singles’ day: to the spender goes the spoils

Monday was November 11, which is a pretty notable holiday in China. It’s Veterans Day back in the States, but here, November 11 (11/11) is Singles’ Day … also referred to as “Bare Sticks Holiday” (光棍节, guānggùn jié) or “Double Eleven” (双十一, shuāng shíyī). And it’s a big deal. It’s a newer holiday that started out as an anti-Valentine’s Day thing for single people to hang out so it doesn’t really have any traditions … except shopping. You know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Well Singles’ Day in China is kinda like that … but Cyber Monday pales in comparison to Singles’ Day.

131115[NOTE: Image taken from a screenshot of the Alipay website, China’s version of PayPal]

TMall (the more regulated sister site of the ever-popular online shopping extravaganza that is TaoBao) as well as a bunch of other sites do crazy sales for Singles’ Day. I’m talking 50% or more off … for that day only, sometimes for only the first few hours of the day. So everyone’s online waiting to pay at 12:01 AM on November 11. I didn’t go crazy like some people, but I did do some shopping and when I went to pay, I kept getting the above image … and a message saying to be patient. And for the rest of the day it was hard to access my bank account online, probably because the poor website was getting flooded with people paying for things via online bank transfer (people rarely use credit here).

Life off the web was normal, no crazy celebrations or people camping out (since very few brick-and-mortar stores had any special deals), but online was a financial frenzy. Things were selling out left and right. Within the first hour, 6.7 billion RMB was spent. IN AN HOUR. And by day’s end, 35 billion RMB was spent. That’s 5.7 billion USD. IN ONE DAY. CRAZY.

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