From moldy bean curd to facial masks, being a Taobao product tester comes with perks and downfalls
Steven Xenos, a 19-year-old Greek, has lived alone in China for two years. Throughout his stay, there is one thing that he could not be more proud of – how he reduced his living expenses from being a “freeloader” for Taobao, China’s largest ecommerce platform.
“I am a professional assessor at Taobao’s product trial center. As long as I get approval, I can keep the trial products without paying for them,” he said.
Even though this seems like a dream come true, it is a job easier said than done. According to Xenos, in order to test shampoos, he sometimes has to wash his hair up to 10 times to ensure that he can write out a contentrich report of the trial product.
Xenos has tried all kinds of strange products. Sometimes, he has had to eat many different kinds of foods in a variety of flavors in one sitting. Once, he had to taste test a piece of moldy bean curd. Although he thought he was well prepared, he still found that it was hard for him to take a small bite of the green creature. “It smelled really weird, and finally I chose to give up,” he said.
What Xenos has tried the most over the years are home appliances. His apartment now resembles a storage room filled with humidifiers, reading lamps and so on.
He said it can be a headache for him, “At first the items met the demands for my daily life. However, as I try more and more products, similar products come and now they are gradually occupying every inch of my apartment.”
Besides daily necessities, he occasionally tests products for girls, such as facial masks. Xenos said these are the most relaxing trial products for him, and claims that these products will help him with women in the future.
“I can recommend proper facial masks to my future girlfriend, from a professional’s angle,” he said.
To date, the trial products used by Xenos are worth more than 10,000 yuan ($1,448.5) and he is now a frequent visitor to express delivery stations. Sometimes, he receives four or five deliveries a week.
“People think that I am a member of ‘chop-hand parties’ (those who are obsessed with online shopping), but I don’t even spend a penny on these items. They are all for me to try out.”
Xenos said the express delivery industry in China is much more advanced than in Greece. He and the couriers are now friends and he has even been allowed to pick up his packages from the storage room on his own.
Xenos is very cautious when writing the reports on the trial products. Although his Chinese is good, he handwrites the report first, next he shows it to his friends to get their suggestions on the review, and then he sends in a digital version online.
His reports on trial products are so popular online that many Net users have left him messages, asking to become friends. However, Xenos considers himself an introvert with more of a home-based lifestyle. One of his favorite pastimes is going to the park to play his clarinet. “Life studying overseas is tough. But I want to fight in my life like a Greek warrior,” he said.
The life of being alone in China is both simple and rough for him. Although he can use lots of trial products, Xenos still needs his family to fund him. His parents do not give him much of an allowance, and they once told him that one should create their own life.
He said he is just like a fish swimming into the sea and has unconsciously integrated into the Chinese society. He takes a bus for an hour every day between his school and home and his independent life makes the 19-year-old boy seem more mature than his peers.
The “professional life” of reviewing trial products sometimes brings Xenos some extra income. He can sell his idle trial products on Xianyu, the secondhand online marketplace launched by Alibaba’s Taobao, and the money he gets from them can be used to cover his living expenses for one month.
Xenos has cultivated a habit of browsing through Taobao’s tryout cen-ter. However, not all the products are free to try. For example, he has drooled with envy over a camera for a long time, but has not gotten approved try it yet. to At present, he is learning how to improve the possibility of getting approved.
Xenos is also targeting big brands’ trial products, although the competi-on in this field is fierce.
“Take a brand watch for example, usually there are more than 30,000 people applying online to try it. I must write out more qualified and vivid reports on trial products to stand out.”
Xenos likes to take photos with his trial products. He says that they are his quanjiafu (family portrait) in China.
Steven Xenos takes a group photo with his trial products.
Clockwise from left: Steven Xenos picks up his delivery packages from an express delivery station. Steven Xenos frowns at a piece of moldy bean curd, which is one of his trial products. Steven Xenos handwrites a report on his trial products. Steven Xenos tries a facial mask. To experience a shampoo’s effects in different temperatures, Steven Xenos needs to wash his hair many times. Photos: CFP