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Dead puppies and kittens in crates reveal the dark side of China's mystery box craze

Date Added: May 20, 2021 11:32:00 AM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: Regional: China
Animal rights group Love Home filmed this raid on May 3 in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, during which it uncovered 156 boxes of months' old puppies and kittens, some of whom were dead.

The images scandalized Chinese social media users, who were horrified the animals had become victims of a shopping craze sweeping China called "mystery boxes."

It works something like this: Consumers buy a small box with an unknown present inside — normally, a collectible figurine. Ding Ying, an associate professor of marketing at Beijing's Renmin University of China, told state-run newspaper People's Daily the boxes were "addictive," especially when the prizes were part of a collectible series.

 "Consumers have an inherent need for closure, thus they tend to [want to] own the whole series once they get one," she said.

That has turned the boxes into big business. In December, mystery box maker Pop Mart, whose boxes contain cute, plastic figurines, raised $676 million in its initial public offering. That month, the state-run China Daily newspaper said the mystery box industry could be worth 30 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) by 2024, citing an industry report.

But there's a darker side of the trend.

While delivery of live animals by mail is illegal in China, it is poorly policed, according to state-run media. Some mystery box operators are exploiting that blind spot to offer surprise pets delivered to consumers' doors for as little as 32 yuan ($5).

Animal rights groups say it is cruel to the animals, not all of whom survive the trip to their new owners.

"I told the young man selling the animal blind boxes that he was making money at the cost of the lives of these animals," Love Home founder Chen Yunlian told state broadcaster CCTV.

CNN Business reached out to Love Home for this article, but Chen declined to be interviewed.

'Everything can be put inside a mystery box'

As the mystery box trend has exploded in recent years, it has grown to include expensive goods, including smart phones, watches and sunglasses.

Major international brands including Starbucks, Sephora and Converse have created their own mystery boxes for Chinese consumers. Social media influencers post elaborate videos showing people opening their "blind boxes" and comparing what they found.

On Chinese social media, there is a new catchphrase: "Everything can be put inside a mystery box."

But on some sites, that catchphrase is being taken a step too far. For example, on Pinduoduo, one of the largest online shopping platforms in China, one listing seen by CNN Business offered, a "fresh, little cute" mystery box, which will contain a "random" dog for 599 yuan ($92). The picture attached to the advertisement is of a happy, healthy long-haired chihuahua. CNN Business reached out to Pinduoduo for comment. 

~ Via CNN