Photo via Clarín

While the Argentine economy is still waiting to get the jump start government officials claim is coming, consumers have grown more cautious in how they are spending their money. Purchasing power is down, and working and middle-class consumers have resorted to different strategies to save money. One of the sectors where this trend can be seen the most clearly is right in the supermarket, as food goods tend to be at the top of the list every time the Indec statistics agency publishes the different factors that contributed to the previous month’s inflation rate.

Different studies and surveys showed that, in order to face mounting price tags, people have started to buy more non-brand name products and go to wholesalers. That’s why, when Banco Provincia announced it would reimburse 50 percent of supermarket purchases of up to AR$ 3,000 their customers made with their debit and credit cards on the second Wednesday of every month, it was almost a given that more people would become members of the bank for this sole purpose and flood supermarkets.

When the perk was implemented for the first time last month, the numbers were astonishing: supermarkets increased their sales by between eight and 10 times. But it seems like the word hadn’t spread completely, as the second edition took place yesterday and the numbers were even larger: according to Clarín, a great number of people across the Buenos Aires Province and Buenos Aires City people lined up outside the stores for more than six hours to get in. Several stores extended their usual hours and yesterday night there were still people lining up, waiting their turn to fill up the cart.

The objective explicitly cited by the bank for this new measure is to encourage the use of debit cards. Customers tend to take out cash which they then spend in shops, and Banco Provincia’s aim is to increase the use of cards for these payments. But for people, it was mostly about the possibility of saving AR$ 1,500 on food every month. And that could be seen yesterday.

“As we expected many people, we decided to open at 6 AM instead of 8. And at that time we already had 300 customers waiting to get in. Shortly after, the store’s 1,200 carts were being used,” authorities of a wholesale in the Province told Clarín. The phenomenon was seen especially in the City of La Plata, where an important number of its inhabitants are public employees whose salaries are deposited in accounts of the bank providing this benefit.

We can expect the frenzy for the benefit to continue. So, for those who are planning to venture into a supermarket next month, you can start getting ready to face the mayhem by learning from the pros: Americans shopping on Black Friday.