Monday, November 10, 2008
Help Me Howard: My Cuban Store
If you have ever met a Cuban, you know they love to talk about how things used to be in their country, and they love to wear and make things that were popular in their country. One refugee even named is company after Cuba, and boy is it costing him, but is it legal to block a store from doing business because it has Cuba in its name? Let us turn to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- As a Cuban refuge, Alexis Martin has fond memories of the Guayabera shirts in his old country and decided to open up a business and to start selling them.
Alexis Martin: "We started small from our house. We move up to a warehouse, and we are selling Guayaberas all over the world right now."
All over the world through his Internet store, and to sell his Cuban inspired products, Alexis needed a catchy Internet name.
Alexis Martin: "The name just came up to me. I was thinking I was going to sell Cuban stuff, so I just call it mycubanstore.com."
But Alexis' business took a hit when an Internet giant took a swipe at him.
Alexis Martin: "All of a sudden one day, PayPal simply closed my account."
Their reason for shutting My Cuban Store out of PayPal, they said, Alexis was violating the embargo that blocks companies from doing business with Cuba.
Alexis Martin: "She told me one of the reasons is that we don't do trade with Cuba, and I told her, 'Well, you know, I don't do trade with Cuba either.'"
Alexis was told he had to deal with PayPal's compliance department. He tried, but it was like trying to convince Castro to become a capitalist.
Alexis Martin: "I explained that we do not sell merchandise made in Cuba. We are Cuban immigrants, and we do sell Cuban shirts, Cuban-style shirts. They are made in Mexico, they are made in China."
And in the Internet era, being shut out by PayPal is painful because that's the way many people pay for items on the Internet.
Alexis Martin: "PayPal will increase, I'm assuming, will increase my sales about 15 percent."
Losing 15 percent of your business is rough in good times, painful in hard times.
Alexis Martin: "It is silly, and it's something stupid. I think it is somebody that failed to do what they were supposed to do."
But PayPal is a private company, so can they block Alexis from doing business with them because of his Cuban name, senor Finkelstein?
Howard Finkelstein: "What PayPal is doing is not discrimination. It's not against the law, and in fact it's what the U.S. government requires businesses to do. My Cuban Store is not trading with Cuba of course, but they have to prove that to PayPal that they are not violating the law."
When I spoke to a PayPal spokesman, she told me they had to follow the compliance regulations set by OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, that forbids trading embargoed goods. She then said if Alexis would send his supplier info proving where his goods come from, his problem would be taken care of.
Alexis supplied it, he is now on PayPal and focusing of his growing business and some new products to ship all over the world.
Alexis Martin: "Another thing we do have is kids shirts, very quick, very cute Guayabera shirts. Look at this this is the Hawaiinbera shirt, it is a Guayabera shirt with a Hawaiian twist."
Patrick Fraser: "Well, Alexis told me having PayPal for just a few days has brought in alot of new orders, and, by the way, even if PayPal had refused to allow him to use their service after he showed he was not trading with Cuba there would not have been anything we could have done. They can block anyone from using their company unless it's based on race, religion, age, sex and it was not."
Stored up problems you want to shelve? Trade your troubles with us. We're on the Internet, on the phone and believe it or not, you don't have to pay us to be your pal.
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