On April 17th, administrators with the municipal Department of Industry and Commerce decided to check up on a consumer complaint about a karaoke bar in Dongxi Lake district of Wuhan. A customer had called in complaints about consuming only 598 RMB worth of food in a karaoke box but had wound up having to pay 2,200 RMB in total bills at the end.
Mr. Zheng, a manager with a car retail company in Wuhan city had decided to treat four clients to a karaoke night on April 10th at Gecheng KTV (karaoke) bar located in Dongxi Lake district. They had been shown to a karaoke box with the requirements that customers must spend up to 1,480 RMB and more for occupation of the box. Zheng and his guests had then ordered a bottle of red wine (298 yuan), a fruit plate (100 yuan), and other miscellaneous drinks – with the total coming to 598 yuan. When Zheng had finished and had asked for the bill, he was told that they still haven't consumed up to that bottom line listed price of 1,480 yuan and are still some 800 RMB off; Zheng then requested that they perhaps take a few packs of cigarettes to make up for the difference but was told that cigarettes can't be charged toward the required bottom line price.
Zheng then asked to pay the bill anyway and was told that he needs to pay 2,200 RMB in total. As he did not want to look “bad” in front of his VIP guests, Zheng paid the amount as told. But once back in his office, Zheng felt furious as he knew that he had been ripped off and had then proceeded to make complaints to the city Department of Industry and Commerce.
On April 17th, Zheng came with law enforcement officials to check out his complaint with the karaoke bar. They were shown receipts detailing the foods that had been consumed that night. The receipt showed that aside from the 598 yuan that Zheng and his party had actually consumed, there was another bottle of martini (1,200 yuan), twenty cans of beer (400 yuan) tagged on to the total bill. Zheng insisted that he had not ordered any of the items worth 1,600 yuan on the bill and law enforcement officials then checked out the problem with karaoke bar manager Ms. Liu. The waiter that had tended to Zheng and his party that night was brought in for questions and had confirmed that Zheng did not order the martini and the beer.
Ms. Liu then proceeded to explain that their bar has received many well-to-do customers like Mr. Zheng and like Zheng many of them had come to entertain their VIP guests for the evening; and because these well-off customers don't want to look “bad” in front of their guests, many of them end up paying the bill as told. Usually, the lead waiter responsible for a particular karaoke box would then use the money that the customers had failed to spend in according with the bottom line prices to buy liquor – which then ends up as extra tip/commission in their pockets. If the customers would want to take the liquor bought with the extra expenses with them, they can also choose to do so; but many customers do not want to appear like a “cheapskate”, so they rarely make the request. She also added that many upscale and high-end karaoke bars operate under these “unspoken rules”.
Law enforcement officials ruled that shop owners ordering a certain bottom line price of consumption is a direct violation of consumers' right to choice and that using money that consumers had not chosen to spend to buy products for extra commission constitutes fraud. Owner and staff member of the karaoke bar were then ordered to apologize to Mr. Zheng and return the 1,600 yuan they had tagged on his total bill. Officials also ordered the management of the karaoke bar to compensate Mr. Zheng 400 RMB for taking his time off work to sort the incident out, and the establishment was handed a warning slip notifying that they must make changes in their operations or face punishment.
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