A duty-free shop in London Heathrow Airport allegedly discriminated against Chinese customers in its pricing policy, triggering outrage among Chinese internet users.
In response to allegations that its staff were raising the minimum purchase price for Chinese travelers to receive VIP discount vouchers, the World Duty Free shop at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 posted a carefully worded notice on its official Sina Weibo social media post acknowledging inconsistent pricing, but not discrimination.
"We have investigated this straight away and have identified an issue which we have corrected with immediate effect," the post read. "The programme applies regardless of the destination customers are flying to."
A cashier refused to give a Chinese customer a VIP voucher saying that she needed to spend 1,000 pounds ($1,400) to receive the 20 percent discount "because she's Chinese," internet user Renjiannaipao posted on Sina Weibo on Sunday.
Renjiannaipao said he/she worked as a part-time salesperson at the shop and witnessed discrimination against Chinese travelers ahead of the Spring Festival shopping boom.
"Shoppers of other nationalities could obtain the VIP voucher after forking out no more than 250 pounds… while Chinese customers needed to spend 1,000 pounds to receive a 20 percent discount the next time they shop at the store," Renjiannaipao said.
The policy was that every passenger enjoys a 20 percent discount after spending 500 pounds, but that policy did not remain the same every day, an employee at the World Duty Free shop at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4 told the Global Times reporter on Monday.
The policy changed to other amounts depending on the date of the customer's flight, the staff member said. He refused to give his name.
Renjiannaipao's post was shared more than 82,000 times on Sina Weibo as net users cited other incidents of alleged discrimination and slammed the shop for exploiting Chinese.
"Thanks for Renjiannaipao's reminder. I shopped at the airport several times and they never told me about the voucher. No shop should trick customers, let alone discriminate against Chinese customers," net user nuobeiwodemao posted.
The official Heathrow Airport Twitter account filled with angry comments over the weekend. In response, the official account posted, "We sincerely apologize for issues surrounding a voucher scheme provided by one of our partners.
"Our partner has now identified and corrected the issue with immediate effect. This event offers the same benefits for travelers to all destinations."
The duty-free case proves racism festers deeply in the psyche of some British people and should be condemned, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday.
On the other hand, Chinese tourists should adjust their irrational consumption idea of spending extravagantly when buying products abroad, he said. Such irrationality would be exploited by others and cause unreasonable reactions from locals as well, Cui said.
"If the company thinks Chinese people are gullible, then we believe that it will be boycotted and have no chance to earn even one penny from us," a Chinese student at King's College, London told the Global Times. He refused to give his name.