There’s a new “product” on Taobao, designed to help you settle your scores: professional arguers.
Recently, a Red Star News reporter went undercover as a customer, contacting individual sellers on the Chinese ecommerce platform to inquire about this peculiar service. Screenshots circulating the web this week show that for a fee ranging from 5 – 200 RMB (74 cents – 30 USD), you can hire a “professional” to verbally attack someone — to the point where that person begins to rethink their entire life (“骂到他怀疑人生”).
For 10 yuan, you can hire someone who solves “all types of disputes” and “never slips up.” Source: Red Star News
On the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, the hashtag “Substitute Arguing Service” (#代吵架业务#) has already gained over 4.6 million impressions:
“Most people are overwhelmed in the moment and only later figure out how they should argue back.”
“I often get angered by people but don’t fight back. The other side doesn’t listen to logic. I need someone to come teach me how to argue.”
Users search for the service on Taobao.com using the key word “代骂架” or “代吵架”, which roughly translates to “substitute quarrel” (it might also be listed as “private service,” “special help,” or “1-1 service”). After contact is made, sellers will either directly send over a list of services or, if they’re the cautious type, ask you a few consultation questions first. The user can then select their argu-mentor, as well as the call’s duration and content. After the details are hammered out, payment is generally made via WeChat or QQ, rather than through Taobao’s usual Alipay system.
The merchant tells the customer that they charge “100RMB for Mandarin, which includes winning the fight. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.”
Naturally, the more you’re willing to dish out, the more they’re willing to lash out. 20 RMB (3 USD) gets you the standard angry phone call or WeChat message; 40 RMB (6 USD) guarantees a full day of spam calls; and 100 RMB (15 USD) blows up your target’s phone with 999 hate calls or “骂人电话.”
A list of services at different price points
As one merchant told the undercover reporter, “If you can think it, we can do it.”
There are a few caveats. If you want to take someone on in a dialect like Shanghainese, Cantonese or Hokkien, you’ll need to cough up an extra 30 RMB (5 USD). If your target is from Guizhou, Sichuan or Chongqing, well, you’re on your own. Merchants say they don’t take orders from these regions because they know they won’t win.
“Chongqing people won’t just yell at you — they’ll rap,” one Weibo user joked.
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According to Red Star News, it’s hard to verify how popular this service is because money is often exchanged off of Taobao to avoid authorities and tracking on the shopping site. But this roundabout way of conducting business brings up the question: Is this service legal? Chinese lawyers say no.
Zhou Dongping from Tahota Law Firm told Red Star News that while the seller and buyer have a contractual relationship, the service being offered (i.e. harassing people over the phone) violates public order, thus invalidating the contract.
Another lawyer, Wang Yingzhan from Lanpeng Law Firm, added that maliciously attacking others is tort — legalese for an wrongful act or infringement of a right that results in harm to another. If the situation interferes with the victim’s normal life, the people involved can be held liable for abusive conduct.
One Weibo user echoed this sentiment and stressed the need for limits on argument valets:
“This kind of service should have age restrictions and cardiovascular health prerequisites. Otherwise, there could easily be an accident.”
If you want to get back at the people who’ve wronged you, this is certainly one approach. But, given the legal and ethical implications, it’s not one we’d advise taking.
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