Let business be business

Updated: 2012-12-08 10:55


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BEIJING -- These days, the most talked-about food in China is a kind of nut cake literally known as "cut cakes."

Made of a mixture of nuts, sweets and rice that is pressed hard into one big heavy chunk, nut cakes were originally a common Muslim specialty of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Uygur vendors typically sell them by cutting small pieces from chunks carried on their tricycles.

However, the food recently became a nationwide buzzword after police in central Hunan Province, many believe unfairly, detained and punished a man of the Han majority over a fight with the vendors when he refused to buy a slice of cake much heavier and more costly than he had expected.

In the end, to the surprise of many, police asked the man to pay compensation worth more than $24,000, mainly for "destroying" close to 3 tons of cakes, although 16 motorcycles and the medical bills of several vendors were said to be included as well.

The news spread fast on social media networks. Most people were stunned and joked online: "One slice of nut cake can pay for a trip to Europe. Two slices can buy an apartment and three slices a Lamborghini."

The main message of the sarcasm is that vendors should do business in an acceptable way and that law enforcers should not handle civil disputes in favor of certain parties because of their ethnicity.

China is a country with 56 ethnic groups, including the Han majority and major minority groups like the Uygurs, Tibetans and Mongols. With the country's fast economic development, people of different ethnic groups migrate more frequently and commonly do business in places away from home.

While most of these people play by established business rules, disputes are unavoidable. It is unnecessary, however, to automatically associate them with ethnic differences or label any ethnic group accordingly.

In business activities involving people of different ethnicity, both of the sides should be aware of the other's culture and avoid saying or doing anything obviously offensive. Ineffective communication, for example, was one of the fuses of the fight in the nut cake case.

Instead of giving vague prices, such as one dollar for each one- twentieth of a kg, the vendors should have let customers know the price in weight measurements that are familiar to them. For example, making clear how much one kg of the cake costs would be much more helpful.

Meanwhile, given the unusually high density of the product, vendors have the responsibility to inform buyers of approximately how much a slice of cake would weigh and cost.

What's more, when consumers refuse to buy the slices because the cost was way out of their expectations, vendors have no right to coerce them with force.

For law enforcers, they should realize that ruling in favor of the vendors will not truly benefit them in the long run because the vendors will then never be able to know they have made a mistake and that they can do business better by abiding by law and following rules.

Laws exist to push for the building of a better world by urging all parties to behave more properly. Treating every citizen equally when they violate laws is essential to make that happen. And nothing should qualify to stand in the way.