For most of the world, today is just another day. But if you live in China, this is no ordinary day. It’s Singles Day. Somewhat of a subtle jab to all those couples who celebrate Valentine’s Day and other anniversaries while singles drink away their sorrows or watch some schmaltzy drama. At least singles can have their special day too.
But why November 11 of all days? Well, if you notice 11/11 has four consecutive ones. Or perhaps I could say four single ones. So yes, this day is a stark visual picture of singleness. And for a country whose written language consists of symbols, 11/11 was an apt choice.
Singles have had their special day for over 5 years now. Apparently some online retailers thought that singles would feel less depressed or lonely if they could buy something for themselves. So they offered substantial discounts on 11/11, and the celebration began, of sorts. I’m sure another day would have been chosen if the shoppers weren’t too eager to spend money. But the retailers’ gamble paid off, and now they amass billions of RMB in sales for just that one day. Either there’s a lot of singles in China who love to buy things for themselves, or maybe there’s just a lot of people who like a good discount. Probably both.
At any rate, I was reminded of 11/11 by my friends and ubiquitous online ads. So I decided to take advantage of such a highly discounted day and buy something. Everyone said Taobao (the equivalent of a Chinese Amazon) had great sales. And I checked it out. Unfortunately everything was in Chinese, and my reading skills are elementary, at best, in this language. The pictures helped, but everything else was like gibberish to me. If it was going to be this difficult to find a product, I probably shouldn’t purchase something. I could accidentally buy some fried scorpions or baby diapers. Either my friends would think I’m starving or delusional.
The online shops had failed me, but I still had faith in a bricks-and-mortar store. I wanted to find an HDMI cable for my computer, and Computer City seemed like the logical place to go. After a 10-minute bike ride, I reached Computer City, which seemed more like an electrical graveyard. In one section, there were piles of monitors gutted of all their electrical parts. Some workers were intently dissecting various electrical components. Kind of like an experimental lab for used machines. One shop sold computers, mainly Lenovo, and I figured this would be the place to get an HDMI cable.
“Hi, do you have HDMI cable?” I asked. (I hoped HDMI didn’t need a translation or “cable” for that matter.)
“Yes, how long?”
“How about 5m?” (Didn’t want to be too greedy)
“Yes, we can do that. Here you go.”
And with that, I had an HDMI cable from Computer City for 40 RMB (about $6.50). I may not have contributed to the frenzy of online sales today, but I felt I had done my part for Singles Day.
With 11/11 being so profitable, I don’t think retailers will single us out for too long. It’s just a matter of time before Couples Day comes. And I’ll place my bet on February 2.