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There was a joke where I used to work:  How do you get staff to attend an unpopular meeting or presentation?  Provide free food!It appears free food is not a joke in China.  The Chinese take it very seriously.  

Charitable “sharing fridge” not shared

In early October, a new community kitchen with a refrigerator stocked with food meant for needy hungry folks opened in Shanghai’s Putuo District.  However, not all in line looked “needy.”  And once the community kitchen doors opened, families scrambled inside to grab what they could.  A retiree was stopped for trying to take all the food in shopping bags.

Local media, reported on Oct. 13 that 30 food boxes donated by a restaurant were gone within 10 minutes, and sometimes, taken by a single person!  Food placed in a similar fridge meant for seniors in another part of town was taken by people from outside the neighborhood. 

To prevent greedy “snatchers,” the Putuo kitchen has placed volunteer guards who make food takers complete a form before leaving with food.  Other locations are devising “management” strategies.

 

Coupons for free buffet

To help residents celebrate China’s recent National Day, a buffet restaurant in Anhui Province handed out coupons for free meals.  Security guards at the entrance of the restaurant had a hard time preventing deadly stampedes by the crowd waiting to get in.  Once in, plates were piled high with the freebies.  Unfortunately, the saying “Eyes bigger than stomach” rang true.  Photos on social media showed many plates with a large amount of uneaten food, generating comments such as: “The quality must not be good!”  Ingrates! 

Are you attractive enough?

In 2015, a Korean restaurant in Henan Province ran a promotion offering free meals to its  50“most attractive” diners daily.  Diners who want to eat for free are taken to a “beauty identification area” to have their faces scanned and their eyes, noses, mouths and foreheads evaluated by a panel of cosmetic surgeons trying to promote their services at the restaurant.  

"Do the ugly have to pay twice?" wondered a Weibo user.

Are you fat / thin enough?

2015 seem to be the year of fat promotions.  A string of restaurants in Chongqing started offering discounts to overweight male diners or slim females on the condition they get weighed in full view of other restaurant customers.  Men who weighed more than 308 pounds and women who weighed under 77 pounds qualify.  After complaints of sexism, the restaurant changed the female criteria to rewarding overweight women as well.

"'Fat can be a sensitive topic and fat people might feel depressed sometimes, so we are helping them have interaction with their friends and be a happy fat person,” said the restaurant owner.

How high can you go?

Another weird restaurant promotion:  Women customers whose skirts or dresses are 12 inches above their knees get a 90 percent discount off their food bills at a hot pot restaurant in Jinan, Shandong Province.  Women wearing skirts or dresses revealing a modest 3 inches are only given 20 percent off their meals.

How low can you go?

Chinese tourists aren’t known for their manners abroad.  A video went viral last year showing a group of them “jostling each other” at a hotel buffet in Chiang Mai, Thailand, shoveling their plates into the shrimp.  It showed them walking away with plates overflowing with shrimp and then leaving much uneaten.  For shame, for shame.

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CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

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