As China’s favorite C2C online shopping site, Taobao has established itself as the platform where you can buy literally anything. Need to bring home a boyfriend for Chinese New Year? Done. A live snake to get revenge on said fake boyfriend? You got it. Tickets to outer space? Taobao’s your place.
News of another kind of e-commerce entrepreneur surfaced recently, however: a woman who has made more than RMB5,000 over the past five years selling ‘goodnight texts’ for RMB1 a pop.
Now based in Guangzhou, Chaoshan native Wen Biying first started selling goodnight texts in 2012 while working part-time in Shenzhen following her graduation. It was a “lonely time,” she tells Tencent News, without her college friends by her side. Plus, having been born into a “typical Chaoshan family,” Wen never received much affection from her parents as a child – something she claims left her with an underlying sense of insecurity.
Assuming other young adults in China must share a similar sentiment, Wen developed the idea to send goodnight texts to others. Her logic was, “if there are so many people in the world that need company, how can I spend my nights alone?”
She started selling texts on Taobao for RMB1 each, which attracted buyers immediately. Instead of just reading “goodnight,” however, messages were typically a few lines long and fairly poetic. Wen also strived to make them different every time.
Soon, her business expanded to offer handwritten love letters, small gifts and other tokens of affection to strangers. It became less about making money, Wen claims, and more about listening to others’ stories – to see the world in a different light.
Did she ever become romantically entangled with the buyers?
Wen says she refuses to respond to messages from buyers on private chat networks like QQ, Weibo and WeChat, both to control her work load and retain the value of her text messages.
Happily married now and running a cafe in Huangpu District, Wen describes her goodnight text project as “addictive,” and something she’ll continue for the indefinite future. She doesn’t mind that there are now 20 other vendors selling ‘wan’an duanxin’ (晚安短信) on Taobao, claiming the best part of the venture is that it’s helped her “understand life” by hearing others’ stories.