China / Top Stories

Singles Day could be expat-friendly

By Siva Sankar (China Daily) Updated: 2016-11-16 06:53

After shopping in two successive 11/11s from Beijing, I, an Indian, feel like a Singles Day veteran already, in spite of not being versed in Chinese language. That I could also help a young Indian colleague and his wife buy some items, including a "Mummy Bag", made me feel valuable.

To optimize my online time on Fantastic Friday, I drew up in advance a list of must-buy items. On second thoughts, I need not have bothered - I'll come to that in a bit.

On Saturday, a group of 25 compatriots living/working in Beijing got together for lunch, and 11/11 became a talking point. I realized consumers, be they Indian or Chinese, tend to be price-sensitive, but covet different products.

One visual effects specialist said he spent over 7,000 yuan ($1,020), including 5,500 yuan on a laptop that usually retails for 6,800 yuan. One of my friends and I had planned to buy a digital camera each, but alas, no deep discounts were on offer for that model. Ditto for top-end versions of a popular e-book reader, smartwatch and smartphone.

A South Korean colleague lamented that before she could place the order for a discounted e-book reader, all sold out. Other expats had similar woes: there were no magnetic deals on shortlisted products; or, they couldn't figure exactly where the juicy offers were online. Yet, everyone bought loads of stuff.

A Chinese colleague appeared chuffed that she landed four nonstop round-trip flight tickets to the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia for under 12,000 yuan. The Chinese wife of a fellow Indian said she mostly splurged on fashion and cosmetics, and was pleased some products were delivered within hours of buying, while others materialized by Saturday morning.

I ended up buying this and that, not so much because I needed them, but flashy ads on websites tempted me, and 11/11 deals entail no delivery charges.

Besides, my friends back in India enjoyed crazy online deals last month for mostly made-in-China products, particularly gadgets, so it would be a shame if I didn't make the most of deals such as a 298 yuan leather belt for 27.90 yuan, a 108 yuan shampoo for 26.80 yuan, and 2 yuan doormats.

But cheap deals, volumes, foreign brands, access to consumers beyond the mainland, record sales ... these alone won't make Singles Day truly global. Nor would foreign celebrities at pre-opening galas, improved logistics, and use of virtual reality technology, drones, robots and e-gaming variants.

To make Singles Day better for consumers, particularly expats, what's required is this: full-function multilingual apps and websites; real-time customer service in multiple languages; end to counterfeiters, substandard and defective goods; filtering out of teasers with misleading prices; prompt refunds/replacements; transparent and clear advance information, so consumers could plan what to buy when, where and how.

As I said, I need not have bothered about optimizing my online time. I noticed 11/11 sales didn't end exactly at midnight Friday. Prices stayed lower even on Tuesday. I'd suspect consumers may take it easy next Singles Day (a Saturday).

Contact the writer at

Hot Topics