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    From Hot Pot to Milk Tea, Chinese Influencer Praised For Exposing False Advertising

    BTai and his friends go around the country checking that milk tea and hot pot meats served at different establishments are the amounts advertised. His meticulous nature has won him plaudits online.

    An influencer in China has amassed over 20 million fans in half a year by exposing false advertising by merchants, including restaurants and tea shops. Now he is even working with local officials to further protect consumers’ rights. 

    BTai, in his 20s, began exposing deceptive business practices commonly seen among merchants last December. 

    Some of his most popular videos see him and his friends using weighing scales to check whether hot pot restaurants are serving the same amount of meat as is advertised. More often than not, they find that the meat is not the advertised amount, despite promises from waiters that the meat has been weighed beforehand. 

    In one video, BTai shows up spontaneously to a hot pot restaurant in Chengdu that had invited him to visit, only to receive a serving of beef 20 grams less than what was advertised on the menu — a shortfall of 17%. The following day, a restaurant representative flew from Chongqing to Chengdu to apologize in person to BTai, promising to provide customers with scales to check that they are given the right amounts in the future.

    BTai’s videos have been applauded online, with many comments praising him for protecting consumer rights and his pedantic nature: “You may not take it as seriously as he does, but you shouldn’t laugh at him. He’s speaking out for all consumers.” Comment sections for his videos are full of users reporting unfair business practices by other merchants, including health care product scams targeting the elderly and fake concert ticket sellers. 

    BTai has also taken his measuring tools to milk tea shops and fruit stalls, and exposed unethical repairmen who charge clients unnecessarily high prices. In one video, he exposes a fruit store in Shenzhen for forcibly selling rotten durian to a customer and intimidating her when she asked for a refund. Local market supervisors then visited the market with BTai where the rotten durians were sold and replaced all the scales there with standardized electronic scales. 

    In recent years, calls for making every day “March 15” — China’s annual consumer protection day — have grown louder. In 2022, the State Administration for Market Regulation received over 29 million consumer complaints, an increase of 23.5% year-on-year. 

    The consumer trend of seeking out “honest merchants” has heated up in recent months, the best example being the now-famous barbecue city of Zibo in Shandong province. BTai’s positive review of merchants in the city received around 4 million likes on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, further confirming the city’s “honest” reputation.

    Merchants are also catching on. Screenshots shared by BTai on his Weibo account show repairmen warning each other to be on the lookout for him and to report his Douyin account.

    Editor: Vincent Chow. 

    (Header image: Screenshots show the influencer checking the weight of goods sold in a market. From Douyin)