Sunday, March 11, 2007

I Hate Fa Piaoing

As amazing as some aspects of China's development are, there are still sectors that are astoundingly ancient and inefficient. Do some shopping outside of the major tourist centers, and you will soon encounter the ordeal that is fa piao. Fa piao means to make or fill out a reciept, and it is one of the most inefficient and infuriating processes I have ever seen.

We were in Carrefour, the French supermarket chain, a week or so ago, and I thought I'd pick up some shaving cream. Turns out though, that if you want shaving cream, you can't take it to the check out counter like everything else, you have to go to the costmetics counter (which had a line), have them fill out a reciept (fa piao), go pay, come back with another reciept, and then you can take your shaving cream, which you won't have to pay for in the regular checkout line because you have your piao.

First of all, what concievable purpose does this serve? It's not like this process will allow them to track their sales more efficiently. And it's not like it deters theft. In fact, it probably makes theft easier, as you can just forge a reciept.

Don't they realize that today it's all about customer service? and if there's one thing we hate more than waiting in a line to check out, it's waiting in two lines?

And it's not like this is restricted to the most expensive items in the store, it was shaving cream. At our local Wu Mart (a Chinese big-box retailer), we had to fa paio for a power strip costing less than $2, while we could take five or ten dollar items straight to the register. Who comes up with this crazy system?

At Gome, an electronics store who's owner is China's richest man at the moment, you have to fa piao for EVERYTHING. I wonder if there's some sort of onerous government regulation that requires this madness - I cannot fathom why the French superstore would tolerate this nonsense otherwise.

Overall, paperwork in China is a serious impediment to progress. They're sticklers about filling out mountains of forms (all with 3 carbon copies) that they could never possibly have time to look at, even though they often have computers at the same desk.

That's China for you though, one minute you're impressed by how clever and innovative something is, and the next your cursing their crippling beauracracy.

No comments: