Chinese to boycott French luxury brand Balenciaga after Chinese tourist manhandled in Paris store
The Chinese have a lot of spending power.
French luxury fashion brand Balenciaga is the latest foreign brand finding itself in trouble with Chinese consumers.
This time, it is due to an in-store scuffle that has angry Chinese calling it out as an act of racial discrimination.
Chinese tourists scuffled with Albanians
In a now-viral video that lasted just four seconds, a Chinese tourist is seen being roughly manhandled by security guards at a Balenciaga outlet in a Printemps department store in Paris, France.
Apparently, the scuffle happened over some Balenciaga Chunky Triple-S sneakers, known commonly among Chinese consumers as “Daddy shoes” for its 90s aesthetics.
The incident happened on Wednesday, April 25.
Alleged racial discrimination against the Chinese
According to Jing Daily, the video first appeared on a WeChat post on Tuesday, April 24.
This is the WeChat user’s account of what happened (translation via Jing Daily):
“I am trembling with anger. Chinese people living abroad are always in the minority.
I line up to buy Balenciaga’s Triple S sneakers every day and French-Albanians cut in front of me every day, but I can do nothing.
Today, an old Chinese lady called out five Albanians who attempted to cut the queue. One of them pushed her away and threatened to beat her.
Then, the lady’s son came to protect his mom and was beaten by them.
A French security guard also came to stop the fighting, but only handled that Chinese guy.
The chaos led to the cancellation of the sales event.
It was really upsetting to see that those Albanians got the shoes, while Balenciaga humiliated Chinese customers who lined up in the store.
They asked us to leave and never come back to buy their shoes.”
Balenciaga later released an apology on Thursday, April 26.
It said (statement via Shanghaiist):
“The house of Balenciaga regrets the incident that took place yesterday morning at a department store in Paris while customers were waiting to enter its corner shop.
The security staff acted immediately to restore the calm.
Balenciaga sincerely apologises to the customers who were present and reaffirms its strong commitment to respect equally all its customers.”
However, as it did not identify the customers to whom it was apologising to as Chinese, Chinese netizens were not impressed.
Printemps also released a statement saying that its staff would receive extra training to make sure they manage such situations in the best way possible, according to BBC.
Netizens called for a boycott of the brand
The hashtag “boycott Balenciaga for discriminating against Chinese” is also now trending on microblog platform Weibo, despite the fact that the security guards involved in the scuffle were most likely from Printemps.
Balenciaga owes it to the Chinese
Translation: Don’t tell me you’re still doubtful of the Chinese people’s purchasing power? I think you guys should hold an emergency meeting over this issue. If you don’t come up with a solution quickly and allow the incident to escalate, no doubt you guys will be the ones on the losing end.
Touching a raw nerve
Balenciaga confirmed early this year that its Triple S sneakers are now produced in China, instead of Italy.
Despite the move, the sneaker maintains its US$850 price tag (S$1,125).
Comparison is the thief of joy
Screenshot via Weibo
Translation: I don’t understand why when foreigners come to China, we treat them like how we treat our ancestors. But when we go overseas, we get this sort of treatment.
Asking the important questions
Translation: Why can’t you just not buy those shoes?
Venturing into cross-strait relations
Translation: There was this sales assistant who speaks Mandarin at Printemp’s LV store but the first thing she said was “I’m Taiwanese, not Chinese”. SMH.
Balenciaga issued a second apology
Balenciaga later released a second apology which was longer than the first.
According to Reuters, the luxury brand said that it had temporarily suspended management staff present during the incident pending the outcome of an investigation.
You can watch the video of the scuffle here:
Not the first & won’t be the last
Balenciaga is one of the many foreign brands that depend largely on Chinese consumers for its sales figures.
According to Reuters, the luxury brand cited strong spending by Chinese consumers as one of the main reasons for the boom in sales.
From this particular perspective, the ire of Chinese consumers that come from a sense of entitlement can then be understood.
However, the store reserves the right to remove any customer who is deemed to be misbehaving.
Even so, manhandling a customer without proper investigation into the matter opens the brand up to criticisms.
As the economic status and purchasing power of the Chinese grow steadily, more people can now afford to travel overseas and spend on luxury items or exotic experiences.
However, the increased interactions between these Chinese tourists and the locals also mean that not all exchanges are always amicable.
Several foreign firms had to apologise this year after hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.
London’s Heathrow Airport was accused of racial discrimination towards Chinese shoppers. They apologised in February this year.
Chinese travellers also got into a scuffle with Japanese policemen at Japan’s Narita International Airport, due to perceived differential treatment from them as compared to Japanese travellers.
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