Anliu He, Contributing Writer

If you were in China back in November at the end of 2018, your cellphone inbox must’ve been flooded with advertisements. With Nov. 11, or the Double 11, the biggest Chinese shopping sale event, right around the corner every e-commerce retailer was trying to rouse their potential consumers’ interest.

Actually, Nov. 11 is known as Chinese Singles Day. As the original meaning sounds a little bit sad and lonely, the online retailers saw a market opportunity and turned this holiday into a shopping spree with the slogan “treat yourself better” or “live the way you want to be.”

Most holidays and festivals are now commercialized. We all know sales such as Black Friday, and some retailers had sale events going on later in October. Sales Nov. 24 and 25 last year were $7.9 billion, and the online spending on Black Friday (Nov. 24) reached a record at $5.03 billion.

As for Tmall, which is a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) site in Alibaba group, its trading volume of last Nov. 11 exceeded $1 billion Yuan in the first three minutes, which equals to $150 million in U.S. dollars. And by the end of the day, it reached $168 billion Yuan. That’s nearly $25 billion.

But the question is, do you really save money when you shop on these holidays?  Nov. 29, 2017, the Chinese Consumer Association released the “Double 11” online shopping price tracking document, which showed that some of the online retailers raised the price before the sale, and some of them were just fabricating the original prices. Among 539 on sale products, 78.1 percent of them were not cheaper than before, which means you can purchase these products by  Double 11 prices or even lower prices on any regular day.

Does shopping really mean “treat yourself”, or is it just another business strategy? Obviously, the marketing target for Double 11 is mainly young people, especially young females. They are in college or just set their foot into society, and their consumption level is not up to the lavish life described by social media (in fact, even if they do, there will be more consumption desire due to the brainwashing advertisement). The bright and beautiful appearance of their peers on their smartphones and the ordinary difficulties in real life have plunged these young people into endless anxiety, spending their living expenses and even borrowing money to satisfy their fantasies of “a better life.”

Whatever the slogan says, the real things that remain after this shopping spree are your credit card bill and a bunch of stuff you don’t really need.

“I still have several packages of facial mask I bought last Nov. 11,”said Yajing Guo, a Chinese college student who always enjoys online shopping, “And I know not all the stuff in my shopping cart are necessary. But with all the commercials and the discount, you just can’t help it.”