A Taobao vendor offering the service. (Internet photo)
Some vendors on Taobao, China's leading e-commerce website, are offering virtual girlfriend services via mobile phones to men in an attempt to boost their sales, reports the Guangzhou-based news website Dayoo.
The girlfriend services, which cost around 20-30 yuan (US$3-$5) a day, involve hired employees sending messages and calling customers via mobile phones and online messaging applications to wake up them up in the morning, listen to their complaints, encourage them and say good night to them before bed. The girlfriends come in a range of personalities according to the customer's needs, including "doll-like girls," "mature women," and "the girl next door."
There are similar services for women which offer personalities such as "men in uniform," "CEO," "handsome men" and "comforting men."
A female vendor in her early 20s nicknamed Xiaomi said she offers the services to boost the number of visitors to her Taobao store. Providing the service is not an easy job since she has to keep an eye on her mobile phone at all times to reply to customers in time. She has also lost a lot of sleep because she has to make wake-up calls to customers in the morning. The service has helped boost her store's sales, however. The number of transactions per day has grown from seven or eight to over 500. Xiaomi has hired seven women as part-time workers in response to the growing mobile girlfriend business and plans to launch another service for female customers.
Most of the customers so far have been young men who place their orders in the evening. They mostly buy the service for a day as a novelty. One customer commented "You just spend 20 to 30 yuan a day to make a single man's dream comes true! 100 likes!" Another said the mobile girlfriends he met were humorous and helped relieve pressure from his work.
Zhang Xiaoli, head of the China Association of Mental Health, said customers are likely people who are curious about the service, are lacking in social skills or people who are simply bored and need something to do to pass the time.
Zhang Xiaoli 張小梨