Nov. 11, also known as Singles’ Day, is an online shopping holiday in China unlike any other. A star-studded show, hosted by China’s largest online retailer, Alibaba, kicks off the festivities every year, originally conceived as an online sales event for singles to treat themselves with some retail therapy. This past Friday, movie star Nicole Kidman, rapper Pharrell Williams, and Chinese film stars Zhang Ziyi and Fan Bingbing were among those present at a gala in Shanghai.
By the end of a 24-hour period, Alibaba had made 168.3 billion yuan, or roughly NZ$36.34 billion, an almost 40 percent increase from last year’s 120.7 billion yuan (NZ$25.89 billion).
Chinese consumers bought the most products from Japan, America, Australia, Germany, and South Korea. In Guangzhou Province in southern China alone, 360 million packages were to be shipped out by the local post office.
But the sales numbers have been called into question. According to Reuters, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a probe into Alibaba’s accounting practices in 2016, including into its Singles’ Day sales.
On the same day, Chinese newspaper Beijing News published an article exposing websites that provide fake transactions for store vendors. Online store vendors can request however many fake transactions they’d like, and the person who helps complete the task gets a commission in exchange. The fake sales are made under fake names, in order to increase a vendor’s sales volume and popularity ranking—in the hopes of attracting real customers to make purchases.
One website, called “51 Shua Dan” (the term in Chinese for fake transactions), closed down after the Beijing News report came out. Before closing, the website had 62,484 members and had completed 10 million fake transactions, according to Beijing News.
The massive sales numbers may also be an indication of a serious social problem. This weekend, a local Chinese newspaper called Metropolis Bulletin reported that a woman living in the coastal city of Xiamen, Fujian Province spent 1.4 million yuan (NZ$305410.18) while online shopping for the past two years.
The woman’s husband, 37 year-old Liu Cheng, told the newspaper that his wife had continuously acquired clothing items online—on Nov. 11 and other major holidays—spending all of the couple’s savings, using up the credit card limit on 17 cards, borrowing money from relatives, and taking loans on the items she bought.
During this year’s Lunar New Year holiday, six deliverymen had dropped off 27 packages in one day. Liu also started receiving phone calls from different retail companies asking about the money owed on items his wife had purchased.
Liu said his wife’s closet had about 300 pairs of jeans, 200 pairs of shoes, 50 coats, and 40 different handbags, alongside countless t-shirts and jackets, many with their tags still on.
Shopping addiction is a real phenomenon in China. In 2011, Chinese news portal Sina published a survey about online shopping habits among Chinese consumers. 71.1 percent of those surveyed believed they had an addiction. 73.6 percent said they would log onto an online shopping site every day.
Alongside frequent scams and fake products made with dubious materials, the Nov. 11 festival has recently led to a real tragedy in Shanghai.
A supermarket in Pudong district had organized a sales event on Nov. 11. Many customers were lined up in front of the market at around 6:30 in the morning.
The market had a second-floor loft that was used to store goods. At around 6:50, local police reported that the loft had collapsed due to overload, trapping a dozen or so customers and staff underneath.
Local residents had called police when it occurred. The police sent out information via WeChat that two people had died, while seven were injured. Those rescued were sent to Pudong New District People’s Hospital for treatment. One of the critically injured died after 13 hours at the hospital.
Written by Annie Wu
From The Epoch Times