Chinese Single’s Day

November 11th… 11/11… One-one-one-one…

Aka. Single’s Day, the day where a bunch of single people moped on and offline.

Singles’ Day, or Bachelors’ Day, originated at Nanjing University in 1993. Singles’ Day celebrations spread to several other universities in Nanjing during the 1990s. via Wiki.

Then Taobao (under the Alibaba Group, the Chinese Amazon) started the “Double 11” campaign in 2012, coping its Western cousin Black Friday, where lots of things go on sale at insanely low prices. It did so-so that year. Media mocked Taobao’s wacky marketing strategy even though it sounded rather catchy.

But the following year, the year after that and so on, more and more people, sellers and buyers, joined the party. When word got out that on Double 11 Day one gets the biggest saving of the year, everyone is psyched.

In 2012, I was in Shanghai doing marketing and branding. I saw it from inside out and outside in, as a skeptical consumer and a skeptical marketer. As we come to the end of 2018, it has been going on for six years. Double 11 is only getting stronger.

So much so that Alibaba coined “Double 12” (December 12). It caught up instantly. More online platforms like tried to emulate the campaign. Lo and behold, the term “Double 11” was trademarked by Alibaba on December 28, 2012.  The company threatened legal action against media outlets that accept advertising from competitors that use this term.  They are fun to play with, but deadly to play against.

By now, 11-11 just doesn’t feel like Single’s Day any more. It has officially become Shopping Spree Day. “The event is now nearly four times the size of America’s biggest shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.” according to Wiki.

Guilty as charged, I stayed up late today till after midnight just so I could join the other hundred million online shoppers in China… Of course, people will complain the next day, “Yeah, I did save a little. But it’s not worth staying up late like this.” And yet, by next year, like every year, people would do it all over again like clockwork.

Why did I do it if I sounded so ‘smart and sophisticated.’

First off, some things I’ve been planning to buy are slightly cheaper on Double 11. So why not wait a little till Nov 11?

Second, there are things I did want to order early but I couldn’t place the order as the dates got so close to Double 11 when the prices were changed ‘back’ to freaking ridiculous high “original price” just so they can make the savings on 11-11 seem even more…

No matter how much you save as a consumer, no matter how much you make as a seller, we are all playing Alibaba’s game.  Since Alibaba is the House, it will report and boast the next day in the news that “this year we have made some trillion yuan” which gives the the country a proper moment to say, “See? Our economy is greater than ever. No worries, people.”

It takes a group of delusional people, myself included, to be willing to play this game. But then, in China, one thing you don’t lack is people. One word that would get you undivided attention and unified action is: discount.

What’s the upside? Well, as a single person, I can speak for us: we don’t feel that lonely on this day anymore. We are so busy buying, we don’t have time to feel melancholy.  Shopping can be therapeutic after all.


Yours truly,