Just read Consumer (& Brand) Discrimination (& Crisis) on the following incidents of alleged discrimination against Chinese consumers (I am using the word alleged because I do not know whether the facts are correct or not):
- CCTV accused Apple of discriminating against Chinese customers by offering lower levels of service and charging fees for replacing back covers of faulty iPhones, which is done for free in other countries.
- The claim made was that the hotel [in the Maldives] removed hot water kettles from the rooms of Chinese guests while leaving them in the rooms of European guests, ostensibly because Chinese were cooking in their room. The complaint received wide exposure on Chinese social media and calls for boycotting Maldives by Chinese tourists
All of this got me to thinking of how I’ve been told about a law firm that treats Chinese potential clients differently from how they treat potential clients from other countries. One of these law firms (based in Australia), charges $500 for its initial meetings with Chinese interested in hiring the firm for immigration work, but does not charge anyone else for this initial consultation. I heard about this years ago, so not sure if this firm still does this, but its reasoning was two-fold. First, the law firm had concluded that most of the Chinese that came to the initial consultation (when it was free) were doing so not to possibly hire the law firm for their immigration work, but to “milk” the firm for as much information as possible and then go off and do the immigration work themselves or with a considerably less expensive law firm. Second, this law firm was not really interested in getting Chinese clients because “they were always so difficult and time consuming anyway.”
The second law firm (and again this was years ago) simply does not return phone calls from Chinese companies and individuals interested in doing business in the United States. It made that decision after spending “huge amounts of time dealing with people that were simply never going to pay our rates.”
I have a U.S. lawyer friend who is fluent in Chinese and who works harder than anyone I know to get Chinese companies as clients in the United States. He was telling me how my law firm should be doing the same thing. His strategy is to excessively wine and dine potential Chinese clients at least once a month for a year before really making a play for their business. Then when he finally gets them in the door, he under-bills them for the first six or so months of the relationship to further solidify his standing with them. My response to that was that was all too difficult, especially since we are doing just fine with our existing client base. That’s just our doing a normal cost benefit analysis and ignoring the high hanging fruit, right?
What do you-all think?
For more on how what you do with or in China can impact your reputation world-wide, and vice-versa, check out China Business, Racism and Glocalization.