Mobile devices have taken over our lives completely. If you have any doubts about it, here is something that will make you a firm believer. Chinese beggars have started making use of the technology, and are using smartphones and QR codes as tools of the trade. If you are feeling generous, you can simply whip out your phone, scan a printed QR code and transfer some funds to the beggar’s account.
Local media have spread the news of mobile-savvy beggars in the Jinan city, Shandong province in China. They spread in areas popular with tourists, holding begging bowls that contain a QR code printout. Anyone who has Alipay, WeChat Wallet or few other mobile payment apps can scan the code and make a donation. Don’t be surprised to know that the beggars have mobile phones. According to state media outlets, it is not actually a rare thing at all.
One of these high-tech beggers who caught media’s attention was a man with mental issues and QR code he had was made by his family to help him. However, it has been reported that the QR code is also serving purposes other than helping people who are down on their luck. According to digital marketing company China Channel, in Beijing, many beggars receive money from local businesses for every QR code scanned by passers-by. The enterprises use these scans to collect people’s data fromWeChat profiles and then sell the IDs to small businesses for pennies. Later on, the information is used to bombard the users with unsolicited in-app advertisements.
Since passer-by is not actually paying any money, they are not difficult to persuade. The beggars, on the other hand, get paid for their efforts. Each QR scanned pays between 0.7 and 1.5 yuan ($0.10 to $0.22). A 45-hour working week nets a monthly average of 4536 yuan ($685), which is almost what an average worker earns in China.
The whole thing may sound weird but it must be noted that China is perhaps the country which is closest to the cashless economy and QR codes are the reasons for that. The black & white, two-dimensional barcodes are used in all sort of ways, From payment in shops to tips in restaurants and cash gifts at weddings. Mobile payments in China exceed 50 times the volume for the US, where the 2016 tally was $112 billion.
According to consumer behavior researcher Chen Yiwen, China is on the verge of a “code economy.”
“China has started the transition to a cash-free economy faster than anyone could have imagined, largely because of the viral spread of two-dimensional barcode. It creates a new economy based on scannable codes.”
Interestingly, Western beggars are not that far behind their Chinese peers when it comes to mobile payments. A few years ago, a beggar Damien Preston-Booth made the headlines for using the mobile card reader and accepting donations via credit card.