China's 'Singles Day' Makes Black Friday Look Like Amateur Hour


America has turned every holiday on its national calendar into an excuse for shopping, with Black Friday damn near cannibalizing Thanksgiving. But nothing compares to the online ordering orgy that is 11/11, China’s Singles’ Day, where $8 billion worth of crap has already been snapped up at deep discounts—and that’s just on sites owned by the ecommerce giant Alibaba.

That figure comes via Reuters, and it’s the biggest it’s ever been. Supposedly Singles’ Day was born back in the 1990s, but it’s morphed into the ultimate marketing stunt, the Hallmark holiday taken to its logical conclusion, an idea nurtured into a frenzy by Alibaba (which holds the copyright on the term “Double 11”). It’s basically just a really fucking big sale!

The company kicked things off in 2009, when they slashed prices and urged bachelors and bachelorettes to treat themselves. Since then, it’s spiraled into something like (ugh) “cyber Monday” but bigger and badder. Seriously, this is next-level stuff. It’s billed as an alternative to Valentine’s Day, but the execs at America’s chocolate and greeting-card companies should be ashamed to show their faces at the steakhouse (or wherever execs gather to crow about their successes), because Singles’ Day makes their annual bonanza look like a fucking joke. It’s genius, really—a day devoted wholly to people spending their disposable income on themselves. How did this not occur to some American Jack Donaghy decade ago?

According to Quartz’s history of the holiday, the marketing leading up the big day is every bit as intense as America’s in-your-face holiday cheer blitz: “It begins as early as three months before the day and ranges from social media campaigns to text messages and phone calls promoting deals. Rebates are offered in the form of “red envelopes” orhongbao that are traditionally given as gifts.”

But what are they actually buying? Well, there are the deals on apparel, electronics, accessories and so forth. And then, according to the Financial Times, there are the virtual significant others:

Now the rent-a-lover business is becoming more regular, with Taobao sellers offering to murmur sweet nothings online, through China’s ubiquitous messaging platforms like Tencent‘s WeChat.
Taobao lists nearly 5,000 virtual lovers online. The search terms boyfriend, girlfriend or lover are blocked by Taobao, possibly due to concerns over pornography or prostitution, but shoppers can search for “avatar girl.friend” or other alternatives instead.

Of course, the company would love to take their payday global, roping America and other countries into the madness. But Bloomberg Businessweek is skeptical, citing our very crowded money-spending schedule. November 11 is devoted to Veterans Day, and besides, it would get sandwiched between back-to-school and Christmas craziness:

“People look at holidays that we’ve got and say, ‘Where would you fit another one in? Do I really want to have to buy gifts for another holiday? Is this really something that’s important to me?'” Allen says.

Come on, guys. This is America. If there’s one place our can-do attitude remains intact, it’s shopping until we drop. USA! USA!

Image via Getty.

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