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Ofo’s Bike Sharing Services Spark Outrage on Chinese Social Media for “Giving Privileges to Foreigners”

Apparently, all it takes is to be an American to get your deposit back from Ofo?

Gabi Verberg

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When one man dreaded waiting forever on the phone with Ofo’s customer service to get a deposit back, he decided the “foreigner reporting strategy,” and it allegedly worked. It is a story that is now going viral on Chinese social media, where netizens are outraged about the company’s “unfair treatment” of customers.

When one Chinese Ofo customer decided he did not feel like waiting forever on the phone to get his deposit of 199 yuan back, he decided to go “foreign.” Changing his account details, he pretended to be a man from California living in China for the past three years and sent an email to Ofo in English, Tencent News and other Chinese media report. Not only did he immediately get his deposit back, the company even sent him an apology letter.

For over a year now, the Ofo bike sharing service company is facing financial troubles which have forced the company to lay off workers and have made it extra difficult for Ofo users to get a refund of their 199 yuan ($29) deposit.

As reported by Technode earlier this month, amidst recent reports on Ofo’s alleged nearing bankruptcy and rumors of an acquisition by ride-hailing giant Didi, users have rushed to get their deposits back.

In the CCTV2 Economic News (经济信息联播) programme on December 3rd, Ofo users told reporters that the company’s app now only has a “top up” credit button in its settings, and that the button for “getting a refund of deposit” had been removed. When people tried calling the service center of the company, many got no response, despite numerous attempts.

Ofo was founded in 2014 and first launched its services in Beijing in 2015. Ofo bikes can now be found in many cities across China, where users first pay a deposit and can then unlock and track bikes, which can be rented for one yuan by the hour, using the smartphone app.

Now, the news has gone viral of the Chinese man who not only got his deposit refunded, but even received an apology letter from Ofo. All it allegedly took for him to succeed is pretending to be a foreigner.

When the Chinese man, who goes by the username “@ztj93,” had heard that he had to go through much trouble to get his deposit back, he pretended to be an American and used Gmail to write an email to Ofo in English, of which he took a screenshot and reposted it on his Weibo account. Within a day, the money was sent back to his Alipay-account, and a letter of apology was sent to his email.

The email from “ztj93” sent to Ofo on the 13th of December, at 3:51 pm, as shared on social media:

Ofo’s reply on the 14th of December, at 10:03 am:

When the man shared his success online, news went viral immediately.

At the time of writing, the hashtag “Pretend to be foreign and Ofo refunds immediately” (#假装外国人ofo秒退押金#) has received over 140 million views on Weibo.

Many netizens praise the man for his clever approach and congratulate him with his success, while also condemning the Ofo company for their “unfair treatment” of customers, with some even expressing their hopes for the company to go bankrupt as soon as possible.

By now, the original poster has placed a letter on his Weibo account in which he expresses his surprise with the fact that Ofo actually responded to him and that he got his money back, but also with the fact that the news has blown up on Weibo as it has. The man also explains that he is a long-time user of Weibo and that he since long has used the international Weibo version (it not clear at time of writing where the man exactly adjusted his profile details and if it was on Ofo or on Weibo).

He writes that although initially, it was just funny to him, he now has mixed feelings about the entire incident; on the one hand, he is happy that he has his money back, he writes, but on the other hand, he says that it makes him “uncomfortable” knowing that Ofo might give a preferential treatment to foreigners.

While he understands people’s anger about this, he writes, he also says that this anger should stay within “reasonable realms,” which it, apparently, has not. The poster has since deleted his Ofo posts, saying he knew the power of Weibo, but that he did not expect his post to be so influential.

On Saturday night (China time), Chinese media outlet Pear Video published a video on the issue in which two spokespersons for Ofo state they do not know about the incident and will look into it. Later, the phone for Ofo’s PR services was allegedly not able to be reached again.

By Gabi Verberg and Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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China Insight

The Huawei Case Sparks Anti-American, “Support Huawei” Sentiments on Weibo

“Ever since all the news came out on Meng Wanzhou’s arrest I feel like this is Cold War 2.0,” some commenters say.

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(original image via NDTV.com)

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The latest developments in the Huawei case are a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media, sparking anti-American sentiments, along with hundreds of netizens calling for the support of Huawei.

The case involving Huawei and Meng Wanzhou is making international headlines today, now that the US Justice Department has officially filed charges against Chinese smartphone maker Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

Among many other things, US prosecutors allege that Huawei launched a formal policy in which bonuses were offered to employees who succeeded in stealing confidential information from competitors (full papers here, page 19).

The Department also filed criminal charges against Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), who is the chief financial officer of Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei (任正非). The US is seeking the extradition of Meng Wanzhou from Canada.

The indicment papers as being shared on Weibo.

Meng was detained in Canada on December 1st of 2018 during transit at the Vancouver airport at the request of United States officials. She was released on bail on December 11. Meng’s next court date is set for February 6, 2019, in Vancouver.

 

“To the Chinese who proclaim that the American lawsuit against Huawei makes sense, where’s your conscience?”

 

Huawei responded to the accusations in state media on Tuesday, saying they were “very disappointed” about the charges, and denying that Huawei, nor its affiliates, had committed violations of US law.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the US to revoke its charges against Meng and to “stop the unreasonable suppression of Chinese companies, including Huawei, and to treat Chinese enterprises objectively and fairly.”

