Our Haidilao table had 5 members. One Australian born Chinese, a South African Taiwanese-Chinese, two White Australians and a Chinese mainland-er.
Out of no where the waiter came up to me and said that the two ”guests from afar” pointing at the two White Australians can order free food. It wasn’t much, just some free noodles and snacks.
I did not think much of it at the time and just let it go.
Due to the great service provided at the restaurant chain and the behest of the two White guy we had with us we went back for another round of Haidilao a few days later. This was another franchised restaurant in Xiamen where we were holidaying.
We had the same 5 members. One Australian born Chinese, a South African Taiwanese-Chinese, two White Australians and a mainland-er. We were all speaking English, as the two White guys couldn’t converse in Chinese.
Once again, without prompt, a waiter came up and offered free food and pointed to the two White Australians. They even came with goody bags loaded with gifts this time to welcome these ”faraway guests”, as they said.
I asked the waiter, how come that me and the other two people are not eligible for any free gifts and she said, that’s because they are foreigners and we were not.
I told them, that I was born overseas and legally a foreigner as much as they are. They replied with that, that two White people were real foreigners.
At this time, I did not care for the 50 yuan or so worth of free gifts, that they were lavishing onto the foreigners but more for the fact of equality. Why are only White foreigners eligible for such ”welcomes”. I asked for the manager.
The store manager came and explained that all foreigners were eligible, be they Japanese, Korean or White. I asked what about me, and she said, you would be if we thought you were a foreigner.
This perplexed me, as I had dined with my South African mate before in the same restaurant, just me and him. We only spoke English and we dressed very different from the locals. We were even asked where we were from and answered. There were never any free gifts offered. Not to mentions the dozens of times I have gone to Haidilao restaurants in different cities with Autralian born Chinese friends or American born Chinese friends, where we have never received any such gifts or ‘welcomes’.
I decided to file a complaint with the store manager, and asked her to escalate the issue to the upper echelons. The store manager tried to resist and offered me and the other Asian customers at the table some goodie bags. We all rejected them and said, we prefer to be treated equally but not out of coercion.
I told her, that it would probably be better if they scrapped the whole welcoming altogether as it obviously had racial undertones. She denied this and even said that it wasn’t racist that they think most foreigners are White. They were merely ”welcoming” people who had traveled.
I filed the complaint after rejecting all the bribes of free food and goodie bags they were now lavishing on us. She added me WeChat and said that she will try her utmost, in the most unconvincing manner, to fight for equality and thanked me for my ”western values” and rolled her eyes and left.
A week later, after I had already gone back to Autralia, she contacted us on WeChat and left this message.
(Name) Sorry to disturb you. We would like to talk about the feedback you have filed. We, Haidilao, have always strove to treat all our customers like family. In regards to the issue of providing gifts to foreign customers, we are not 崇洋媚外, (a Chinese idiom denoting foreign worship). This is merely a way to express our gratitude and to welcome customers, and to exhibit China’s hospitable traditions. This is not to say that Haidilao only gifts to foreigners, we gift to everyone, as long as they are customers. This is a way to thank those for choosing Haidilao, while also wishing fortune to them as the same time. We hope you can understand our actions. In the future, we will pay more attention to this issue and will send this complaint to the corporation. Thank you for your feedback. We hope you will continue to support Haidilao, we wish you good luck and success.
It seems as though Yang, the store manager, we spoke to have yet to actually send the complaint to their corporate offices at the time of this WeChat message. They once again denied that they only gift to White foreigners, despite my anecdotal experience of never receiving such treatment in the past unless with White foreigners.
What do you all think?