At noon, Shi Huizi received a text message: “This is Yuantong Express. Please come to the school gate and pick up your parcel.” The 22-year-old translation and interpretation major at Beijing International Studies University rushed to the school gate, where hundreds of parcels lay waiting to be collected by their owners.
This scene is not uncommon on China’s campuses, as shopping online has become an important part of their lifestyle for many university students. But convenient as it is, online shopping among students is marked by impulse buying and other risks. Students should be cautious to avoid them.
According to Taobao, during last year’s graduation season, 250,000 graduate students from 116 “211” project universities nationwide spent 846 million yuan on Taobao.
冲动的买家 Beijing Haidian Consumers’ Association conducted a survey on the online purchasing behavior of students, which showed that nearly 54 percent of respondents had made irrational purchases.
Yang Yi is one of them. The 23-year-old business administration major at Beijing Wuzi University bought a limited edition Gundam model kit online for a small fortune, only to find that its appeal faded rapidly.
“I did like it when I bought it, but it doesn’t look so attractive to me anymore now. So I’ve decided to sell it to pay off my debts,” says Yang.
Yang’s experience reflects the consumption patterns of many university students. In an attempt to be unique, many of them turn to online shops to buy “exotic” items not easily found in the domestic market.
“Many of the goods me and my roommates buy online come from abroad. You can’t find them in China,” Shi says.
According to Lei Li, a psychology professor at Renmin University, the impulsive buying patterns found among students have psychological roots. When shopping online is a campus trend, it’s not only about convenience, but also about group identification.
“If everyone is doing something and you’re not, you’re less likely to be accepted by others,” Lei says. The mentality of not wanting to be left out is fuelling impulsive buying.
长期风险 Yin Xiaolu, a clinical medicine major at Hubei University of Medicine, says online shopping is not always a satisfying experience.
“Sometimes the clothes or shoes I receive don’t look the same as on the photos in the description. But I seldom return anything as I would need to pay for postage. All these clothes end up in my wardrobe and are never taken out again,” says the 22-year-old.
As the Haidian survey indicates, Yin is in good company. Of 848 respondents from universities based in Beijing, 42 percent said they had received products that didn’t match the online description or photos. Even so, 72.5 percent of student buyers don’t return unsatisfactory goods due to the inconvenience it causes and long procedures.
Lei suggests that students who are obsessed with online shopping “pay attention to the consequences and develop a more mature way of consuming - namely, buying items within their budget and being aware of the risks of buying online.”