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Alibaba’s New Year cash giveaway is under fire from people who didn’t win

AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan
It’s that time of the year again.
By Lily Kuo
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Alibaba’s latest move in the battle for Chinese smartphone users appears to have backfired.

As part of a Chinese New Year promotion, the company’s Alipay service is giving away 600 million yuan (about $96 million) in virtual hongbao “red envelopes” to mobile phone users. (Its rival Tencent, the company behind Weixin or WeChat, is giving away 800 million yuan.)

But after Alipay announced yesterday that 2.17 million users have won cash envelopes, its Weibo page was quickly inundated with over 8,000 comments from users complaining that they didn’t understand the rules of the giveaway and that no one they knew was winning the money.

One user said (registration required), “I’ve been trying since [it started] and haven’t won a single cent. Who’s stolen the money?” Another wrote, “I think this is a trick.”

The New Year promotions are a critical way for the two tech rivals to race for users by getting them to connect their bank accounts to their services, making them more likely to buy things via their apps in the future, as Quartz has reported. Users have to sign up for the companies’ payment apps in order to win the money. When Tencent launched its digital hongbao app last year, its total number of Weixin payment users jumped from 30 million to 100 million in a month. Both companies are barring users from gifting the red envelopes to those using the rival platform.

In the wake of the complaints, Alibaba said it would hold an additional giveaway.

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