Discounts for USD purchases is a “hidden” business practice in Zimbabwe. Late last year we reported on TM Pick n Pay’s 50% discount for groceries bought with US$ and it looks like they aren’t the only ones doing this. We were out on the town this week and popped into TV Sales and we noticed a cash discount sign around the shop and asked the store staff out of curiosity, and we were told there is an 18.5% discount for goods bought in USD.
It looks like whatever SI 127 of 2021 tried to achieve went out of the window, mainly USD discounts to try and entice customers to pay in the elusive United States Dollar. The RBZ was quite forceful about SI 127 until it realised that Zimbabwean businesses weren’t having it and they reduced the scope of the snap legislation to just entities trading on the auction.
The RBZ’s lack of foresight and not “reading the room” aside, these discounts aren’t really for everyone because…
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Most stores use the black market rate…
There is a kaleidoscope of rates out there from shop to shop. This has forced Zimbos to get their forex from black market traders because, if they find a good one, it beats competing with whatever the store is offering. Secondly, the discount might not actually be a discount if you have the time to do the maths. Some stores are bold enough (or are mandated) to display both USD and ZWL$ prices and this makes things easier. However others are don’t, so this means you’ll have to work out what that store is charging based on USD prices from other stores or those you have researched.
Whatever the case may be, the discounted USD price might be the right price for the product at the auction rate or just a few dollars shy of the parallel market rate. However, the only benefit, if you are thinking about buying products at the foreign currency discount, is that it will save you some money in transaction fees especially if you are using EcoCash.
That being said these offers exclude a large proportion of Zimbabweans…
Not everyone earns in USD so the discounts are exclusionary
If you earn in USD then you have far more options than individuals who earn in local currency. It’s only a select group that can see the value in shaving off the transaction fees and handover their USD. On the other end of the spectrum are civil servants, for example, who can’t afford this offer because whenever they get foreign currency it is better to hold on to it for other things like school fees and savings than spend it at Pick n Pay.
Moreover, if they wanted to participate in these USD discounts they would have to go and trade local currency for United States Dollars at the plethora of street rates out there and this is just a loss because, on top of giving away a currency that better holds value than the ZWL$, they will incur charges they were already going to experience had they just used local currency.
Informal traders are another demographic that might not be participating in these USD discounts because why would they use that which can get them their stock in a supermarket?
Whatever marginal advantages these discounts present are unfortunately only limited to those with access to USD. For those without, it’s a matter of contending with the local currency…