When last we left off, I was two hours into my quest to pay my electric bill. Yes, I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it really is this difficult to get shit done in China. The biggest stumbling block in my way was Alipay, because the person who had my phone number previously, had bound that number to their Alipay account, thus preventing me from using Alipay on my phone (because it requires you to bind your account to your phone number). This explained a few things for me:
- Why I kept getting text messages about “my recent purchases” on Taobao, China’s answer to eBay and Amazon, all rolled into one convenient website.
- Why random people speaking indecipherable dialects kept calling me, even after I explained to them that no, I really wasn’t whoever they were looking for.
More importantly, I still couldn’t pay my electric bill, and I was more than ready to hurl my phone out the window. Luckily, cooler heads intervened, and suggested I might like to bind Alipay to my email address.
“But I wasn’t even given that option!” I wailed, mashing my way through the entire sign-up process (again) to display my plight. Sure enough, at no point was an email address requested.
“Why don’t you try getting an account online?”
“What do you mean, I am online!”
“No, I mean, go through their website on an actual computer, not the app on your phone.”
At this point, it was well past noon, and I still had that stupid electric bill to pay. If I hadn’t had that bill looming ominously over my head, there is no way I would’ve even bothered turning on my computer, but I did. So on my computer went, and I slowly went through the arduous task of signing up for an Alipay account. This, if you were keeping count, was attempt number three. Or maybe four.
Sure enough, they wanted my phone number, but this time, when I told Alipay that the existing account wasn’t mine, it actually asked me if I wanted to open an account with an email address. The excitement was palpable. I was so thrilled, I probably couldn’t have entered in my email address any faster. Success!
…and then. The minute my email address was entered, it needed my Real Name. In Chinese characters. And my ID card number. An 18 digit ID card number. To be specific, it wanted my Chinese ID card number. The ID card I don’t have because I am not a citizen of China.
To say I was upset is putting it mildly.
Luckily, I read Chinese. I found their help files. I dug through their help files. None of which helped me. At all. Because I am not a Chinese citizen. And then, just when I was about to give up, I found this nifty little button hidden away at the corner of my screen: “Click to speak our representative if you need help~”
So I did.
And I poured out my tale of woe to the obscenely perky person on the other end, who cheerily informed me, her “dear customer” that it was an easy fix, and that I needed to change the location from “China” to my own nationality. With a cheery emoticon wave, she disappeared back into the monolithic bowels of the Alipay website, and I began my journey once again.
I changed my location. I filled in all my information. Of course, my Chinese phone number didn’t work. Still. And this time, when I told Alipay that that account wasn’t my Alipay account, it suggested something else. It suggested that I enter in a different phone number. A Singaporean phone number.
The last time I had a Singaporean number (any Singaporean number) to speak of, was at least five years ago. It was a temporary number. I was on vacation.
Only great willpower and a very timely phone call saved my computer from a 12 storey drop to its death.
No, I still do not have an Alipay account. I got one of my friends who does have an Alipay account to pay my bill for me. If nothing else, my electricity bill for this month is settled. I had a month’s grace, time enough to get myself a new phone number and figure out this whole Alipay business.
Unfortunately, when I got home today, I found my gas bill taped to my front door. They suggest I pay with Alipay.