A branch of Lady M, the upscale NYC-based patisserie chain, opened last month in IFC Mall in Shanghai. Sweet-toothed Shanghai residents went crazy for the famed cakes, creating hours-long queues for slices; the shop even had to close briefly because the huge crowds had created a safety hazard, says Time Out Shanghai. It’s rumored that scalpers were selling cake slices for twice their value to those unwilling to wait in the long lines.
Dessert fans with even less of a tolerance for long lines are getting their slices through a more far-fetched method: They’re having their slices (or entire cakes) smuggled in from the patisserie’s second-closest locations in Hong Kong, paying fees to the smugglers of about USD$10-12, or about the cost of each slice itself, according to the South China Morning Post.
This type of black-market importing, in which goods are purchased abroad on someone else’s behalf and brought back into China for a fee, has a long tradition in China. It’s called daigou, or contract buying, and it’s generally used for items like designer handbags. This may be the first time it’s been used on a large scale for luxury desserts.
Chinese customs officials are now wise to the scheme, however, and are telling people to knock it off. The Shanghai customs authority posted on its official WeChat account that cake-carriers must prove the treats are for their own consumption. “If you really want to enjoy [the cake], be it in Hong Kong, Singapore or the United States, enjoy it there directly,” the post said. “As regards bringing it back, you’d better drop the idea.”
Dying to try the cakes yourself? Lady M also has locations in NYC, Boston, Chicago, Southern California, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei, and they ship throughout the U.S.