Ridiculous act of a restaurant

Updated: 2013-12-13 07:00

(China Daily)

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During his recent trip to China, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited a restaurant in Chengdu, Sichuan province, to taste some of its dishes. Now the restaurant is trying to capitalize on his visit to make some quick bucks; it is even "offering" a set meal of all the items that Cameron had for 888 yuan ($146.26). The practice of restaurants, or other outlets, using a VIP's visit to boost their sales is nothing new, but it seems the Chengdu restaurant has crossed the ethical line this time, says an article in Beijing Morning Post. Excerpts:

According to media reports, the British prime minister and his entourage spent a total of 877 yuan for the hotpot dinner, which was not at all expensive compared with the huge amounts that rich people and some government officials pay for lavish dinners nowadays. But spending even 877 yuan on a dinner is beyond the imagination of many people in China, because that would be almost half of their monthly salary.

As if the 888 yuan it is charging for the "Cameron-style" set meal is not enough of a money spinner, the restaurant is also demanding that customers pay an extra 1,000 yuan as service charge if they want to be served by the waitress who attended to the British prime minister and his party. Netizens have rightly termed this charge ridiculous.

If we tend to look below the surface, we'll find that the restaurant is trying to appeal to the vanity of wealthy people and corrupt officials, because only they can afford to pay such a ludicrous amount for just one meal. In a way, the restaurant is giving them the chance to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth.

An ordinary citizen cannot afford to pay 888 yuan for the "Cameron combo meal" plus a 1,000-yuan service fee to hear "how the UK prime minister had his Chinese meal". Only diners who enjoy a dinner at the cost of others will think of paying for the service that a prime minister and his entourage received.

What the restaurant is doing is promoting an unhealthy practice, which is sickening to say the least. At best, it is popularizing celebrity worship and at worst, it is prompting people to spend a ridiculous amount just to derive some vane satisfaction, and both are condemnable acts.

Our society seems to be caught in a grip of superficiality, where goods and services are judged not by their true need and utility, but by their appearance and apparent usefulness. This in no way is what China, a country with thousands of years of civilization, needs.

What Chinese outlets and organizations should do is to use VIPs' visit and special events to meaningfully promote Chinese cuisine by letting consumers know the nutritional and other benefits of Chinese dishes. This would be the best way to popularize Chinese dishes across the world.

(China Daily 12/13/2013 page9)