NYC Human Rights Commission Drops Charges Against Chinese Restaurant

The case of the Wisconsin man who filed a complaint with the NYC Human Rights Commission has come to a close with the commission dropping charges against the restaurant. In the original story, David Lopez, a tourist from Wisconsin, noticed that other (Chinese speaking) customers in the restaurant were given rice with their meals, but when Lopez asked for rice with his dinner he was told that he would be charged $1 extra. “Being Hispanic, we both like rice,” said 46-year-old Lopez. “We saw other customers getting a different menu. We were told we could order from it if we spoke Chinese.” The Chinese menu had prices that were, on average, $1 cheaper per dish.

Soon after the dust-up, Mayor Bloomberg urged a boycott of the shady Chinese restaurant. “It’s unconscionable to use race on any of these things, in terms of what kind of service, or how you charge, or whatever,” Bloomberg told the Daily News. “Go patronize a different [restaurant.] Let capitalism work.”

The lawyer for the restaurant says that the pricing difference was due to a “miscommunication,” and that the Chinese menu was just an older version of the English one, with higher prices for some things and lower ones for others. The Human Rights Commission dropped the charges after the guy from Wisconsin settled with the restaurant for an undisclosed sum and, “a promise to change its menu – by “listing identical prices in English and Chinese for the same dishes,” said Commissioner Patricia Gatling. ” The HRC claims that they will continue to monitor the restaurant to make sure the promise is carried out. —MEGHANN MARCO

PANEL WOKS AWAY [NYP] (Thanks, Dork Esquire!)
(Photo: Harris Graber)

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Charged Extra For Not Speaking Chinese?

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  1. Hoss says:

    Undisclosed sum — of rice?

  2. mikyrok says:

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least. I am white and I can tell you when eating in chinatown in NYC or Boston that I am treated completely differently depending solely on if I am eating with my chinese friends or not.

  3. roche says:

    So this guy gets a payoff and they get to keep screwing people? That is BS.

  4. GenXCub says:

    “Being Hispanic, we both like rice,”

    That’s my favorite part… because your national origin determines if you like rice.

  5. enm4r says:

    @GenXCub:

    Yeah, I like potatoes. It’s not that they taste great or that I find them as a worthwhile ingredient in many dishes, it’s because of my Irish background. I had no choice in the matter.

  6. TPIRman says:

    @roche: What do you mean? They made a “promise” to change their menu! I’m sure that everyone learned their lesson and that nobody will ever be screwed in that restaurant ever again, ever. Now let’s all head to Racist McGee’s for some Kung Pao chicken.

  7. iron_chef says:

    did anyone consider the fact that chinese menus are really expensive to update versus English ones? The restaurant probably had never updated the pricing on the old menus based on the finding a chinese typesetter of the language.

  8. techknight says:

    The practice of race-based pricing is not unheard of here in Toronto. I know from Chinese-speaking friends that some restaurants in Chinatown really do have different prices for people who can and can’t speak Chinese. And at the Pacific Mall, “the largest indoor Asian mall in North America”, it’s no secret that you will sometimes find a higher “white price”.

  9. GenXCub says:

    @enm4r: I’d be curious what would happen in the media if the tables were reversed, and restaurants served African American clientele extra fried chicken and collard greens at a lower price “because that’s what they like.”

    My fascination is that the remark seemed to be unintentional racial stereotyping, that if said by someone else would turn into another ‘nappy headed ho’ debacle.

  10. rugger_can says:

    Price fixing based on race? Say it ain’t so!

    Seriously, in my suburb where I grew up there used to be a little shawarma resturant (lebanese food). On the menu written in english was all the food items. However in Lebanese there was “specials” that where often a few bucks cheaper then ordering off the english menu (which just listed individual items)

    Never bothered me much because I always ordered the special on the advice of my girl friend at the time, but I though it was kinda underhanded and if I did not happen to have an “interpreter” along for the ride I would be screwed just because I couldnt read it, visa vie for all intent was not lebanese.

    I never really gave it much though until reading this artical. Umm.. im low on cash I wonder if they are still open and doing that..

    undisclosed out of court settlement here I come!

  11. rugger_can says:

    @techknight:

    Ive been to pacific mall with a friend of mine from Milliken, he never mentioned anything like that but I would not be surprised.

    Cool mall though.

  12. RandomHookup says:

    Sort of a misleading headline. Technically true, but the charges were dropped only after they paid up and fixed their menu pricing.

