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February 14, 2012

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Lottery to win a human valentine meets skepticism

SIGN up for a free lottery to win a real-person valentine to meet your parents. An online activity held by a famous group-purchasing website has stirred controversy after it attracted nearly 170,000 people.

"This time the prizes are 100 percent real, and they are not inflatable dolls!" promised the ad on the website.

But although the website announced the "lucky" winner of the lottery in face of raising doubts over the activity's credibility, no one including the winner has so far received the real-person prizes.

The winner, a 20-year-old woman surnamed Xu in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, told Shanghai Daily that she used her boyfriend's account to sign up for the lottery just for fun but never thought that she would actually win.

Her prize should be a handsome man or a sexy lady to pretend to be her valentine to meet her parents during the Spring Festival holiday.

The free services offered by her valentine include chatting, shopping, watching movies, meeting parents and friends and even their ancestors in the graveyards. Just one exception: Body contact is not on the list.

"But I already have a boyfriend," said Xu. "I planned to take the lady with us back to my hometown as a friend, but it seemed weird and it's already behind my schedule."

For the 169,494 participants in the lottery, however, a winner quitting the game because she's not single may not be reason to convince them that the online activity is not merely a promotional stunt.

"I never trusted the website when it said it would actually send two employees to pretend to be a stranger's valentine," said Zhang Weimin, 24, who signed up for the game. "It's obviously a promotional stunt. And now facing doubts, the website just asked some actress to claim that she would quit."

Real-person valentine lotteries are just another form of the popular online valentine-renting business, in which customers pay vendors to hire actors or actresses pretending to be their valentines for special occasions.

These occasions include the Chinese Lunar New Year festival when families reunite and some young people are always troubled as their seniors urge them to get married. Today, Valentine's Day, is also expected to be a good date for the business as many singles don't want to be alone.

On the Internet, some claim that they were cheated. One example: The "girlfriend" suddenly asked to raise the fee under threat of telling the truth to the mother.


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