Carrefour should know the price

Updated: 2012-12-14 17:37


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BEIJING - Carrefour is at the crossroads in China: whether or not to allow its already-dented image to further erode.

In the company's latest scandal, one of its outlets in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan was confirmed on Thursday to have been price gouging.

Although Carrefour said the incident is only "an individual case caused by negligence," a string of similar hoaxes it has been implicated in negates such a claim.

Since last year, several stores of the world's second largest retailer in at least five other Chinese cities have been fined for their costing tricks, ranging from mislabeled price tags to faking discounts.

Carrefour has never faced up to its recurring mistakes, which it always attributed to as "work negligence." The company should know that its repeated defiance of both the Chinese law and consumers' rights has endangered the image and credibility of itself.

Chinese consumers, despite their brand consciousness, will realize what the untrustworthy Carrefour gives them through discounts, what the company takes back through cheating.

An internationally acclaimed company should always be consistent in its management and service standards, no matter which country it is operating in.

The repeated "mistakes" reflect Carrefour's double standards in its operations. The same mistakes have rarely happened in Western countries, where the company's management team would be so alarmed when a scandal were to happen that it would endeavor to stamp out any problems.

But in China, Carrefour's management team has proved impotent, if not unwilling, to address the same issue. Suddenly, rules of the game change in China.

It has happened with many other international brands. After launching their business in China, they quickly took to exactly the opposite of what had made them successful elsewhere.

Suppliers of ZARA are implicated in illegal sewage discharge, Apple's maintenance terms were accused of being unfair, Hermes and other luxury brands refused to provide product inspection services... and the list lengthens.

These companies defied their own service standard and Chinese laws and regulations. The defiance seems deeply rooted in their entrenched arrogance in the nation.

Their sense of superiority may have developed when China's local government officials extended their welcoming arms for the big taxpayers.

But these companies should know that when they were given preferential policies, such as tax reductions and exemptions, for their investment in China, they are not immune from the country's laws.

Soon after their arrival in China, some companies took advantage of the slack supervision in the country to prey on "gullible" Chinese consumers. They did not hesitate for a minute to violate or skirt the regulations and laws, which they would dare not to in other countries.

The comparative low law-breaking cost in China is a great temptation.

In the past year, three Carrefour stores in Shanghai were fined 500,000 yuan ($79,000) each for overcharging customers. The amount is the highest allowed by China's current price regulation.

For a giant retailer which rakes in millions of US Dollars in the country, the cost to break the Chinese law is negligibly low.

But these defiant companies should remember that "when pride comes, then comes disgrace." It is their own image they are damaging.