Chinese tourists

Ginseng worth HK$8,160? Hong Kong shop staff arrested for dishonest sale to undercover customs officers

The duo concealed a price tag and did not disclose the unit of measurement for the amount they charged, which was 16 times more than the buyers expected

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 12:23am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 12:32am

Two Hong Kong medicine shop workers were arrested by customs officials for dishonest sales tactics after the duo sold ginseng at a price that was 16 times more than the buyers thought they would pay.

On Friday afternoon, two customs officers, posing as mainland visitors, embarked on an undercover operation at a medicine shop on Argyle Street in Mong Kok.

The officers told the staff they wanted to buy a catty of ginseng, and the staff said, without mentioning the measurement, that it cost HK$680. While speaking to the officers, the staff concealed the price tag of a container by turning it so it was not visible.

The tag on the container showed the price as HK$680 for a tael. A catty is a Chinese unit of weight equal to around 600 grams, and a tael is equal to around 37.5 grams.

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“The staff even offered a discount and lowered the price to HK$510,” a source said. “But no weight measurement was mentioned, leading the customer to believe it was HK$510 for a catty.”

Based on the HK$510 rate, the officers were charged HK$8,160 after they agreed to buy a catty of ginseng – 16 times what they thought they would pay.

“The officers were not allowed to get a refund or return the products as the shop claimed the ginseng was ground down,” the source added.

Officers arrested the salesman, 44, and saleswoman, 49, immediately after the deal was completed, seizing several containers of ginseng and an electronic scale from the shop. The two were later released on bail.

Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, it is an offence for a trader to provide customers with information in a manner that is unclear or ambiguous. The maximum penalty is a fine of HK$500,000 and five years in jail.