Shopping alone on Singles’ Day—it’s too manic for one
By Pearl Goh
If the week before Christmas is best avoided because shopping with the throbbing masses that, until then, would have been happily clicking on Shopee, is just too much and chaotic to bear, why do so many squeeze themselves with the digital hordes on Double 11 Day to buy even hair clips?
Well, I don’t know, and what I don’t know, I want to find out. Foolishly, I plunged headlong into an activity that should be banned by governments if only because they could cause a dramatic dip in productivity as a result of sleepless nights. Many avid online shopper tells me, the most enjoyable time to buy is when it’s dark, and while you lay in bed. When the time comes to face the day, you won’t need to wake up to greet the sunrise; you’re already up.
The thing about Single’s Day shopping is, discounting takes place before 11.11, not close to midnight, but way before. But I didn’t know that until my neighbour, from some floors down, told me. He had knocked on my door this afternoon to ask if I had received a parcel. Apparently, his wife had been doing her Double-Eleven shopping last week, and she had entered the wrong door number in the address window. And the e-commerce site (he didn’t tell me which) had sent the order to my unit, and, as no one had answered the door when the delivery man came, the package was left on the door mat.
I told the guy that even if I had answered the delivery man’s call, I would not have accepted what I had not ordered or purchased (according to the man, the missus “bought a lot”). I also told him that I did not find anything on my front door all day, up till the time he came a-calling. He went away somewhat unhappy. I didn’t think he was displeased with my response, however truthful I was. Or perhaps he was cheerless because he did not know how to bring the bad news to his wife.
This got me thinking, not of neighbourly discourses and misplaced deliveries and one husband with a failed mission, but of the appeal of shopping on 11.11 or during this period. I have been reading in the past years the staggering figures Taobao makes every year during Singles’ Day, which originated in China, not America, as my shopaholic cousin thinks, in 2009 (update: this year, the number reported is an eye-popping USD38.4 billion. Can we even achieve that on a national level in a year?). So I thought I should start at the website believed to have created “the world’s biggest online sales fest”.
The moment I clicked on taobao.com (and was immediately directed to their international site), I was reminded of the reason why I have never been seduced by the offerings here. It was just too crazy! A visually daunting landing page, it isn’t for those who need picturesque calm to carry on with life. Where should I begin? Randomly, I seached for 书桌椅 (desk chair) and was given a list that did not seem to want to end. I tried 戒子 (ring) and again it went on and on, just like the ribbon unravelling from performers in Patpong bars, who discharge the unimaginable length from deep within where babies are supposed to emerge.
Long hours of online shopping, I began to realise, caused not only sleep disruptions, but psychotic disturbances too
Okay, I allowed my imagination to get overly active. Long hours of online shopping, I began to realise, caused not only sleep disruptions, but psychotic disturbances too. Unable to be gainful at Taobao (which, I admit, is a defeat), I thought I’d switch to Lazada, which, in my mind, is at least on home turf, and may be more sensitive to local shoppers’ navigational and GUI preferences. Lazada, as it turned out, was quite the neighborhood expo we now no longer yearn to attend.
Apart from animated GIFs and whatever there was to make the page sing and dance, and leap out at you, there were coupons to swipe for, deal suggestions to consider, and all manner of temptations to resist. This was screencraft! I searched for wireless earbuds and was, unsurprisingly, given choices so massive that at one point, I was sure the same product appeared repeatedly and with more persistence than my hungry Pomeranian. Or, the ad-memoire that springs up in your news feed reminding you there’s a S$24 Play T-shirt(!) to be had.
I gave up. Making a decision on what exactly to buy is stressful when you were so bombarded from every corner of the page and so baffled by the seeming urgency of it all, as a ticking timer reminded you of how many hours/minutes/seconds left before every price drop comes to a grinding, end-of-the-dystopian-world halt.
Switching to Qoo10 and Shopee was the same or, should I say, not even a smidgen better. This wasn’t iOS or Android, which now is unalike! This could have been the Valu$ shop’s Fire Sale on digital steroids. Yet, despite being told of the immeasurable fun on these shopping sites, the pleasure, amusement, respite(!), range, discounts, and gratification somehow all escaped me, like the best bargains on Net-A-Porter on their finest day.
But many, it seems, are using these sites as shopping playground on and prior to 11.11. I heard that the kiasus would even place the items they want in the cart a month earlier and checking out only when the promo begins. The retailer-shopper dynamic has the same aplomb as offline Fairprice on any given day or hour. Not a bad thing in itself, but may not be conducive to pondering over a Balenciaga dress that would cause a serious dent in your already-dented purse. Which perhaps explained why 11.11 had not been the purview of businesses not the equivalent of Courts.
I’m going back to my every-day-is-Singles’ Day existence, glad to known that the “self-partnered” I (thanks, Emma Watson!) isn’t FOMO-ed out when Taobao isn’t starring intently back at me. Or, that I won’t feel better about being single after contributing to Alibaba’s bottomline so that they can hire Taylor Swift to get you in a spending mood. Here’s a little prayer that my neighbour will find her happy buys. Soon.