Just as the clock hit midnight on Nov. 11, millions of Chinese shoppers hopped on Tmall.com, the website of China's e-commerce giant Alibaba to check out the shopping carts they've been hoarding for almost a month.
Cooking oil, instant noodles, sanitary napkins – basically anything they could possibly think of using for another year, as prices of everything drop to their lowest point as part of China's so-called "Singles Day."
Eighteen seconds later, the site hit 100 million yuan ($15 million) in sales.
Then 5 billion yuan ($800 million) in less than six minutes. Fifty billion ($8 billion) in 10 hours. And finally, the day sales record froze at a ridiculous number: 91.217 billion yuan, or $14.32 billion. The sales record of Black Monday of the U.S. has already been surpassed last year.
The number is a 60% increase to the sales record from last year, and 1753 times as much as the sales in 2009, when Alibaba CEO Jack Ma first opted to harness the joke holiday "Singles' Day" and promote sales in the dullest month of the year.
Ma didn't hold back his emotion at the Global Shopping Festival held in Beijing to honor Singles' Day, a gala show where household names such as Daniel Craig and Kevin Spacey boost promotion and he dearly calls the consumers "'shopaholics."
The Chinese mock him as "ET-looking," but that hasn't prevented him becoming an absolute idol. It's enough that Ma is turned into a popular meme, in a country where photoshopped image memes aren't that wide-spread yet.
Much weirder is the devotion that small businesses in Southern China’s Guangzhou City started paying to him last year: they’ve started worshiping a portrait of him.
They roast suckling pigs, pay “him” tribute and bow down, treating him as a respected ancestor or a Chinese Buddhist-style god, just to wish for a couple of things: no returns of goods, no negative comments, and fast storage clearance, etc.
But now Ma isn't alone in that adoration — a portrait of the CEO of Chinese e-commerce company JD.com, Liu Qiangdong, joined him this year.
JD.com isn't huge competition for Alibaba yet, taking in 20 million orders in 24 hours the 468 million orders Alibaba received. But still, giving homage to Liu can't hurt, can it?
Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.
Contact Beimeng Fu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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