Twelve Dead in Online Shopping Stampede
BEIJING — A violent stampede left 12 dead and dozens more injured as millions of frenzied shoppers descended on online retailers Taobao and Tmall early Monday morning.
November 11, also known as “double eleven” or Single’s Day in China, has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year, due in no small part to Alibaba, the e-commerce conglomerate that owns Taobao and Tmall. Yesterday, both sites offered discounts as high as 50% on a wide selection of brand-name goods.
The sale was set to start at midnight but hundreds of thousands of customers assembled outside the online storefront hours before, furiously refreshing their browsers and waiting for midnight. Security tried in vain to get the crowd to form a line.
Then, at the stroke of midnight, all hell broke loose.
Videos uploaded to Youku show Taobao employees scattering as the crowd ripped apart the steel barricades and raced toward the low-priced apparel and digital electronics in the back of the store. Those that fell were trampled into dust.
As of this morning, forensic scientists were still trying to identify some of the bodies.
Over 30 people were injured in the ensuing orgy of violence and consumerism. According to eyewitnesses, at least four were killed in altercations over discounted down jackets. One man perished in a gladiatorial duel for the last 42″ flat screen television, priced at only RMB 2,399.
Alibaba chairman Jack Ma issued a statement this morning offering his condolences and 300 kuai Taobao vouchers to the bereaved families.
“I never saw this coming,” Ma said. “I underestimated what Chinese people are willing to do for a bargain.”
As for the survivors, many went to work in the morning and continued shopping.