Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Toilet Seat Economics

Sometimes the anecdotal stories of professionals in China tell us more than any text book.

There small post by the undercover lawyer in China has economic lessons all over it (although it has a "cultural" tag). I have posted it in full so you miss nothing.

To any students, what are the economic lessons to be learnt from this story?

Avoid Toilets At Your Chinese Hotel, Or You Will Pay [China Lawyer Blog]

Hotels in China give some insight into how decisions are made here. Except in major cities, hotels across China are mostly still government owned, or run by companies whose main commerce has nothing to do with hotels. But, either because they have extra government subsidies or because they are desperate to find new income, many state owned companies here decide to open hotels.

I’m in the town of Turpan in western China, and most hotels here are state run. In fact, the nicest hotel in town in the Xinjiang Petroleum Hotel, which charges about US$80 a night.

The obvious problem with a government run hotel is that it is run by government employees, and needless to say government employees don’t like to work as hard as employees in the private sector, and it shows. Government hotels are invariably dirtier, have broken fixtures, and have staff that treat customers like, well, the government treats people.

Two days ago, in the nearby city of Kashgar on the ancient silk road, I found a government hotel on the edge of town, the Xinlong Hotel, that seemed decent enough. I paid about US$25 per night and the room included internet access. But, I wasn’t careful, and when I checked out the next day and the receptionist ordered the staff to check my room to see what I owed, she reported that a) I had replaced a clothing hanger with an original hanger, for which I would be charged about US$4, and b) the plastic toilet seat was broken, and I would be charged another US$8 for that.

Needless to say, I didn’t agree. But, I didn’t make progress with these people, and the staff, including two managers, removed the toilet seat to and brought it to the main reception as evidence of the fact it was broken. I couldn’t argue that it was broken, but I didn’t break it, and any hotel that spends just US$8 on plastic toilet seats for its best rooms can expect that they will be broken sometimes.

4 comments:

Marilyn Terrell said...

What a ripoff! Good to know.

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