Great Wall pancake vendor quadruples prices for foreign customers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2013, 3:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 November, 2013, 9:10pm

A pancake vendor on the Great Wall has been caught inflating prices for foreigners to more than four times the price charged to Chinese, the Beijing Times has reported.

The newspaper received information from a Chinese woman surnamed Lin, who had taken three German friends to visit Mutianyu, a popular scenic spot on the Great Wall. When one of the Germans ordered a pancake from a small stall, Lin was shocked when the vendor asked for 65 yuan (HK$83).

The pancake, called a jiânbǐng (煎饼), is a popular snack usually sold for between three and five yuan on the streets of Beijing.

According to Lin, the price was not marked on the vendor’s stall. When the German refused to buy the overpriced pancake, the vendor appealed to onlookers to force her to hand over the cash.

A Beijing Times reporter later travelled to Mutianyu to verify the story and she managed to bargain the vendor’s asking price of 20 yuan down to 10. When asked, the vendor admitted to charging foreigners 65 yuan. Several others in the area also admitted to charging foreigners four-to-five times more than Chinese customers.

The official supervisor of the Mutianyu scenic area said the vendors are at liberty to participate in a free market, but that stall holders should clearly display their prices. “It’s up to the tourists and the stall holders to negotiate, it’s not within the limits of our authority”, he told the Beijing Times reporter.

A spokesperson from the local government Price Bureau agreed, emphasising that it is not within its purview to set prices.

The head of the local Chamber of Commerce said it is tourists’ responsibility to ask the price.

A store recently emerged in Hong Kong selling the same style of pancake for between HK$30 and HK$40. Although the operators have adapted their menu to cater to local tastes – including a variety with char siu pork and a sausage, egg and cheese option – many who have eaten the pancake in Beijing say they find the Hong Kong price too high.