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September 20, 2011

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Crab coupons pinch unsuspecting buyers

BEFORE the city embraces the season to savor hairy crabs, vendors are already cashing in with a booming "paper crab business," trading crab gift coupons that guarantee huge profits - but not authentic products.

Such crab gift coupons, or preorder tickets for crabs, are already in large circulation in local markets with vendors promising to deliver famous and authentic hairy crabs from Yangcheng Lake in neighboring Jiangsu Province as early as September 10.

But the official date for crab farming season in the lake began on September 17, which means that the crabs delivered to residents' homes via the coupons are not authentic, warned Yang Weilong, director of the Suzhou Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Association.

Despite the lack of authenticity of crabs delivered via the coupons, some legitimate retailers selling hairy crabs from the lake are warning residents that some small companies that have issued the coupons may simply "vanish" after being paid because they don't have enough products in storage, and it will be difficult for customers to protect their rights.

At one of the city's biggest aquatic food wholesale markets on Tongchuan Road, suppliers of various aquatic food companies told reporters the secrets of crab coupons.

The process is simple.

Vendors print and sell the gift coupons with an artificially high face value but offering a "discount" price to companies or individuals, each promising to deliver high-rank hair crabs from Yangchen Lake.

When customers come to get the products with the coupons, the vendors simply take them to the Tongchuan Road wholesale market for extremely cheap normal crabs that are not raised in Yangchen Lake but come equipped with "rings," the anti-counterfeit trademarks.

"As we call it in the paper crab business, you sell the tickets and we supply you with the crabs," said Wu Wenliang, who heads a crab supplier company. "Each crab charges 15 yuan (US$2.34), and the rings charge 2 yuan each to prove the crabs' 'authenticity.'"

It means that the coupon vendors may win huge profits when selling the crabs because they are charging 60 yuan to 100 yuan for them and they never have to worry about running out, as they will always find another supplier in the market.


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