The phrase “Sluggish sales of…(滞销)” and a picture of an unfortunate old man making poor sales (滞销大爷) of its local produce have gone viral. The Beijing Youth Daily claims that a handful of online marketplace merchants are abusing his dramatic face expression that arouse people’s empathy in an attempt to increase sales.

Merchants abusing old man’s image to sell local produce (Image Credit: http://www.sohu.com/a/211276155_402930)

Recently, a statement about improper marketing of “sluggish sales of apple from Linyi county (临猗苹果滞销)” issued by the Linfen County government in Shanxi Province, says that several e-commerce companies have abused “sluggish sales of apple from Linyi county” and “unfortunate old man making poor sales.” According to the notice, this has caused a serious impact on the local brand image of the fruit industry, and the marketing content has exaggerated many facts.

In the WeChat public account and e-commerce platform, there are still merchants who use “sluggish sales of…” phrase as marketing methods to sell bamboo shoots, pineapples or any other local produce in order to create sympathy, based on traditional Chinese Confucian culture of younger people respecting older generation and looking after them. Many of the posters used by merchants have a pictures of the same old man, infringing portrait rights. This old man is also known as the name of “sluggish sale old man (滞销大爷)” online.

When the reporter of Beijing Youth Daily contacted the Yucheng County government, where merchants promote that there are sluggish sales of apples, government officials said that there are no cases of unsalable agricultural products this year.

“This is a marketing method and has an exaggerated marketing component,” Dasha River Town government officials stated. They also said that there were unsalable agricultural products last year, but at the moment they should already have completed inventory processing. Even if there are still apples left, they do not recommend buying them.