On Jan 13th 2013, Facebook blogger 朗思 reported that a local netizen was denied a purchase of a Christmas box set in a store of Laneige, a Korean cosmetic brand, because she is not a Mainland Chinese. The complain provoked other Hong Kong netizens instantly. They called for a boycott against Laneige and spammed the Facebook page of the company, which released an apology statement hours after the report was posted. The incident is described as another “Hong Kong D&G“.
Co’s Yung: Damn! I’m fucking angry, really… I tried to help my auntie to buy cosmetics of this brand in Hong Kong. She wants the box set which was released in Christmas (about to be sold out). Well… I went inside and asked a salesperson if the box set was still available. I had never thought that she asked me this question , “Eh…Ma’am, are you a Hongkonger or a Mainlander?” Laughing coldly, I replied, “Hong Kong”. Then, she answered in a customarily tone, “Oh, the set is sold out in all stores.”
….Damn, besides smiling wryly at her, I didn’t know how to react…
Ring Chan: Which shop?
Co’s Yung: Mong Kok Lanige [sic]
(*According to the blogger, the original post from Co’s Yung can’t be viewed because it is set to private.)
A Common Practice
It is a common practice to deny Hongkongers’ purchases in Hong Kong simply because of being Hongkongers.
In a report about the surging Mainland Chinese demand for Hong Kong made Yakult, a local woman complained that she could not buy the drink because she is a Hongkonger.
May 30th 2012 Apple Daily,
The following article, in which a Hongkonger was denied a purchase of infant formula because of who she is, caused extreme outrage.
10th Dec 2012 Sharp Daily,
In order to buy infant formula, one has to pretend to be a Mainlander
Several months ago, when my nephew was a month old, I tried to buy 2 tins of infant formula in a nearby pharmacy before visiting my sister-in-law. The owner answered politely that the brand was out of stock. While I was leaving, I saw a young and pretty woman entered, asked in Mandarin that if the same brand was available. I stopped, eavesdropped on the owner telling her the price. Turned back subtly, I glanced that the owner was giving her several tins.
Asking for several tins, the brand is in stock. Asking for two tins, then it is out of stock? I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I was full of doubts – Am I buying too few? Am I not as pretty and gentle as her? Has she reserved those tins by call?
That afternoon, I chatted with my old friend and mentioned this incident. My friend smilingly said she would help me to buy. She also asked the owner in Mandarin, successfully bought two tins. (Her mother taught her fluent Mandarin.)
It is all clear to me now! What is the difference between this and the D&G incident happened earlier this year? What can I anger at the owner? I can only blame myself for not learning fluent Mandarin. Now, my Mandarin is not so good and can’t pretend to be a Mainlander to buy stuffs easily in Hong Kong.
Pink: It is no wonder that when I went to the (Laneige) counter at Yata (a department store inside Shatin Town Plaza), the salesperson asked me if I was from Shenzhen after I asked her if the Christmas box set was still available. I answered no and she asked me my origin. I answered Hong Kong and then she said it was out of stock! However, her attitude was quite nice!
Cheung: I’ve read that so-called apology statement, which hasn’t yet explained why their staff would say something like this. I think the staff would not dare to ask such question herself? That means your company implied your staffs to ask during training?
I don’t accept your apology! Now I’ll also call all of my friends to boycott against your products. As I’ve stated before, there are many brands that can replace your products. Good bye.
Ying: Last month, my boss and I originally prepared to buy lots of gifts (from Laneige). Maybe because we both look Hongkongers at first glance, we suffered from “invisible” treatment – having waited for 7 minutes and asking for assistance for 3 times, we get no service. Meanwhile, salespersons rushed to say “Ni Hao” to Mainland Chinese whose feet had not yet stepped inside the store. Hongkongers discriminate Hongkongers. My boss was so angry that he signaled me to leave in silent. We bought “red brand” instead. After this experience, I will never ever buy from you!
Sally: My family member and I thought that (Laneige) salespersons were very nice several years ago…They introduced us many stuffs and chatted with my mother. Their salespersons were attentive (to Hongkongers) – they let you sit down, gave you water and even accompanied you to the door! Now, many stores lack basic manner, not even greet you with one Hello. Some salespersons become impatient even when you ask just one question. However, to several Mandarin-speaking aunties next to me…. the salespersons rushed to introduce them stuffs smilingly. I feel so helpless! =_=
Candy: Right, move all your stores to China please. Then, you don’t need to ask people whether they are Hongkongers or Mainland Chinese. Hongkongers won’t buy from you anymore. And products of this brand aren’t particularly good. There are so many replacements!
Christy: The attitude of big corporations, only seeing Mainland Chinese as their target customers, leads to D&G like incidents. They have yet learned their lessons and even discriminate between customers. Now, inside big chains and pharmacies in Hong Kong, if they know you aren’t Mainland Chinese, then you will be given unfair treatments. The same also happens in big chains overseas. These have stirred up dissatisfaction. Therefore, if the same happens again, in this Internet era, the news will spread like wild fire. Something like D&G will happen again. People who are in charge of big brands should either consider carefully before promotion or monitor the quality of their employees. Customers of any classes can visit any stores. Treating customers who buy cheaper products badly or ignoring them is not right.
Local author Ko Wai-yin made a response in her column on Jan 17th 2012.
A Korean cosmetic brand refused to sell its discounted packages to Hongkongers in its Hong Kong stores. This makes me sigh.
As I recall, ten years ago, Hong Kong women started to love a hydration mask from Laneige. When they went to South Korea, they had to stock up on this brand, making the brand famous. Later, the brand established a Hong Kong store and has been proliferating. The relationship between a business and its customers is simply supply and demand – one side pays and the other side gives products. No emotional attachment whatsoever. Yet, even hawkers understand the importance of establishing long term relationship…
Certainly, big stores can bully customers. It doesn’t matter that Laneige doesn’t like Hong Kong customers. Simply move to Mainland China. Then, it will be all fine. (Stores like Laneige) open stores in Hong Kong, making local rents surge, affecting the welfare of Hongkongers. Yet, they doesn’t welcome Hongkongers. This kind of business is far too many, driving Hongkongers into desperation and to a hopeless future. Before they say no to us, Hongkongers should have said no to them.
Bound to Happen Again
As mom-and-pop stores are displaced by big chains and pharmacies which can afford to pay astronomical rent, similar incidents are bound to happen again and again.
A Lo: Half of the Sai Yeung Choi Street are full of these rubbish shops (*cosmetic and jewelery stores), which only welcome locusts. I have lived in Hong Kong for more than three decades, and I feel that she is getting stranger and stranger. Sometimes, I can’t tell if Hong Kong has disappeared or I have gone to Mainland China. Rubbish government doesn’t protect local business and culture and allow these rubbish shops to proliferate, hurting the city’s appearance. It is ridiculous.