Starting Thursday, the Chinese online retailer Alibaba Group will be hosting an event on one of its platforms called “festive singles,” an online dating platform that singles can register for to see who can buy them gifts and articles of clothing.
The company, and some Chinese users, have responded with worry. Internet users on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, posted sarcastic comments such as “spending money to make your relationship better, or being more social,” and “the last thing I want is a relationship that costs money, it will just end in tears.” Others focused on the misuse of the term “single,” for example, “single single singles celebrating the success of their coupling.”
A poll on Weibo asking whether “singles” should be put in the dictionary resulted in more than 1,600 votes.
Chinese netizens are lashing out on Weibo at Alibaba Group, asking if the company is excluding women from the event to discriminate against them. The Weibo user Zhang Jianhua had this to say, taking a swipe at Alibaba’s leadership: “Let’s just say they didn’t sign up a woman or two, so they could make more profits.”
Many Chinese users are also making light of the event, joking about having an open relationship with a shopping spree, saying they are ready to pay for people they have trouble finding. Netizens are also setting limits on how much of their money they will spend on romance. There are videos on Weibo of men playing around with their new purchases to see how much they can get away with. One man is seen onscreen playing around with his new media player saying that he will give the amount he spent to an as-yet-unidentified charity, so long as people stop asking for money to purchase love.
The night before, a few days before the event, public security forces also dressed up to fool people into thinking they were singles to host a party with cards promoting the event, complete with a concert.
The most poignant line of a story on Yicai, an influential Chinese news site, came from a woman quoted by the paper, “If things break down in your marriage or like they have in my own, you could get a gift of payment,” referring to money.
According to the site’s statistics, on the first night of Singles Day — a festival in China that kicked off in 2010 as a response to Valentine’s Day — Alibaba sold nearly $25 billion of goods in the most important shopping day of the year. One of Alibaba’s core business, retail, represents 20 percent of China’s GDP and is one of the country’s key engines of growth.
On Thursday, Alibaba said in a statement that it would review any feedback, but in an earlier interview with a Chinese news website, a company spokesman said that “people can expect to see the same range of products with gift items like socks and sweatshirts.”
With the holiday approaching, Chinese netizens can expect more photos of couples with matching Christmas sweaters, which seem to have taken over social media by the end of last year.