Yes, but I want a fapiao with my fries

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…

12 thoughts on “Yes, but I want a fapiao with my fries”

  1. Ah… The great paper chase. Fapiao, Fapiao, where art thou?

    It is easier just to buy them at 10 jiao per 100RMB worth. But you didn’t hear that from me.

  2. @ Mark… mmm, coffee…

    @ John: My ears are sealed. But seriously, I tend to be a habitual shopper – if the prices and service are okay, I tend to stick with a place. In this case, I feel ZERO loyalty to April or Jenny. Quite the opposite, I’m very happy that more alternatives are opening – I’ll soon be checking out that new department store in Guomao…

  3. I’m curious. Why would you need an official receipt for grocery shopping? Glad I wasn’t behind you in that queue as there would be a whole lot of tutting and exaggerated exhales from me.

  4. Good question: Some people’s contracts allow them to use food, rent, and other expenses to reduce taxable income. Say you’re in the 10% range for taxes – if you spend 100 kuai at Jenny Lou’s and submit the fapiao, this will cut your taxes by 10 kuai. It’s basically like getting a 10% discount (people in the 20% bracket would obviously get an even bigger discount, etc). The idea is that it spurs spending and thus business, jobs, etc. I can say that it certainly makes me spend more!

    Cheers, BB

  5. While, you really have got a good contract. I mean even for local ones, it is not easy to arrange in this way( compliance, bluh bluh). And guess you have a Int’l assignment…Lucky you.

  6. Hi Samantha,

    It’s not just for contracts. There are other reasons why people need a fapiao. For example, if your company puts on a party and buys stuff from Jenny Lou’s or from April Gourmet, you need a receipt. These places SHOULD provide it…

    Cheers, BB

  7. Thats true. Sorry, did not mean to offend you. The contract issue is one of my recent concerns. So it is popping out my mind in the first place. Sometimes it is hard to negotiate. While, fully agree with you that they are obliged to provide the receipts. nice weekend!

  8. Sam, no offense at all. Anyway, I’m going to check out that new Shin Kong supermarket, which supposedly has a huge imported foods section. That may end up being my solution to Jenny Lou / April Gourmet fapiao problems.

    Cheers, BB

  9. the whole fapiao issue is easy to understand why they do it or in most cases they don’t – donpt suppor it but I can understand it!

    Jenny Lous business is regestered as a mom and pop shop – so that give them the abiity to buy fapiaos – when you buy fapiaos under 5000 rmb per month the tax rate is 3% and if you need more the tax rate is 8% so to save that 5% they just simply deny to you – I would suggest for you to make a deal with one store and bring them several fapiaos at a time that way, hopefuuly they would be more accomidating – and if you are not so picky that they coem froma food shop you can certinaly let them know – that way they will go to the black market and buy them under a different name.

  10. as for that new supermarket – been there and I can say it’s real nice and all but they still are very local … perhas if they had a western manager they could improve…

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