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Generous Carrefour provokes outrage
( 2003-11-11 08:57) (eastday.com)

One of the world's top retail giants Carrefour would never have imagined that one of its celebratory events would cause a furor among Shanghainese.

Zhu Ziqing
To mark the France-based hypermarket chain's 40th anniversary, its Quyang outlet has been distributing 500 free breakfast meals - soybean milk and steamed stuffed bun - every morning since last Monday.

But the free meal, valued at just more than one yuan (12 US cents), has led to long queues - extending to about 100 meters - of mostly old people outside the supermarket every day.

The meal has become so popular that some seniors have been queuing up as early as 5 am even though the store doesn't open until 8:30 am. Once open, all the 500 meals get over within 10 minutes, leaving many, some of whom have been waiting for hours, disappointed.

"I used to do exercise at 6 am daily. Because of the free breakfast, I changed my venue to near the store," said an old man named Wang.

The queues, the disappointments have triggered different opinions among local people, with the Shanghai's largest news portal (www.eastday.com) launching a discussion panel.

Some Netizens think it is alms-giving by Carrefour while most are ashamed that people would actually wait several hours for a low-cost breakfast.

Still others consider it a marketing blitz.

"Carrefour has made use of low-income people for advertising," said an online surfer nicknamed Qian Fu. "If they really want to do something good, why not cut commodities' prices?"

A passer-by surnamed Zhang said: "These people don't lack money for breakfast. They are just being petty. It's a bit shameful, really."

Carrefour, on its part, said it was purely a commercial activity for its 40th anniversary. "We didn't want to cause any controversy and there is no other connotation to the activity," said Zhang Lixia, a public relations manager of Carrefour. "Despite the row, the free meals will continue as planned," giving no date as to when it will end.

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