The Art of In­stant Grat­i­fi­ca­tion

That's China - - That's China 城市漫步 - Text by / Gemma Piali

There is a cer­tain charm to check­ing the post box af­ter a hard day's work, and re­ceiv­ing an un­ex­pected hand writ­ten let­ter in the mail for your read­ing en­joy­ment over a cup of tea. With the rise of so­cial me­dia and in­stant mes­sag­ing, gone are the days of care­fully com­posed mes­sages, some­times be­com­ing woe­fully out of date be­fore they ar­rive to the re­cip­i­ent due to the pace of snail mail. As in­for­ma­tion moves on­line, so too have the days of posted bank state­ments and bill no­ti­fi­ca­tions be­come a mem­ory in time. Al­though let­ters are de­clin­ing, there is the rise of on­line shop­ping re­sult­ing in the postage of boxes in all shapes and sizes sent zoom­ing across the world each day.

nd When or­der­ing an item such as cloth­ing or books on­line in Aus­tralia, there is usu­ally a postage fee in­volved. Of course there is the op­tion to send via ex­press post, but it re­quires a heftier fee. More of­ten than not, don’t ex­pect your pack­age to ar­rive the next day. If the pack­age is de­liv­ered to your door and you are not there to sign for it, it’s taken to a postal of­fice, usu­ally only open dur­ing work hours, mak­ing it rather in­con­ve­nient for the full- time worker. The clas­sic im­age as­so­ci­ated with postal ser­vices is the friendly “postie” who rides his/her mo­tor­cy­cle up and down sub­ur­ban streets don­ning a brightly coloured vest, while care­fully plac­ing mail and small pack­ages into peo­ple’s mail­boxes, wav­ing to the neigh­bors as he/she passes through. In the ur­ban sub­urbs the mail­boxes tend to be painted with dull coloured boxes, but in the ru­ral re­gions they can fea­ture ec­cen­tric de­signs such as be­ing in the shape of a cow or a wind­mill. To­day, Aus­tralia Post is fac­ing many chal­lenges , as it is try­ing to

adapt to mod­ern life in the tu­mul­tuous era of de­clin­ing postal ser­vices. But in China, it’s a whole other story. For for­eign­ers in China dis­cov­er­ing the cheap and ef­fi­cient magic of Taobao and Kuaidi is par­tic­u­larly spell­bind­ing. Log­ging into Taobao is like jump­ing into a never-end­ing whirlpool of un­lim­ited choices.You find your­self adding bizarre items you never even knew you wanted, to your vir­tual cart. Once you star t click­ing you can never stop. Many of my for­eign friends have been bit­ten by the on­line shop­ping bug, ad­dicted to the con­ve­nience of choos­ing an item in the com­for t of their room and see­ing a text mes­sage ar­rive the next day in­form­ing them of the de­liv­ery of the pack­age, or re­ceiv­ing a call from the kuaidi ser­vice wait­ing out­side. The ques­tion,“Where did you buy that from?” has be­come de­void, with the likely re­sponse to be “Taobao”. In­stead the more ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tion has be­come, “Can you send me the link on WeChat to the you store you bought that from?” Ev­ery­thing from toi­let pa­per, to Wi-Fi, to soc­cer out­fits, to cam­era lens caps, to pil­lows. Though it isn’t all rain­bows and sun­shine. Re­ly­ing on Taobao is also like play­ing the lotto, where you are ei­ther a win­ner or a loser. Even when look­ing through the pho­tos, or read­ing re­views posted by pre­vi­ous buy­ers, it is still a gam­ble as to whether you will re­ceive what you thought you were pur­chas­ing. When the prod­uct is out of the care­fully com­posed pho­tos with fil­ters and strate­gic place­ment, the colour or qual­ity can look dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent. Or there is the chance of only

nd re­ceiv­ing bits and bobs. One friend bought a jacket and trouser set, but he only re­ceived the jacket as the trousers were miss­ing. Another bought a set of can­dles with the prom­ise of re­ceiv­ing an ex­tra one for free, but only two ar­rived. There is also the fa­tal er­ror of just look­ing at the pic­tures and not read­ing the de­scrip­tion thor­oughly. A friend bought what he thought was a mini vac­uum in­tended to clean his room, but upon open­ing the box re­al­ized it was for the in­side of a car. Al­though many for­eigner friends quickly mas­tered the art of pur­chas­ing on­line, there is the more dif­fi­cult art of re­turn­ing. Luck­ily, since the postal ser­vice is so fast, there’s the op­por­tu­nity to ship it back, re­ceive a re­fund and pur­chase another prod­uct in an in­stant.

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