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Bargain-hunting has been a way of life for Chinese urban residents well before a lone protester stood in front of CP tanks and refused to budge. Before China’s markets opened up to the world, in the days when residents still bought their salmon and noodles from local open-air marts, haggling for a strike price was a cultural norm.
And in an era where the likes of Twitter and Foursquare dominate tech talk, that’s still the case. Welcome to the Mob, Version 2.0.
So how does flash-mob shopping work? Say you’d like to buy a new camera. Canon. Grey. With a 2.5-inch Articulating LCD. You’d do a Google (or if you’re Chinese, Baidu) search for other people who want the same item. You might come across a dozen “team buying” websites like “www.020tgw.com,” which you would browse through to find out when a group is meeting up with store managers to haggle for a fair price.
You would then go to a shop downtown with 20 or so other folks. When the manager comes out, you might spend an hour (or two) explaining why you deserve 50 RMB off the price and a new leather camera pouch as an added perk. The suit-and-tie manager may or may not give in, but if he does, you’ll know it’s because you brought a mob over to the store and used crowd-sourcing (in the most literal sense) to leverage your strike price.
This has been going on in China for a while. Could websites like Groupon and NY Daily Deals have drawn inspiration from their Oriental precedence? Perhaps, as Groupon’s “group-buying” business model includes all of the elements of Chinese Mob Bargaining Version 2.0, minus the actual in-person haggling.