The salesman with a foreign accent held a loud speaker and talked for two hours. Zhu Yuanxian, who was sitting in the audience, couldn’t understand a word. But this does not affect her enthusiasm for participating in this promotion. When the salesman made an exaggerated gesture of “giving you a gift”, she quickly put down the wool and bamboo needles in her hand, applauded warmly, and responded loudly: “Okay!”
The deceived Wu Chengying and his wife.China Youth Daily·China Youth Daily reporter Wei Xi/Photo
Author: China Youth Daily · China Youth Daily, trainee reporter Wei Xi
Wu Chengying, who was sitting next to her, stabbed her gently and asked about the progress. Even if he lost most of his hearing and eyesight, Wu Chengying had to set off ahead of time for a gift and fumbled to the scene. The salesman requested that only listeners who were present on time and kept quiet throughout the process could receive gifts.
Their husbands can understand the salesman’s words, but they are both over seventy years old and suffer from cerebral infarction and high blood pressure. They said that the salesman said too much, and after listening to the next sentence, they couldn’t remember what they said before.
In Shenggang Village, Nihe Town, Lujiang County, Hefei City, Anhui Province, this was a “performance” scene of a salesman. In the open space in the front yard of the unused private house, salesmen kept talking about “sending health” to 30 or 40 elderly people. For example, a product is a camel hair vest that is said to be radiation-proof, “any disease can be cured by wearing it!”
The sale that took place in December 2017 was nothing special. The salesman talked dryly, the old people cooperated with due diligence, especially, the gifts were also distributed naturally.
Zhu Yuanxian and his wife went to the sales site for 4 consecutive days and received 20 eggs, 10 toothbrushes, 5 pairs of chopsticks, and 2 melon cutters.
On the fifth day, a mattress called “curable” was launched. The process of receiving gifts has been changed: if you want to receive a mattress, you need to pay a deposit of 1,000 yuan to book in advance, and you will get a “gem identification card” when you pay the deposit; the next day, you can use this identification card to receive the mattress , Refund the deposit.
The salesman repeatedly emphasized, “Wait until tomorrow, the money is yours, and the mattress is also yours.”
Zhu Yuanxian and Wu Chengying each paid a deposit of 1,000 yuan. I heard that Wu Chengying’s family had two beds, and the salesman put another gem identification card in her hand and guided her to book another mattress.
This was the last time they met with the salesman. On the sixth day, they did not wait for the salesman, the mattress, and the deposit that should have been returned.
Until October 2020, those deposits were lost and recovered.
Nearly 3 years later, the melon cutter and chopsticks that Zhu Yuan found back had not been opened, and the wrapping paper was covered with ashes.
These were the gifts she “liked to death” because she received them for free. She took these gifts to visit the neighbor’s house. A neighbor also wanted to receive a gift, but because of leg inconvenience, he couldn’t walk to the sales location one kilometer away from home. She envied her for having a motorcycle.
Zhu Yuanxian described that during the few days when the salesman came in the van, he felt like he was going to work. He didn’t dare to get up late, arrived on time, and couldn’t leave the field midway. The salesman is kind and enthusiastic, but she has seen the other side strong. When someone whispered in the audience, the salesman asked the audience to remain silent, “Do you want to say something? Then I won’t say it, just say it.” She has a herniated disc and cannot sit for a long time. Once, the salesman was speaking on stage, and she couldn’t help standing up because of backache. The salesman stretched his finger and motioned to her to sit down immediately.
From the household registration data, in Shenggang Village with 10,612 people, there are only 1,876 elderly people over 60 years old, and the number of young adults is higher than that of the elderly and minors. But in the village grocery store, nutrition products for the elderly and children’s toys each occupy an entire row of shelves. Wu Jiafa, secretary of the Party Committee of Shenggang Village, said that most of the young and middle-aged people in the village went to work in other places.
The 68-year-old Wu Chengying’s most wanted gift is a laundry tub with its own washboard. She went to the sales site for 4 consecutive days and did not receive it. The gift was limited, “only 5 per day”. Wu Chengying’s home does not have a washing machine. She and her husband need to go to the river to wash their clothes. Due to poor eyesight and hearing, washing clothes is almost the only housework she can undertake.
Her son works as a bricklayer in other provinces, and her two daughters live in Lujiang County. They have financial difficulties, and their grandchildren have reached the age of college. The old couple never took the initiative to ask for living expenses or daily necessities from their children, “it’s also difficult for them.”
