Complicated Paying Process

I heard a very interesting story today. My friends (two foreigners to Shanghai) went to the DaShiDai (a mall of all kind of meal venders) for lunch. It may be the first time for them to visit thier and order lunch for themselves.

They waited in the line and when it was their turn, they pointed to the sample dishes (not unknowing Chinese) and wanted to order. The waitress said “No. No. No!”. Not knowing English, the waitress didn’t know how to explain to them the reason.

So my friends thought maybe the waitress complained that they didn’t follow the line. They get back to the end of the line and waited until they have the opportunity to see the waitress again. The answer was still NO! and No!.

Finally they realized that they didn’t accept cash or credit card! They only accept the card issued by the mall – the little gray plastic card. They were so happy to find out the secret and looked for the card dealer, bought the card, got back to the end of the line again. When they met the waitress for the third time, both of the three persons were so happy that they could finally complete the deal.

It was not rare that many shopping malls, restaurants have their own processes that the customers have to follow to complete the transaction.

In most shopping malls, for example, the process was complicated, although local people didn’t realize it any more. It looks like this:

1. You browse the goods and select what you like.

2. You ask the server to write an order for you.

3. You take the order, ask the server where you can find the check-out counter.

4. You go to the checkout counter by yourself with about 2-3 different documents (sometimes with a record sheet the shopping mall uses internally).

5. You wait in the line again and pay by cash, or credit card.

6. The person at the counter gets the documents (paper) they need, give you the documents you need and stamp all the documents.

7. You bring back everything – your credit card receipt (if you use CC), the record sheet, your receipt and the internal payment proof back to the place where you order the goods. Sometimes, the person at the counter will give you the bag you need to take the goods.

8. The server there will check everything, take whatever he/she needs and only leave the documents you needs. Then he/she put the goods into the bag you bring from the checkout counter, and smile: “Thanks for shopping with us and hope you will be back again”.

Well. It looks complicated for the first time visitor, but you will get used to it quickly. Most of the shopping malls are using this process, at least at Pacific Shopping Center, Parkson…

Any reason for this? :-)

25 thoughts on “Complicated Paying Process

  1. Yes, i’ve noticed the same thing in many places aswell. Seems to be something Chinese as I haven’t seen it anywhere else in the world. And not just shopping malls, but also small shoe-shops with other 5 employees use the same system. It all seems like a big waste of time to me, but maybe the shopping centers do it this way so they can get a percentage of the money? Thats seems the only reason I can think of, but that doesn’t explain why the shoe-shop uses the same system.

  2. Jian Shuo, u did remind me right before I go back Shanghai, otherwise, my friends will laugh at me if I take the goods to the casher for checking out instead of those colorful documents. ^^;;

  3. Yeah, I found the whole process very perplexing. I predict at least a few altercations during the ’08 Olympics. Imagine the following scenario: Drunken Australians in an agressive mood from sports match, attempt to buy some new luggage. Stand in line; get told to go stand in another line. Now notice that nobody stands in line; everyone keeps cutting in front of them. Argue for ten minutes to get a slip of paper. Now go back to another line; everyone cuts in front again. I predict some drunken Aussies cooling off in a Beijing jail after using said luggage to clear away the line-jumpers.

  4. My guess is that the process comes from distrust of empoyees handling cash and goods at the same time by the employer. Since the labor cost is not a factor, it’s cheaper to hire separate people than losing money due to petty theft.

    However, it still does not make any sense even the assumption is true.

    Does it often occur to small vendors? I had similar experience in small vendors or state-owned business, but did notice that some nicer restaurants handled the transaction the same way as I would expect in US.

  5. haha…

    This is one of the most interesting artical I have read today. :)

    It’s really a big issue for those customers that come for the first time.

    I agree with btr that the process comes PARTLY from the distrust between employer and employee. And then maybe the employer provide some rules to prevent the employee to keep the CASH/CC from the customer. But there are still distrust between the customer and the employee. I do notice that sometimes the customer would like to pay by themselves even the employee try to give some help.

