Many customers wait in line outside the Heytea store in Sanlitun, Beijing on Saturday. (Photo: Ma Jingjing/GT)
Popular food and drink brands use 'cappers' as fake consumers to lure more people in
In recent days, reports about wanghong stores - stores that are popular on the Internet - hiring cappers to create a busy customer atmosphere have gone viral. Domestic entrepreneurship services provider cyzone.cn reported in June that Heytea milk tea hired actors to queue up in front of the stores to pretend to be customers. To dig out the secrets of such a promotional method, the Global Times visited some popular stores and interviewed extra actor service providers over the weekend.
Long queues are frequently seen in front of popular stores like Heytea and A Little Tea, but hiring cappers has been disclosed as the hidden cause.
"Why do you buy only one cup of Heytea milk tea after waiting in line for two hours? It's a waste of time!" a 20-something woman consumer said with a surprising look.
The consumer bought three cups of milk tea, which is the purchase cap, and took selfies with the purchases before leaving.
"I purposely get up early to buy Heytea milk tea for my friends who helped us move home today," the consumer who prefers to be unnamed told the Global Times.
"The famous store is always packed with consumers. On its opening day in Sanlitun, I was told to wait for more than three hours to get a cup. The whole scene is just like Beijing South Railway Station where there are always mountains of people," she described.
Recently, long queues in front of wanghong stores - stores that are popular on the Internet - have become a phenomenon in many Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
The wanghong store Heytea in Sanlitun, Beijing's Chaoyang district, has been attracting crowds of rushing people since it opened on August 12.
Beijing-based entrepreneurship services provider cyzone.cn reported in June that Heytea hired more than 300 cappers for its opening day.
Although the Heytea store's opening time is 10 in the morning, people already start to queue up in front of the store as early as 8.30, even on a Sunday morning.
As of 10 a.m. on an average day, there are dozens of consumers, most of whom are young.
Several middle-aged men, however, can also be easily spotted in the queue, but they turned out to be daigou - purchasing agents - of such popular items.
As these stores have become more famous, there has been no need for cappers to act in front of customers anymore, but long queues have initiated the emergence of daigou, said a daigou who called himself Heran while standing at the very front of the queue.
He told the Global Times that he gets up early every day and comes to Sanlitun to buy Heytea milk tea for consumers who are reluctant to spend time waiting.
"No matter how many cups of Heytea you want, I can buy them if you place an order two and a half hours in advance. I have about 10 partners in the line. The fee is 50 yuan (.72) for one visit and can buy you up to three cups," he said. He had already received five orders by 9 am on Sunday.
Mystery behind long queues
Given the science of queue psychology, many stores hire cappers to create a busy atmosphere to attract consumers, a manager of a part-time recruitment platform surnamed Wang told the Global Times on Saturday.
Wang set up a QQ group chat in November 2014 to hire part-time workers who would act as extras, including in meetings and commercial performances, and to provide promotion services for new stores. The group chat now has nearly 1,000 members.