Meanwhile, on Chinese social media platform Weibo, the hashtag “Huawei responds to US accusations” (#华为回应美国指控#) received some 1,5 million views on Tuesday.

Among hundreds of comments, many netizens express their apparent belief that the United States is using the judicial system in a battle that is actually politically motivated, and that China’s rise as a competing technological power plays a major role in this issue.

“America has no confidence in its own technological power anymore, and has come to a point of such weakness that China’s technological strength is frightening to them,” one commenter named ‘Battle Wolf Wang Jie’ (@战狼-王杰) said.

“The goal of the US clearly is to suppress Huawei and its 5G technology, it is a fight over leadership,” one commenter wrote.

One popular Weibo tech blogging account (@科技阿宽) described the US as “a cornered dog jumping over a wall” (“狗急跳墙”), a Chinese idiom for describing desperate people resorting to desperate measures. This idiom was also used by other Weibo users commenting on the Huawei issue.

“Ever since all the news came out on the Meng Wanzhou arrest I feel like this is Cold War 2.0,” a Weibo user named Wei Zhong (@卫中) wrote about the issue: “This arms race in the field of technology can’t be avoided, and it will spread to other fields, posing a challenge to America’s leading position.”

But there are also commenters who want to know more about whether there are reasonable grounds to believe Huawei and Meng actually committed a crime: “So did they, or didn’t they?”

“Huawei needs to operate in accordance with international laws, otherwise there will be no end to the trouble,” some said, with others adding: “If they did nothing wrong, they shouldn’t be afraid to face the Americans.”

The editor-in-chief of the Chinese and English Global Times, Hu Xijin (胡锡进), called out those who suggested that the US might have sound legal grounds for the charges, writing on Weibo: “To the Chinese who proclaim today that the American lawsuit against Huawei makes sense, where’s your conscience? Have your brains been eaten by the dogs?”

 

“Was the Canadian Ambassador sacked for speaking the truth?”

 

The Huawei case news story has been developing and has been a topic of discussion ever since Meng’s arrest in December. A social media post issued by Meng shortly after her arrest became one of the biggest trending topics on Weibo of 2018.

The news that former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained in Beijing on December 10th of 2018 also generated online discussions on the Huawei issue, with many linking his arrest to Meng’s case.

According to many, the detainment of Meng in Canada is linked to the detainment of Kovrig in Beijing.

Earlier this week, the dismissal of the Canadian ambassador to China, John McCallum, also became big news.

McCallum’s exit was preceded by his different interview comments on the Meng Wanzhou case. He told Chinese-language journalists that Meng had “strong arguments that she can make before a judge,” and reportedly told The Star‘s Joanna Chiu that it would be “great” if the US could drop the request for Meng’s extradition.

On social media, news of McCallum’s dismissal was shared hundreds of times this week. In response to the case, Chinese columnist Sun Bo published an article titled “Was the Canadian Ambassador sacked for Speaking the Truth?” in The Observer (观察者). On Weibo, similar attitudes are expressed, with many arguing that McCallum was punished for simply “expressing his thoughts.”

Some netizens argued that McCallum had been “set up” by the interviewer and that he had said nothing wrong. One Weibo user simply argued: “If America would no longer request Meng’s extradition, then Canada would not need to detain Meng and would not need to become hostile with China, which would also be better for Canada.”

A recurring sentiment expressed by netizens on the issue was that McCallum’s dismissal clashed with Canada’s “so-called freedom of speech,” although there are also other voices stating: “When an ambassador for the government publicly issues their own personal views as they like, they do need to step down.”

 

“He talked about how we should support Huawei, but sent it from his iPhone.”

 

Amid all discussions on Weibo (where some comment threads jumped from having some hundreds comments to “no comments” and then reopened with some hundred comments again), the support for Huawei is one sentiment that stands out.

“I will stand by Huawei,” many commenters write across various threads.

“I support Huawei! America and Canada need to set Meng free!”

Others call for a boycott on Apple and American products, urging Chinese netizens to purchase Huawei instead.

There are also some, however, who point out there is some hypocrisy behind some of these statements: “I just saw a ‘Huawei defender,'”, popular tech blogger ‘Keji Xinyi’ (@科技新一) writes: “He was talking about how we should support the made-in-China Huawei brand, and that Huawei is China’s pride, that Huawei will astonish the world. Then I saw his Weibo post was sent from an iPhone.”

Others joke around: “I support Huawei! I use the Honor 7 [device] by Huawei. I absolutely will not buy an iPhone. It’s too expensive and I can’t afford it.”

Jokes aside, the Huawei case is certainly one that will continue to be discussed in many corners of Chinese social media, with many expressing concern on how this case will develop in the future – as it is not likely to blow over any time soon.

“The law will rule based on evidence,” some commenters write: “So let’s just wait and see.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know through email.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Marketing & Advertising

China’s Peppa Pig Movie Promo Craze: Understanding the Video and the Trend Behind It

Why Peppa is breaking the Chinese internet.

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The Peppa Pig movie promo is breaking the Chinese internet right now. Our latest Weivlog explains the video, its social context, and its background.

China’s Peppa Pig movie promo video might already be one of Weibo’s biggest trending topics of the year.

To know more about this video and its background, check out our full latest video featured here, explaining the trend in full detail – the original video lacks English subs, so we explain the video from A-Z there.

Check it out, and please subscribe to our YouTube channel if you’d like to see more explanations of Chinese trends through video.

By Manya Koetse 

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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