    Anyway, there are some improvement now, esp in some big restaurant. :)

  6. I admit this MegaBite (Dashidai) is a bit special… one reason (excuse?) I can find might be that it’s better for us, customers, that they handle only plastic cards than the dirty cash, since same people (hands) will be handling the food!… however, how clean are those plastic cards, I do not know :p

    errr, I … don’t think shopping experience in Shanghai shopping malls is more complicated than elsewhere… never been to the States, so I cannot comment on the shops there…

    In many European shopping malls and Asian shopping malls that I have to go to a certain cashier counter with my credit card too… ok, maybe the casher counter is closer…

    The big difference could be the long queue, since almost nowhere has such a big population :-)

    However, haha, have you ever heard that people started to queue at Louis Vuitton and Galeries Lafayette in Paris? …because of increasing Chinese tourist… :-D

    well, Joshua Allen still makes the point about people keeping cutting in front of us… yes, it still happens, but let’s be fair, the situation is improving… at least many local Shanghainese already learnt to queue… and even you happen to encounter someone who does not follow the rule, try to say ‘please queue’, most people will then go to the end of the line…

    …if people just keep improving behaviour at the same speed as the GDP growth, hehe, it will not be too bad when ’08 Olympics comes…

  7. mcgjcn, I didn’t really mean to say that lack of proper queueing is a bad thing. It’s kind of neat once you get used to it. And it’s same in other places. For example, nobody in Italy stands in line either. I was just pointing out that it will be a culture shock to groups of people who aren’t accustomed to it. Even Germans get cranky in Italy; and Americans and Aussies are just not exposed to this at all. There is no need for China to try to emulate German and Australian line-standing behavior; perhaps it just means there should be good educational pamphlets so Aussies know what to expect.

  8. Joshua Allen,

    in a way you are quite right, one of my Finnish friend was really worried about what kind of culture shock might hit her before she moved to Shanghai (some two years ago)… finally, she survived quite well, but I did hear from her that she encountered many things that never happened to her before in Finland, hehe…

    btw, the part you painted above… the drunken Aussies cooling off in a Beijing jail … did make me laugh, hehe, it’s funny to imagine that… hehe

  9. Give me a break. Standing in line properly is a good thing. Cutting in front of people in line is a bad thing. Stop making excuses for ignorance.

    People in most civilized countries stand in line. It works much better than pushing and shoving. It has worked for many years as a matter of fact.

    If they went to L.A. and tried just jumping in front of people in line, they would have the crap beat out of them. Maybe then they would learn.

  10. you see, most chinese are not used to the idea of queuing up but they are more tolerant than people in LA. People in the USA may look friendly and polite because maybe they are afraid of being beat the crap of them. remember put on a friendly mask when you are in LA!

  11. I did remember last time when I was in China, after I ordered something from the sales lady,

    I have to pay the cashier first and then took my receipt to the sales lady to get my stuff.

    These happened both in Beijing and Shanghai, in big shopping malls. I am from Beijing, and I grew up with these procedures, so, when I went back to China, I did not think about it. But after I came back to the States and read this blog. I really appreciate Jianshuo’s blog about life in Shanghai. Maybe I should write down some different ways of living between the U.S. and Beijing based on my personal observation and expereince and publish it somewhere.

  12. “If they went to L.A. and tried just jumping in front of people in line, they would have the crap beat out of them. Maybe then they would learn.”

    That, Lady Leah, sounds like a civilized country!

  13. There is a fundamental mind set difference between China and other foreign markets on services: in China, for internal control purpose (this is an accounting term, to avoid stealing or other problems), they ask customers to serve their systems; whereas in the west, the systems are to serve customers, and Management have to find other means to prevent stealing.

    China will change that down the road as their economy keeps on expanding. At the mean time, if you want to buy that delicious snack on the counter top, you better start at the payment line first.

  14. Standing in line or not, one needs to know the procedure — there is only so much one can figure out by watching. Guess its good to read blogs and occasionally learn to expect the unexpected. I never would have figured out the “little gray” card and can only hope that the Chinese; or even others in line will help to clue the inexperienced shoppers with some helpful tips.

