Controversy over claims that duty free shop at Heathrow airport discriminated against Chinese tourists

A duty-free shop at Heathrow airport has caused controversy after allegedly discriminating against Chinese tourists.

World Duty Free and Heathrow itself apologised after it emerged that Chinese customers had to fork out more than £1,000 (around $1,300) to take part in a voucher scheme entitling them to a discount, compared to counterparts from other countries who only had to spend as little as £79 (around $110).

However, the apology itself has further angered some, as they accused the wording of differing between the English and Chinese versions.

The controversy was sparked by a post on Chinese social media site Weibo, when a part-time salesman at Heathrow’s World Duty Free shop at Heathrow revealed the apparent discrimination.
World Duty Free apologised following the revelation, saying it had investigated and taken “urgent steps to correct the implementation of this promotion”, while Heathrow Airport also apologised, describing the situation as “unacceptable”.

Discrimination – it was claimed that Chinese customers had to spend significantly more than counterparts from other country’s to qualify for a voucher scheme (Picture: Getty)

A statement from World Duty Free issued to the South China Morning Post said: “As a global company we are committed to treating all our customers with respect and in a consistent and fair way. We would like to offer our sincere apologies to our customers who were in any way made to feel this was not the case.”

It said staff had been “re-briefed” and the offer applied regardless of a customer’s destination.

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But the retailer’s apology has sparked further anger, with critics saying there are some marked differences between the English and Chinese versions.

According to Xinuanews, while the Chinese version includes references to the “Chinese public” and the “emotion of indignation and doubts about this company”, there are no equivalents in the English version, leading some to suggest the words were carefully engineered to appease a Chinese audience but are insincere.

(Top picture: PA)