man has recently learned why you shouldn’t mess with China’s most popular hot pot chain.
One evening last November, the man, surnamed Guo, claimed to have fished a rat out of broth at a Haidilao location in Beijing. At first the restaurant offered him vouchers for free meals. Then, one worker upped the offer to 20,000 yuan ($3,000) in compensation.
However, Guo turned down this proposal and instead demanded 5 million yuan ($740,000). As you’d expect, the two sides failed to come to an agreement. Guo contacted the local food and drug administration while Haidilao went to the police. After investigation, Guo was arrested for extortion.
At his trial in March, Guo pleaded guilty to the charge, admitting to having discovered the dead rat while visiting his hometown in Henan province and then taking the rodent with him back to Beijing in a bottle. He explained that initially he was only interested in a free meal, but had got a bit greedy.
Guo’s sentencing came down last week. The court ruled that because he had sought to damage Haidialo’s business reputation by creating a food safety hoax and had filed a false report with regulatory authorities, he should be severely punished, sentencing to three years in prison and fining him 30,000 yuan ($4,300).
Founded in 1994 in Sichuan province by a former factory worker, Haidilao has expanded around China — with more than 190 outlets in the country — and across the globe to cities like Los Angeles, Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo. It’s become China’s most popular hot pot chain, not just for its food, but also for its attention to customer service. Those waiting for a table at Haidilao are offered free manicures and massages.
However, that high degree of customer care took a frightening turn earlier this month when a hot pot “exploded” in the face of one waitress at a Haidilao location in Yunnan province as she was trying to fish out a lighter dropped by a customer. The eruption caused her face, chest, and arms to be covered in the scalding soup. She was quickly rushed away to the hospital.