Could you resist the plea of this poor Chinese fruit farmer? Clue: you probably should

Authorities launch investigation after image of ‘Overstock Grandpa’ and emotional tag line become ubiquitous in online vendors’ adverts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 3:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 3:33pm

Chinese consumers could be forgiven for thinking they were doing their bit for society by buying a kilogram or two of apples from an online vendor after seeing one of their promotional images depicting an elderly farmer superimposed against a huge pile of the fruit slowly rotting away in the heat.

The problem is, the same close-up of the man’s weather-beaten face has been used by internet vendors across the country to promote all manner of fruit, from lemons to pineapples. The messages that accompany the ubiquitous image seldom stray far from the emotive plea: “I’m a poor farmer with an oversupply of fruit. Please buy some.”

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So commonplace is the man’s face that he has even been dubbed “Overstock Grandpa” by some people online. Others have taken the matter more seriously and complained to the authorities, resulting in at least one local government taking action.

According to a report by Beijing Youth Daily, the government of Linyi county, in northern China’s Shanxi province, recently issued a statement that despite the best efforts of online vendors to convince people otherwise, there was no glut of apples in the region.

In a statement, the authorities said the photograph of the elderly man had been around for several years and was clearly being used to play on people’s emotions.

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It did not identify the man or even confirm he was a farmer, but said it was investigating claims that fruit vendors had contravened advertising regulations, especially those that included reproductions of county or village government seals in their images to make them appear more credible, the report said.

The government said that such had been the impact of the advertisements that they had affected the price of apples in Linyi.