When it comes to customer care, honesty is no doubt the best policy. A duty free shop in London apparently didn't get the memo.
The duty-free company that runs its business at London's Heathrow Airport on Monday night issued a second apology after being caught discriminating against Chinese customers over its VIP voucher policy and an earlier statement that inflamed the escalating furor.
The accusations emerged after an employee at the duty-free retailer said Chinese customers had to spend a minimum 1,000 pounds, some 1,384 U.S. dollars, to qualify for a 20-percent discount voucher at World Duty Free, while customers from other countries just needed to spend 79 pounds, about 109 dollars, to receive the same voucher.
The news that Chinese travellers were being discriminated against went viral. Chinese netizens voiced their anger on social media, with one user saying that, "On the one hand the company wants to take money from your pocket and on the other hand they treat you like a fool."
Heathrow Airport admitted the way that its commercial partner the World Duty Free Group offered different rates to Chinese and non-Chinese customers over the weekend was "unacceptable."
However, a careful study of the latest bilingual statements of the World Duty Free Group is telling.
Although the statement contained the term "sincere apologies" in both the English and Chinese versions, the striking difference is that unlike its Chinese text, the word "Chinese" is missing from the English version.
The Chinese version of the statement mentioned such explicit words as "the Chinese public," "the emotion of indignation and doubts about this company," as well as pledges that "there will be no recurrence of this kind of incident in the future."
However, their equivalents cannot be found in the English version released on Facebook and Twitter.
The Chinese text was obviously intended to iron out the outrage of the Chinese people both in China and in Britain, but its obscure and ambiguous English version revealed the true attitude of the company as it omitted key wording in the Chinese version.
The duty-free retailer's promotional rules are neither clear nor transparent to customers. Nothing was mentioned at this stage about whether the company would punish those who are responsible, and no specific measures were given to solve the problem.
Chinese customers have all the reason to doubt the company's sincerity.
As more and more Chinese continue to travel across the world, they provide a boost to their destination economies. They, like tourists from other countries, deserve fair treatment and their legal rights should be protected.
If the company is really serious about its "sincere apology," it should take more concrete actions instead of merely playing with words.