My mother has been visiting me in Shanghai for the last couple of weeks. In preparation for her visit I bought an "Enjoy Shanghai" coupon book, planning to take advantage of the two-for-one specials and other discounts at eateries around town.
The first attempt took me by surprise when I failed to notice that the 100RMB discount on meals over 300RMB at Simply Thai was accompanied by fine print that the discount only applied to food purchases and not drinks. It struck me as pretty churlish, but I could only really blame myself for not reading the fine print.
Regardless, the food was great and it was a simple matter of sitting back down and ordering a round of deserts to tip the total over 300RMB, which threw the whole restaurant into dissaray and made me look like a complete knob. The price I pay for principle.
On the way to brunch today at Kabb in Xintiandi, buy-one-breakfast-get-one-free coupon in hand, my mother reminded me to check the fine print. "No worries," I said, checking the coupon carefully. "There is no fine print".
Arriving at the restaurant, I was startled to find that the coupon didn’t apply to my visit. "It’s only for Monday to Friday," the waiter informed me, shrugging his shoulders when I pointed out it would be useful if the coupon, rather than the staff, carried the irksome details.
I checked with the manager. This time the response was that the coupon only applied before 11am. Two excuses, both obviously outright lies, and both absolutely inextricable.
Again, I only have myself to blame. I really should have read the invisible print, the one that says "do business in China at your own risk".
But, in a population of 1.3 billion, is it any wonder business operates on the principle that another sucker will be along any minute. In the fastest growing and most magnetic economy on earth, nothing is more certain.