Dating blind boxes take off in China as younger generations look for love on social media

People either place their number, or take a number, from the blind boxes for a fee.
PHOTO: Baidu

An emerging industry targeting lovelorn members of Gen Z has taken off in China, allowing people to randomly purchase the social media contacts of a potential partner for just 1 yuan (0.21 US cents). Dating blind boxes first appeared at night markets in some major Chinese cities several months ago, with stall owners presenting two boxes, one for males and another for females, the Yangcheng Evening News reported.

Customers pay to get a WeChat account number from one box or leave his or her number. Having obtained the contacts of WeChat, the most widely used social media app in China, people can get in touch with the owner of the WeChat account and try blind dating, according to the report.

“After leaving my contacts in the box, I am curious who will pick me up. The whole process is like opening a blind box. It is so stimulating,” one person, whose gender was not released, told the newspaper.

“This uncertainty brings people a surprise and sparks many people’s curiosity and desire to have a try,” one stall owner in Guangzhou’s Tainhe District, in southern China, said. “They think it is fun and are curious about this new way of making friends.”

Another businessman said male customers tend to buy contacts of a potential partner while women tend to leave their contacts in the box, against the backdrop where millions of urban women are “leftover” — meaning they are not married after reaching 25 years old — and are more eager than men to tie the knot.

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“My business is open from 7pm to 10pm. I earn about 50 yuan (US$7.83) per day,” the stand owner said. The dating blind boxes are also sold at e-commerce websites for the same price. Online stores have also launched a marketing campaign by exempting fees for customers who leave their contacts at certain times. Sun Hao, a Beijing-based marriage and family consultant, said the popularity of dating blind boxes indicated the strong social desires of younger generations.

“I’d like to remind that consumers need to be rational and not to believe in strangers easily,” she was quoted as saying. Yan Bing, director of Beijing-based Yuntong Law Firm, said since customers are willing to put their contacts in the box, there is no problem with stalls sharing their contacts with other customers.

“But if they leak that information for other purposes, like selling it to advertisement distributors, it is illegal,” said Yan.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.