Fapiao is a Chinese word that basically translates as an invoice. But the confusion surrounding it is pretty steep. I first encountered said confusion when I asked my training school to reimburse me for a purchased book. The receipt I gave them apparently wasn’t enough proof. They needed a fapiao, that elusive invoice with the official red stamp on it. I’ve asked numerous people what the purpose behind the fapiao is, and nobody has been able to give me a straight answer. Even after searching the Internet, I’m still not entirely sure.
But I’m closer now than ever before!
Ultimately, it has something to do with taxes, because a receipt apparently isn’t good enough to determine who owes what. Businesses don’t like issuing fapiaos, though, because, well, they might not be a legitimate business to begin with. Also, the fapiao is an official record of a transaction, and the company will have to pay taxes on that. If you want a fapiao, then, you usually have to ask for it. As an incentive for you to do so, some fapiaos have scratch-off boxes where you can win money. I’m guessing businessmen collect fapiaos to use as tax write-offs, but everyone else just wants to see if they can win their ten yuan back.
Papa John’s (you know, that place with the best pizza in China) offers customers a special bonus if they don’t request a fapiao. They have a small, glass case of toys and other knick-knacks by the cashier, and if you agree to relinquish your receipt, you can take home one of the prizes! What a great restaurant. So I feel a little guilty when my Chinese friends ask other great restaurants to give them a fapiao. Since you don’t tip the servers in China, it’s kind of like an indirect way of expressing your dissatisfaction.
Out on the streets, there are sometimes people dully calling out, “Fapiao, fapiao, fapiao, fapiao…” I never understood what they were doing, whether they were collecting unwanted fapiaos or selling fake ones. It must be quite a magical piece of paper, though, because the lady outside the bus card shop gets a big grin on her face and does a little happy dance whenever somebody hands her one. Fortunately, as a foreign teacher who doesn’t have to pay taxes on his meager salary, the fapiao is something I rarely have to deal with.