A marathon session with our company’s annual report last week has the “YES, we’ve seen progress, BUT the following needs to happen” attitude oozing from my pores. In that vein, here’s part three in my three-part “yes, but” series on Beijing.
YES, not so long ago, you couldn’t get non-instant coffee, disposable razors, Froot Loops or frozen French fries in Beijing. Now, we have an ever-growing range of imported food and drink at April Gourmet and Jenny Lou’s, BUT why, when I’m throwing down some major coin on these goods, is it so hard to get an official local receipt?
“We don’t have any today, come back tomorrow,” comes the tired refrain. What happens when you do return the next day? Sometimes, you get the same old excuse. (At least the taxi driver taking you there has a receipt.)
My worst experiences have been at the April Gourmet shop near Gongti North Road, where this sorry line has been rolled out more than a half-dozen times or, in other words, every time I’ve asked for a receipt. If these places can keep pita bread, Corn Flakes and green olives stocked, surely they can have a receipt booklet, so the customers don’t have to shoulder the store’s tax obligations.
I stood my ground at that April Gourmet last year. After hearing the “no receipt” line yet again, I told the cashier that either: a) he gave me a receipt; or b) I was going to complain to the authorities. The result was a 15-minute exchange during which he proclaimed everything from embarrassment at lacking receipts to haughty outrage at my stance. My approach was simpler: I stuck to outrage.
The highlight? When he pulled out a fapiao booklet and waved it in front of the growing line of customers. He flipped through the pages with flamboyant gesticulations to show how every receipt had been used, how he was an innocent little lamb at the hands of an overly demanding customer. (If filmed, this scene might have won China’s first Academy Award for best actor.)
Finally, a woman stepped out of line, announced she was a lawyer and negotiated a truce. April Gourmet’s position: I could come back the next day for a receipt. My position: That was fine, but the store should compensate me for the additional time and taxi fares this would incur. The resolution: April Gourmet agreed to (and did) deliver the receipt to my office. Yes, it took this much trouble to get a paper to which I am legally entitled from an establishment that gives me absolutely no problems while I’m handing over cash for their goods.
April Gourmet is by no means alone. Jenny Lou’s on Sanlitun North is also notorious for its dearth of fapiao. Again, the shelves are fully stocked with everything from soup to nuts, but when it comes to providing a receipt – oh, gosh – they always seem to be out! And again, standing your ground brings results. I find that hanging around near the cash register – complaining and refusing to leave – can inspire the staff to magically find that, indeed, they do have one last fapiao on hand…