In order to get the laundry tub, Wu Chengying and his wife actively participated in the sales activities, and successively bought pillows that are said to have medicinal value, camel hair vests and silk quilts that can prevent radiation. Finally, they booked two “curable” mattresses and paid a deposit of 2,000 yuan, making them the family with the largest amount of fraud in Shenggang Village.
Wu Chengying said that after the salesman broke the appointment, some deceived elderly people were unwilling to report the crime.
However, an octogenarian in the village remembered the license plate number of the van and helped the police locate the suspect.
According to Chang Ran, a police officer from the Criminal Investigation Brigade of the Public Security Bureau of Lujiang County, a total of 8 villagers in Shenggang Village were deceived, with a total amount of 6,000 yuan.
After leaving Shenggang Village, the same salesman went to Yangqiao Village, Dadukou, Dongzhi County, Chizhou City to sell the same products in the same way. Chang Ran said that 37 villagers in Yangqiao Village purchased goods worth 28,900 yuan, and after verification, the market price of these items was only 8,139 yuan.
The Criminal Investigation Brigade of the Public Security Bureau of Lujiang County detained the salesman on suspicion of fraud. Later, due to the need for additional investigations, the salesman was released on bail pending trial.
While on bail pending trial, the salesman once again went to Xinfengxu Village, Dadukou Town, Dongzhi County to sell goods. Before the sale started, the criminal police team came.
According to analysis by Xiong Laisheng, leader of the Criminal Investigation Brigade of the Lujiang County Public Security Bureau, such cases mainly occurred in villages with inconvenient transportation and far away from the county seat. Some scam gangs wandered around in multiple villages, taking advantage of people’s greed for petty gains, to defraud left-behind and empty-nest elderly people.
On June 27, 2019, the Dongzhi County People’s Court ruled that this salesman was guilty of fraud.
On October 11, 2020, the Lujiang County Public Security Bureau returned the defrauded money to the 8 victims.
Some villagers heard about this. Zhu Yuanxian’s neighbors are now grateful, “Fortunately, we don’t have motorcycles at home.” Some old people in the village were blocked by their children living at home and escaped this scam.
After taking back the deceived money, Wu Chengying still had doubts. She fumbled into the house, unzipped the zipper forcefully, pulled out a small piece of bedding, and asked the visiting reporter: “You help me see if this is silk?”
Her vision and hearing problems worsened. The left eye is obviously sunken, and the right eye is covered with a “white mist”. She does not want to spend more money on medical treatment, and the chickens raised at home have to wait until the children come home before the Spring Festival. In order to save money, they poured the radishes that could not be eaten at noon back into the pot and eat it at night.
Zhu Yuanxian, 69, is still willing to participate in sales activities. From 2016 to 2018, she participated in more than a dozen times, buying 4 water purifiers, thermal underwear that “wouldn’t hurt me”, and a tea bar machine worth 3,000 yuan.
These promotional activities are dressed in the guise of “sending warmth”: only gifts are given in the first 5 days, no merchandise is sold, and sales will not start until the last two days.
Wu Jiafa, Secretary of the Party Committee of Shenggang Village, said that since 2015, at least three or four salesmen have come to Shenggang Village every year to sell goods to the elderly, selling water purifiers in summer and quilts and mattresses in winter. At first, the elderly participated in the activities with the mentality of participating in the fun. After receiving the gifts, they trusted the salesman and finally bought the goods.
A young villager once passed by these sales sites and had a different view. “In broad daylight, the two sides did not buy and sell, and the elderly bought goods higher than the market price, which can only be regarded as a loss, not as being cheated.”
Zhu Yuanxian knew he was suffering, but couldn’t help but want to participate in the event, partly because he could see new things. The TV set on the water purifier sales site was the “largest TV” she had ever seen. As she spoke, she stretched out her arms and gestured for the length of the TV.
She has also seen salesmen pour soy sauce, urine, and ink into the water purifier separately, and the filtered water is transparent. The salesman peeked the testing equipment into the water and showed that various indicators passed. In front of the elderly, the salesman drank a bottle of water.
The onlookers Zhu Yuanxian had never seen such a magical scene. Excited, she folded her hands and worshiped the salesman as a “living bodhisattva”.
The salesman gave the remaining filtered water to the elderly. Zhu Yuanxian clearly smelled the smell of ink, but other elderly people drink it, and she wants to try it.
