By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

It’s been “trending” in Hong Kong for close to three years with no end in sight or within earshot- cold calls from numbers that can’t be traced selling several things with a little blackmail from those with secrets to sell from Mainland China to some in Hong Kong who are happy to pay the bogeyman to go away thrown in to spice up the mulligatawny.

THE SCAMS PLAGUING THE HONG KONG RESTAURANT TRADE 1

Last week, a friend who’s discovered the perils of being in the local restaurant business and has come down to earth with a thud by having to start all over again with a much smaller outlet in the poorer side of town, was mentioning receiving a cold call about a deal. He wasn’t the first one.

The deal went like this: for HK$8,000 a month and their free meals, six foodie bloggers will write positive reviews of his restaurants PLUS ensure that there will be NO negative reviews on their accompanying website. A win-win situation? Hmmmm? Not when it’s been mentioned that all kinds of “stuff” are surreptitiously dropped into dishes, photographed and presented to restaurants with a Pay Up, Or Else clause.

THE SCAMS PLAGUING THE HONG KONG RESTAURANT TRADE 2

There were other “perks” to the deal such as a guaranteed table for 6-8 customers- different to the foodie bloggers- every day for an extra HK$800 and one free meal for one of these people.

Deals like this aren’t exclusive to the small restaurateur either. There are five star hotels in Hong Kong paying what are “networks” with often an enemy within to have some of their less popular venues look popular. Jeez. But it’s the small player who’s the most vulnerable to what are stings described as “social media marketing”. Legally, this creates loopholes for the scammers. They’re giggling all the way to the tootsie roll.

THE SCAMS PLAGUING THE HONG KONG RESTAURANT TRADE 3

Of course, news like this reinforces the terms #fakenews and Don’t Believe Everything You Read. In other words, along with reviews of films, music, video games, YouTube views and the number of followers in the online world, one can’t even really tell good from bad and real from unreal when it comes to even restaurant reviews and what might be “the best” new places to have a meal.

Why so many go along with this and are happy to keep up false pretences is baffling. But perhaps this is all part of the brave new online world where nothing is real and there’s everything to get hung up on.

THE SCAMS PLAGUING THE HONG KONG RESTAURANT TRADE 4

Looking at this positively, perhaps this is positive news as it might just force us to rediscover the real world, communicate with each other face to face and start making individual choices before being led by the nose like The Night Of The Living Dead.

For the small restaurateur, however, at least for the time being and before these people are named and shamed and before they apparently take their “business model” to Singapore and Australia, it’s one more nail in the coffin with no one here right now to blow the lid on what’s been going on for too long.

THE SCAMS PLAGUING THE HONG KONG RESTAURANT TRADE 5

Apart from spiralling rents in a down economy and consumers spoiled for choice, there’s now the added burden of worrying about bad publicity and bending over backwards to ensure this doesn’t happen even when one knows that it’s a form of blackmail.

Where’s Batman when we need him?

THE SCAMS PLAGUING THE HONG KONG RESTAURANT TRADE 6

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