  13. Youngman says:

    Whatever. I think this is a non-issue. Some places even discriminate against Chinese customers who can’t speak Chinese.

  14. rugger_can says:

    @Youngman:

    So because they don’t discriminate based on race, but rather based on their language it makes it all right?

    I’m slightly confused as to the logic here. Perhaps Im missing the boat.

  15. MercuryPDX says:

    I agree about it being a non-issue. In the “summer beach town” that I lived in, every local bar on the strip had different prices/policies for locals and “summer tourists”.

    I didn’t find anything ultra-discriminatory about giving preferential treatment toward your bread-and-butter customers that support you year round vs. the customers that come in semi-regularly for two or three months and disappear. This is not to say that some summer tourists aren’t given the same breaks based on their loyalty. It’s called patronage, and it should be rewarded.

  16. shdwsclan says:

    Ive never actually notice that….but it is possible. Asians are very intollerant.

    Examples.

    Japan
    Koreans living in japan are considered illegal even though many were born there and have lineage before WW1. But, yet, the japanese gov’t refuses to grant them citizenship.

    China
    China doesnt grant citizen status to anyone that does not look chinese, even though they were born there and have family lineage there….
    Also, police treats foreigners worse, and on occasion kills them. Also, someone that is born out of china, but has chinese lineage, is automatically granted citizenship.

  17. esqdork says:

    1. Charges dropped.
    2. Differential pricing was a result of poor menu updating. I’m guessing the restaurant had better things to do than to audit the English menu against Chinese menu; maybe cooking.
    3. Settling with the turista from Wisconsin does not = acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
    4. I am fascinated by all the bellyaching about Asian racism as if Asians are the only ones who are ever racist. Racism exists and it blows but it isn’t exclusive to the Chinese.

  18. iron_chef says:

    the restaurant probably never been able to update the old chinese only menu…you know how much chinese typesetting costs or how hard to find a layout artist who knows how to typeset in chinese?

  19. Spider Jerusalem says:

    I can go into a Japanese diner with my Asian husband, and they’ll still try to slip me a fork. On the other hand, I can chill at the Chinese place down the block and listen to the old white guy yell at the waitress that he wants “Chinese soup with some Chinese vegetables!” based on the idea that a) looking at the bilingual menu it too hard and b) yelling makes you automatically understandable.

  20. iron_chef says:

    the restaurant probably never been able to update the old chinese only menu…you know how much chinese typesetting costs or how hard to find a layout artist who knows how to typeset in chinese?

  21. Gloria says:

    Spiderjerusalem: You know why? Because the Chinese place wants your money more. Because Chinese people love making money! Am I right? Right?

  22. MentalDisconnect says:

    Hmm… I am an equal mix of Asian and European.. I don’t look very Asian but I’m not white, either… so do I get a price in between? Should I mention my family name to make my heritage clear? Or do I whip out my chopsticks and start speaking Japanese? Perhaps I should bring along an Asian friend and a white friend and compare how I get treated to either of them? Would any special benefits gained by looking Asian be negated by acting like someone with a limited grasp of Asian culture? (“Hey, can you kung fu?” “Oooo fortune cookies! I love authentic Chinese food!”)

    Yeah. I’m being silly.

  23. coconino says:

    Being a chinese i know what probably happened here. The menu the guy saw is the chinese written menu mainly for the Chinese literate customers because they don’t usually order the stereotypical american chinese food such as what you and I are familiar with: such as the infamous sweet and sour chicken, mongolian beef, general tso’s chickens….etc.

    if u have frens who can translate the chinese written menu for u, u will realize that those food are probably the ones that u will never want to order such as duck tongue, chicken liver, shrimps (shelled on!), or poultry that are not deboned for the americans likening. Disgusting as they sound but they are mucho delicioso!

  24. jaewon223 says:

    @ shdwsclan:

    What you just said was racist. You just said that over a billion people in this world has no tolerance based on race. It’s not just ASIANS (Japan and China from what you mentioned) it’s ALL nations.

    I’m not going to go into it but the U.S. has a long history of intolerance for other ethnicities. Just to name a few, southern eastern Europeans, Africans, Asians, Native Americans… it would be easier to just name ethnicities that do not belong in this category which is mainly white Anglo-Saxon.

    Your comment is very narrow minded and ignorant. It shows how much you lack in cultural history/experience.

  25. Jesse in Japan says:

    There are many establishments in Japan where you can’t even enter the building unless you’re Japanese or accompanied by a Japanese person. Then again, most of these places are strip clubs or brothels.