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By Tony Craddock, Director General
We enjoyed a warm welcome from Allinpay in Shanghai, starting with a dinner to die for at one of the best gourmet restaurants in town. One of my favourite dishes required the help of Google Translate: Jellyfish. You just have to go for it.
Weihua Zheng and his colleague from Allinpay, Isabella Lu, kindly translated for our host, Mr Lu, and we quietly became accustomed to pausing for a moment while our question was translated, responded to, and translated again. We hardly spoke any business, which was refreshing.
The next morning, enduring the impact of a typhoon in Taiwan, we had a serious meeting when great progress was made, much more than normal. It was as if, now they knew us informally and felt they could trust us, they would be able to do business with us.
Then, the Ticket Office Adventure. We had pre-booked the train from Shanghai to Hangzhou, taken a cab to the airport, and were chaperoned to the door. What could possibly go wrong?
A missed seven. That’s what went wrong.
After a 15 minute queue, I passed my booking form and passport across to the ticket office girl, who smiled meekly. I paused. And paused.
And was told the ticket was not valid.
Correct amount, for Business Class. Correct name. Correct place, day, and time. But I had missed a number, the number 7, from the passport number. And there were no seats left on the train, I was told. I’d have to travel 2nd, not 1st, class and stand. I’d also miss the Alibaba meeting. Heartrate: 120.
The point was, everything works here because everyone complies. The ticket was obviously mine. But the ticket desk girl did not have the freedom to make a change or be flexible and let me through anyway. Comply, and you get friendly smiles. Deviate, and expect brick walls to come down.
In the end, I bought a 2nd class ticket on the original train and enjoyed a pleasant trip. Even if I missed out on the Moon cake and juice enjoyed by Warren, sitting in Carriage 1, Seat 1A, First Class.
Next time, I’ll comply.