The salesman also tested the well water in her house and the results showed that the water contained impurities. Even the tap water installed in the neighbor’s house is not up to standard. Zhu Yuanxian therefore bought the first water purifier.
Before long, this water purifier could not be used normally. Zhu Yuanxian met a new salesman again. The other party said, “I won’t break, it can be repaired if it breaks.” She bought it with reluctance, but when she called for repairs, she couldn’t find anyone.
Slowly, four water purifiers were added at home, with an average price of 2,000 yuan. One of the gifts of the water purifier is two quilts with “black heart cotton”. On Taobao, the average price of a similar style water purifier is 300 yuan. After the daughter returned home, she threw away the three water purifiers that were not working properly. Zhu Yuanxian waited for her daughter to leave home before picking up the water purifiers. She couldn’t bear it.
She and her husband live with their grandchildren and granddaughters who are in elementary school. She sends her children to school in the morning and plays mahjong in the afternoon. She rarely leaves the village 15 kilometers away from the county seat, although there are four direct buses to the county seat every day.
This family of four, which is rarely visited by people, has 3 motorcycles, 4 water purifiers and at least 18 quilts. Most of these items are stacked in the utility room and bedroom, and many of the packages have not been opened yet, and they are covered with dust. Living things are piled on beds, tables, and low cabinets.
The most expensive appliance in Wu Chengying’s family is a water purifier that costs 3,000 yuan. The reason for buying it is that during the flood season, there are always impurities in the tap water at home. This is what the salesman told them.
The four children who are working outside keep in touch with Zhu Yuanxian through mobile phone video. They go home for two weeks each Spring Festival and give their parents about 15,000 yuan in living expenses. The money was supposed to support the Spring Festival in the coming year, but after the sales in December 2017, there was almost no cash at home.
Zhu Yuan now has to find a way to ask for living expenses with his daughter. Facing the phone screen, she described symptoms that did not exist. She squinted her eyes, clutched her chest, pretending to be unwell, and spent a lot of money in the hospital.
Seeing the elder daughter’s anxious and nervous look, Zhu Yuan felt guilty for not sleeping well for a few days, and finally couldn’t help but admit that she spent all her living expenses on various commodities.
But she rarely uses these products. She bought a new duvet that was “warm in winter and cool in summer”. The original price was 2680 yuan. The salesman only sold it to her for 800 yuan. A copy of “The Fifth Set of Renminbi Auspicious Number Collection of the People’s Republic of China” was also included. .
She took out one of the five-yuan notes and asked the police to help identify it. “If it’s fake, it will cost me playing mahjong in the afternoon.”
She has not yet covered the duvet and wants to leave it to her son with a waist injury. After her son was injured, he concealed his condition from her. She saw a corner of the hospital bed in the photos of her son’s WeChat Moments.
The salesman knows Zhu Yuanxian’s hobby of dressing better than his daughter. When her daughter buys her clothes, she always finds it unusable. She is afraid of cold. At night when the temperature is 14℃, she wears 5 tops and 3 pants. The clothes recommended by the salesman who entered the village were printed with the words “fleece” and “keep warm”, and she felt warmer.
In front of the salesman, 74-year-old Xia Zegen felt that he was a welcome person. To him, participating in a sales promotion is more like going to a lively party, even if he is explicitly asked not to speak, but to listen. He described: “I want to go out and play!”
But his ears could not hear clearly. After the opening, the salesman put the horn to his mouth and spit out three words. Xia Zegen guessed that the other party said “good morning”, and responded excitedly, applauded, and expressed welcome. He can maintain a sitting position for a long time on the scene, staring at the salesman on the stage motionlessly.
The woman sitting next to him did not idle her hands for a moment, making insoles and knitting sweaters while listening.
In the old people’s memory, there used to be many young people in the village. During festivals, the auditorium in the village would sing big plays and show movies. There were always such lively gatherings. However, that was many years ago.
After each sales campaign, Xia Zegen had to return to the home of only one person. His wife went to the county town to help take care of his grandson for many years. He said: “I am fine at home by myself. I have everything, so I won’t go to my son’s house.”
This old man, who didn’t want to admit that he missed his relatives, saw the reporter’s car when he was leaving. He suddenly thought of something. He slapped the window to indicate that he still had something to say.
“My son’s car has four laps, it’s Audi.”