Friday, August 24, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Fapiao Invoice

         China is a very big country and the most populous one. Due to the sheer numbers of people there, one had to be very careful and never let the guard down. For this article I am putting down here some of the trivial lessons learnt on dining out in China. 
          Food securities are big problem in China. There had been many reported cases of major food security issue - namely Malachite Green chemical abuse in eel (unagi) exports to Japan in 2007, Melamine chemical abuse in infant formula milk powder in 2007/8, tainted buns in 2011, and the latest one was Lou Kou Yu (娄沟油 gutter oil) abuse. China authority had been very strict on food safety in recent times. On the melamine case, two main culprits, a milk collection manager and a milk sales distributor, were executed by firing squad in 2009 to serve as a warning and reminder to companies not to mess around with food safety. On the gutter oil issue, which is recycled oil from frying that was normally poured into gutter (hence the nickname 'gutter oil'),  you can reduce the risk by avoiding cheap restaurants and go to a reputable restaurant instead. It is just not worth the risk being too cheap.
Example of Xiamen's fapiao, which is 
prepaid invoice that business entities 
bought from the government.
         Food security aside, beyond the abundant of good food one finds in China, I learnt of a good practice about dining in China is getting 'fapiao' (发票 -  Invoice), essentially a prepaid invoice of sales tax paid to the government. To encourage consumers to ask for fapiao, some local governments implemented a 'scratch and win' system, not different from the notorious 'scratch and win' scam in Malaysia. Basically after you have paid for the food, you will be handed fapiao that may hidden small sum of winnings. You scratched off the top right hand corner to see if you win anything - RMB10 or RMB20 or simply a "Thank you (谢谢)“. There were rumors of fapiao winning can be as high as RMB10,000 but I am not sure how true it is. Please note that by getting the fapiao, you actually helps China government to get the tax you had paid, else the restaurant just pocketed itMost of the time, my fapiao only yielded 谢谢您 (thank you), but occasionally I do have some small winnings throughout 10 years of my travel to China. 
Most 'scratch and win' fapiao will just 
have a 'thank you' note, like mine here
           Once such incident was my lunch with Maria and April in Shanghai in a restaurant below our office one fine spring in 2010. The bill was RMB150 and we asked for the fapiao as I needed them too for my company expense report. We were handed 3 pieces of RMB50 fapiao and the each of us were happily scratching one, not expecting anything. I scratched mine but this time the first letter was not 谢. I excitedly scratched the rest and showed it to Maria who shrieked "Max, you won RMB50". I had never won more than RMB10 on 'scratch and win' fapiao before. Maria signalled the waitress to come over and showed her the fapiao, but she told us to claim it from bank. Perplexed, I inquired the need to do so. It turns out that only winnings amounted to RMB20 or less can be redeemed from the restaurant, higher winnings need to be claimed from government owned bank. I gave the winning fapiao to Maria and April since it will be a hassled for me to claim."Thanks to Max, we got to eat for free and now we got some cash too", replied April, smiling so sweetly. 
         I wished that this fapiao practice can be implemented in my country as currently I am unsure if the 6%  or so government tax that I paid to restaurants actually end up with the government. Should there be some religious concerns on this 'scratch and win' practice, then all winnings should be donated to charity. Way to go, China!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Maxwell, Bee Gnoh and I will be going to China next month. I appreciate the helpful advice on these blogs. Also, they are interesting to read.