Why is shopping so difficult on Singles Day?

BY CHINA DAILY

 

To take the mathematics challenges or to miss a billion, Chinese internet users are arming themselves to the teeth to join the price battle on the upcoming e-commerce sales day — Nov 11, also known as Singles Day.

The biggest Chinese shopping event draws people of all ages, and the promotions expand from Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba Group Holding’s main shopping platforms, to other e-commerce giants such as JD, Suning and Amazon.

Overwhelmed by the ecstasy of shopping, people now barely mention the day originated from a civil celebration of Singles Day (the date 11.11 resembles four “bare sticks”, the Chinese expression for the unattached). Alibaba first turned it into an online shopping stunt in 2009, encouraging shoppers to pamper themselves. However, in recent years people started to find that, compared to being single, it’s not necessarily easier to shop on this day.

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Have you got the game rules?

It takes time to win discounts and count prices. If you want to buy a long-awaited overcoat on Tmall, you must be prepared for starting on Oct 20, when the Singles Day event kicked off its presales this year. Pay the deposit, which will “swell” on Nov 11 — for example, a 50 yuan ($7.21) deposit equals 100 yuan when you pay the full price later.

Get coupons in Tmall shops. Win red envelopes through in-app games, battles and regular red envelope rains. And don’t forget to redeem some subsidies by Tmall credits, which allow you to deduct 50 yuan for every 400 yuan you spend. Now you can safely snap up that dream coat in the first seconds of Nov 11.

“I definitely need to go back to primary school to review math and reading for Singles Day.”

“Can’t understand the rules. I quit.”

Tmall, receiving complaints about the already “simplified” routines, launched games for teams to work together.

Shoppers can form their own teams and compete with others by asking friends to add “likes” to their teams. Team with more “likes” wins the “energy” — 100 “energy” points can be redeemed for 1 yuan out of 1 billion yuan in total for the event.

The team competition invitation codes certainly stirred up social networks for days, but gradually the enthusiasm was swept away by asking for a like every day. And once stopped, the “energy” soon drops back to 0, automatically losing the competition.

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Schrodinger’s price

Does it really save me money? This is the most critical question. Some e-commerce platforms are blamed for raising prices before Singles Day.

A customer put a pair of 399 yuan earphones in the shopping cart, and witnessed it rising to 549 yuan in the Singles Day presales period. “Spend 499 yuan and subtract 150 yuan”, but it’s not cheaper than before actually, the customer posted on Weibo.

“Yesterday it was 118 yuan, spend 199 yuan and subtract 100 yuan. Today it’s 400 yuan, buy two for 20 percent off.” Another customer complained about the price trap on Weibo.

Does it really save me money? This is the most critical question. Some e-commerce platforms are blamed for raising prices before Singles Day.

A customer put a pair of 399 yuan earphones in the shopping cart, and witnessed it rising to 549 yuan in the Singles Day presales period. “Spend 499 yuan and subtract 150 yuan”, but it’s not cheaper than before actually, the customer posted on Weibo.

“Yesterday it was 118 yuan, spend 199 yuan and subtract 100 yuan. Today it’s 400 yuan, buy two for 20 percent off.” Another customer complained about the price trap on Weibo.

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Wait…after wait

The Singles Day promotion event extended from one day to nearly a month in less than a decade. The presale period allows sellers more time to check the products, and package them up to send right after shoppers pay the full price.

Instead of waiting until the end of the year, shoppers normally can receive their packages in one to two weeks after Nov 11 now. However, this doesn’t include the time starting from the presale.

Compared with three- to five-day delivery at other times, one month to join the presales and get discounts is a long period of time, though good prices are worth waiting for. The event is only suitable for stocking up and is not good for urgent shoppers, some people reflected.

Some products can only be bought with the promotions during Oct 20 to Nov 11, as the product pages are changed into a Singles Day version, and the “pay” button is replaced by “pay the deposit”, which means shoppers can’t buy it directly.

It takes even more time if shoppers change their minds. Once the deposit is paid, it can’t be refunded according to the rules. To get the refund, the shopper can only wait until Nov 11 to pay the full price, and apply for a return immediately before the goods are delivered, or the shopper pays for the delivery fee.

Though shoppers complain that the rules are becoming more difficult year by year, and claim they have seen through sellers’ traps, the numbers continue to rise every year. Last year’s sales climbed 39 percent to 168.2 billion yuan. More than twice as much merchandise is sold on this one day than during the entire five-day US shopping spree that begins on Thanksgiving, runs through Black Friday and ends on Cyber Monday.

 

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