  15. In places such as the chain grand food-court-cafeteria such as the one in Metro City “xu jia hu” or Wei Hai Lu, etc… The simplification of central cashier(s) is a very logical move, took long enough… #1) Speed> saving a great deal of time during rush-hour meal breaks(automated process #2) accountablility (very important, no-more side-$$pocketing$$ from employee’s #3) clean-organized style “very metro chique”

    there is a #4)th…… *if you have the time*.. The charlatan’s don’t come anymore!! really haha … “I remember while back i had some dim-sum at the cafeteria with some associates *average food quality but very convenient*.. an anhui male(or should i just say SH is full of anhui’ers charlatans?) approached insisting on he is a fortune-teller(charlatan!hello! i have company!).. rather annoying and embaressing!! Its really the constantness(mainly SH)… always spotting or being spotted/saught out by charlatans, in SH alot are from anhui, constently working the cafeteria, annoying the crowd mostly *har har* well to him/her its work i suppose.. (once during a busy late afteroon lunch, i was pressured *literally*…. “this guy in his 40’s i figure just sat across from me and wouldn’t leave!” i decided to go native on the guy (well in a kind way) i choose to berate him with my beautifully pure fluent musical ShangHai).. “i said why do you feel the need to come to my table? You look like a healthy male, why aren’t you working a real job?” … his response was something like “huh? what did you say? with a eerie grin”… eventually id have to speak perfectly comprehensible fluent mandrin chinese, of which he would recipricate the most incomprehensible heavily backwater accent you can imagine.. i did think about conversing with the guy in fluent american, french, spanish even nordic…. well to make a long-story short if your a healthy(athletic) male with nice white(untanned skin)toned *like moi!* even being a true blooded shanghai male does not help!… to these charatan’s you most be from MARS!! and carry the whole of MARITIAN GOLD!!… *but haha! id never give RMB or USD to charlatans or beggers no matter how much they beggedno matter New York, London, ShangHai, Euro,etc… (i do give lots of donations to some worthy souls and charty, and those worthy almost never ask for it!!! trust me! real hearts of pride in real need always carry much shame and saves face! ) anyways… back to this 40ish anhuai guy who has not much shame nor much face, claimed he hadn’t eatten in 2 days and has a boy going to college soon (who knows*shrug*!)… soo i bought him a full meal package that day… as ive done for most of those that asked while in CN.. but gosh don’t they have the decency for once say “thank you!?”

    All-in-all hey ive not seen any charlatan-network at the food-courts since introduction of Pay-Cards, i also figure some offices give non-exchangable food-pay-cards to employees… sounds like a good incentive, id implement it ^_^

    *oh yes and remember theres only a 1-month food-point usage before expiration on Grey-Cards*

  16. In L.A., people may not cut in front of you while you are standing in line. It is a completely different matter if you are driving on L.A. freeways. Cutting in line is one thing, shooting with a rifle is something else. Have you heard there have been at least five separate freeway shooting incidences, I forgot how many resulting deaths, in L.A. since January 1, 2005? Speaking of a civilized place!


  17. There is a similar practice in one of the corporate buildings in Makati, Philippines. Customers enter the foodcourt and would get a plastic card from the guard at the entrance. They can use this card to order food at different stalls where the vendors will swipe the cards in a machine that would register the costs of the customer’s orders. The customers can then eat their food. When they’re finished eating, they go to the exit area where the cashiers are and they can pay their food. There’s only one entry and there’s another exit point and both are well-managed. This is like an “eat now, pay later” foodplace, which I find amazing and not very complicated than the practice here in Dashidai, you think?

  18. I know some insight of this. These big shopping malls in China do not charge the vendors any monthly rent fee. The mall owner takes a percentage of the sales in liue of the rent. Sometime it can be up to 27%. If the vendors does not make a good number of sales, they may be kicked out by the mall. The vendors need also pay other fees for commercials.

    In order to control the accouting of sales. The cutomer has to pay to the cashier desk, which is represented by the mall owner. All the sales need to be monitored by the mall.

  19. Someone might have already commented that China is not the only country where people do not respect waiting in line.

    I was reading a novel and saw a brief description of how it is in Italy. I thought the words funny and also thought of this post. So let me copy a few lines from this novel by John Grisham: “Waiting in line to order caused no problems, though the Italians seemed to struggle with the basic concept of one standing in front of the other. Back home (in the U.S.) there would’ve been sharp words from the customers and perhaps swearing from the cashier.”

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