singles' day china

‘Refund’ Trends Online as Singles’ Day Shopping Festival Approaches

China’s steroid-pumped version of Black Friday, Singles’ Day or 11-11, hasn’t officially arrived yet, but consumers are already complaining about deposits, refunds, and discount conditions

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Hayley Zhao
1:38 PM HKT, Fri November 4, 2022 1 mins read

Autumn is in full swing in China, and shoppers nationwide are getting hyped for the most important date on the country’s consumer calendar: November 11 (often abbreviated as 11-11), otherwise known as Singles’ Day or the Double Eleven shopping festival. But this year, the excited chatter that typically heralds the shopping event’s arrival is accompanied by a different type of online buzz: complaints about refund policies and overly complicated discount coupons.

Initiated in 2009 by China’s biggest ecommerce site Taobao, which belongs to tech giant Alibaba Group, the highly commercial celebration generates hundreds of billions of yuan in sales per annum. And what began as a one-day shopping spree has evolved into a month-long shopping marathon with different presale and warm-up events.

This year marks the 14th edition of Taobao’s Singles’ Day. According to state media outlet Global Times, the 2022 bonanza is the ecommerce platform’s “most diverse” ever, with more than 290,000 participating brands offering 17 million products.

single's day sales on taobao

A Taobao customer’s screenshot of her insane savings during Taobao’s Singles’ Day sales. Image via Weibo

The presale period, which ran from October 24 until 31, allowed shoppers on Taobao to put deposits on their desired products and to pay off their remaining balances after 8 PM on October 31.

When the time came for customers to pay off their balances, however, the term ‘refund’ soon became a top trending topic on China’s biggest microblogging platform, Weibo, amassing over 1.6 billion views at the time of writing.

Many social media users have expressed regret over putting down deposits for things they don’t really need. Per Taobao’s refund rules, vendors required these shoppers to pay the total amount for their impulse purchases before they could claim a refund.

Furthermore, because customers are only able to get immediate refunds before items are shipped, sly behavior has been observed coming from many merchants: Some vendors changed order statuses to ‘in progress’ as soon as they were paid the remaining balance, allowing no delay for shoppers to request an immediate refund.

Other sellers shipped products before October 31 to — netizens are alleging — avoid having to issue refunds, with some customers receiving their purchases the very morning after they had paid their balances.

A Weibo user from Sichuan lamented, “No time for refunds. I paid off my balance last night at 9 PM and received my package this afternoon.”

Alibaba Singles' Day 2022 on Taobao

The term ‘refund’ has become a trending topic on China’s biggest microblogging platform, Weibo, amassing more than 1.6 billion views. Image via Depositphotos

But there’s more: Some netizens are complaining about being “overloaded with information” about Taobao’s 2022 Singles’ Day shopping festival. These shoppers have allegedly spent long hours trying to decipher the discount prerequisites and coupons offered by different merchants, leaving them exhausted and frustrated.

“I just paid off my balance, but the 11-11 coupons disgust me as I can never figure out what they apply to. I can’t figure it out,” complained a Weibo user.

Meanwhile, several eagle-eyed customers have caught multiple brands changing their prices daily, making it impossible to know if their presale deals were really worth the splurge.

Cover image via Depositphotos

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