PRO­FES­SIONAL FREELOADER

From moldy bean curd to fa­cial masks, be­ing a Taobao prod­uct tester comes with perks and down­falls

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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