World Duty Free has apologised after facing allegations of discrimination towards Chinese customers at its Terminal 2 outlet at Heathrow Airport.
The duty free shopping brand was alleged to have discriminated against Chinese travellers at the UK airport with its VIP voucher programme.
Chinese customers needed to spend over £1,000 to qualify for discount vouchers at the World Duty Free outlet, while customers from other countries had to spend just £79 to receive the same perk.
The disparity came to light when a Weibo user (a Chinese microblogging site) working part time at the shop noticed a Chinese customer being treated unequally. Ren Jian Nai Pao advised the customer to buy the items she already had in her shopping basket, worth around £300 in value, to get the VIP voucher before continuing with her shopping, only to be told she was not eligible.
“I asked why… the cashier said because she is Chinese; if she is Chinese, she has to spend £1,000 to get the VIP voucher,” Ren Jian Nai Pao wrote.
In a statement provided to The Independent, World Duty Free 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.
“The VIP programme is designed to reward customers – on top of our normal promotions – at certain points of the year by offering an attractive incentive on a second purchase. The implementation of this promotion has been confusing which we sincerely regret.
“After close self-examination and having made further investigations, we have taken urgent steps to correct the implementation of this promotion going forward.
“We have comprehensively re-briefed our staff in our stores to ensure that the promotion is clear. This offer applies regardless of the destination customers are flying to.
“Once again, we would like to take this opportunity to apologise profusely to all our valued customers.”
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We find this offer completely unacceptable. We have been in touch with World Duty Free and have made it clear that all passengers should be treated with fairness and respect. This has fallen short of expectations from our retailers and we apologise for the offence this retailer has caused.”
By RONAN J O’SHEA