three and survey the beach for their prey. These were hustlers – Jineteros. They would stand in vantage position for all to view them and in the form of a manly strip tease, gradually undress down to their underwear – they did not generally wear swimming trunks. Depending on how well they had played the game, they could be wearing nicer underwear or actual swimming trunks. You can tell which ones had done well because they would be wearing brightly coloured “XTG” “ES” or “Diesel” underwear. They were usually dark or light skinned young men age ranging from 16 – 35, athletic-muscular build, generally good looking and very masculine.
After undressing they would then flex whatever muscle they have and walk from one end of the beach to the other trying to catch a tourist’s eye. As I look like a Cubanero, no local wanted to catch eye – I was ignored. I guess I was the competition; heck I have been called a Jinetero before, but that was in a previous life and for another blog post.
Once contact is established and this could be by a returned wink or smile or direct “Hola” by the tourist, the Jinetero moves in. He might ask for a cigarette or even some water and would ask “Where are you from?” (The “from” sounds like a nasally grunt). Once pleasantries have been done away with negotiations would begin.
Lukas and Torsten were on the lookout for some action and a few Jineteros homed in on them. I overheard the negotiations going on and gathered that the price for a basic shag was 25 – 30 CUC ($25-30)per person. I could not hear how much extras cost. But Lukas and Torsten were shrewd guys – they would feel the guys up , running their hands over their chest and abs and sometimes grabbing their cock. They would also tell one Jinetero that another one offered them a lower price, thus trying to drive down the going rate.
That really surprised me; I did not know you could negotiate rates with escorts. But on reflection, they might be preparing the Jineteros for a free market economy when Cuba opens up officially to capitalism. (Or be preparing them for when Angela Merkel offers to bail them out – spare a thought for Greece)
At one point, the Jineteros had to show they had other differentiating qualities – they sang!!! I thought I was watching Cuban Idol, with Lukas and Torsten as the judges. What that had to do with shagging, I am yet to figure out.
As the sun began to set, there was an increased frenzy of activity by the jineteros to close deals. Even I got some attention. A couple of Jineteros approached me and started getting friendly, when they realized I was a tourist. I politely declined – I was not having any of that.
Lukas and Torsten struck a deal and went off with two Jineteros. I can only imagine the hustlers, in a depressed market environment (artificially caused by the Lukas and Torsten) decided to combine their resources and complement each other in providing whatever services requested by the aforementioned tourists. Or simply put, Lukas and Torsten got a BOGOF – Bang One Get One Free deal.
Hmmm, I wonder if that would work here in London