BMW apologizes for refusing to give Chinese visitors free ice cream at Shanghai auto show
Published: Apr 20, 2023 03:25 PM Updated: Apr 21, 2023 06:10 PM
Photo: Sina Weibo
Photo: Sina Weibo

Car brand Mini, which is owned by German auto giant BMW, apologized again on Friday following a controversy involving suspected discrimination against Chinese visitors at the Shanghai auto show, and said the foreigners seen in the widely-circulated video are actually the company's on-site employees.

The hashtag BMW MINI trended on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Thursday morning after a video clip circulated online showed that representatives of the brand refused to give propagated free ice cream to Chinese visitors, whereas they generously gave ice cream to a foreign visitor. 

The brand issued an apology on Thursday over the incident, and attributed the incident to imperfect internal management and its employees' dereliction of duty.

On Friday, the brand further apologized for the lack of effective management, while asking more tolerance for the involved two female staffers as they are young people who have just entered society. In a new statement released on Sina Weibo, it said that a total of 600 free ice creams were sent out on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a small amount being prepared for on-site staff members. The statement said that the foreigners seen in the widely-circulated video are the company's on-site employees and wearing employee's badges. 

The video clip circulating online showed that two female staffers at the MINI model booth refused to provide free ice cream to Chinese visitors and told them the ice cream had already run out.

However, minutes later, when a foreign visitor arrived at the booth and asked about ice cream, the two employees took out a box of ice cream from the thermal case and told him how to open it.

When the representatives' attitude was questioned by other visitors, a male staffer took away the thermal case containing the ice cream, the video showed.

According to media reports, the incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon and the uploader of the video claimed to have witnessed the employees refusing several Chinese visitors but offering ice cream to several foreign visitors. 

The incident aroused heated discussions online on Thursday with many netizens saying the employees may have discriminated against Chinese visitors.

The brand apologized on Thursday for its problematic internal management and its employees' dereliction of duty. 

The company vowed to review and improve its management, strengthen internal training, and strive to provide good service and a good experience for every customer. 

The topic "apology from BMW MINI" topped Sina Weibo and gained nearly 350 million views as of Thursday night. Some netizens expressed unhappiness toward the incident and demanded more explanation.

Some observers believe that rather than discrimination against Chinese people, the incident demonstrated the xenophilia that still exists in Chinese society.

Some pointed out that it is necessary to distinguish between xenophilia and simple hospitality toward foreigners. Being representatives of a company, the two representatives' behavior should be corrected but should not be excessively criticized.