Dual Pricing in Hong Kong
This story in Oriental Daily is about a Hong Kong restaurant that rips off non-locals through a dual pricing system. The restaurant is a downscale restaurant in a side street in the tourist-rich Tsimshatsui area. As such, it caters to both locals as well as tourists.
When a customer enters the restaurant, he/she can see the names of the dishes written in large Chinese letters on the wall, without any price information. Underneath the glass table top is a menu written in Chinese, with the price being listed in the complicated written form. When numbers are written in Chinese, such as for writing out the amount on a cheque, it is common to use more complicated written form. For example, the normal form for "one" is just a horizontal stroke, "two" is normally written as two parallel horizontal strokes and "three" is normally written as three parallel horizontal strokes. This makes it very easy to add two horizontal stroks to turn a "one" into "three". The complicated form protects against forgery. However, someone from mainland China would not be familiar with the system of the more complicated written form.
zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten
When a tourist-looking person walks into this restaurant, the waiter will present a menu specifically designed for tourists. The menu items are illustrated with color photos, and the descriptions are provided in Chinese, English and Japanese. But there is a significant difference in prices.
For example, a beef soft noodle dish is listed at HK$30 on the menu under the glass top, but the tourist menu says HK$45 for a 50% premium. An Oriental Daily reporter went in and ordered a bowl of shrimp wonton soup using putonghua, and was charged HK$28 instead of the HK$18 for the locals.
When asked about the price differential, the restaurant manager explained that the difference was due to portion size. Thus, the 50% premium was for larger portions, although the subject of portion size is not explained anywhere.
Is this fair? Perhaps or perhaps not. I am not shocked because I take this for granted at Chinese restaurants in the United States. Here is the basic fact: a Chinese person is not expected to pay the sales tax when placing an order in a Chinese restaurant in the United States. One would be offended if the sales tax is added; in fact, one should probably inquire if there has been an error ...