Teachers' Day dilemma for parents and students alike

Updated: 2012-09-10 10:30

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily)

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With the arrival of Teachers' Day, which falls on Sept 10 in China, businessmen have seen a new round of fortune-making opportunities as Chinese parents painstakingly pick suitable gifts for their children's educators.

At Taobao.com, one of the most popular consumer-to-consumer platforms in China, more than 100 new web pages have been set up with more than 4,000 links listed when searching gifts for Teachers' Day. The price of these presents ranges from less than 3 yuan to 15,000 yuan ($2,362). Gifts priced around 100 yuan sell best.

Teachers' Day dilemma for parents and students alike

A flower shop owner in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu province, showing her well-packaged bundles of flowers and expecting good business a few days ahead of the country's Teachers' Day. [Photo/China Daily] 

Chen Jiangshan, 25, is the owner of an online gift shop that sells soap in the shape of flowers. A heart-shaped box of 24 rose-like soaps costs just 36 yuan.

His store was swamped with orders one week ahead of Teachers' Day. Some 600 to 700 gifts have been selling daily.

Last week is usually the peak time for selling teachers' gifts. The seven days' sale volume rises 200 percent compared with a normal day, he said.

"Most of the gifts were bought by students' parents whose children are at kindergartens or primary schools," said Chen.

"The aroma can relieve the intensive pressure teachers are under so the soaps are fashionable," he said.

Similar trends are evident elsewhere. Another Beijing-based online shop for personalized combs is promoting Teachers' Day.

The boss of the shop, Yang Yonggang, 32, said the week before Teachers' Day sees the most sales with a volume more than the average amount for half a month.

The shop's star product is a comb made of ebony and horn that costs 88 yuan. The owner said products for Teachers' Day have been best sellers since the shop was opened two years ago. Although the price is not cheap, many customers return because they provide personalized services.

"What is attractive is that you can order an inscription for it," said Yang.

"Most students like to have 'Happy Teachers' Day' on the combs, with their teachers' names and their own names," he added.

Yuan Yong, 30, is the owner of an Internet towel shop. Since late last month his shop has been selling as many as 100 towels a day. The gift box includes a pair of towels embossed with words expressing gratitude for teachers' dedication, suitable for both men and women.

Yuan is also a father of a primary school student. The idea of selling Teachers' Day gifts was inspired by his own experience. "Every Teacher's Day I found it hard to choose a suitable present for my child's teachers. Some parents buy expensive tobacco or wine. They even send gift coupons to their children's teachers. I would rather choose a gift costing about 50 yuan," he said.

"So I thought of selling inexpensive and fine gifts to parents and students." Yuan said his business is good because many students will choose gifts for their teachers every year.

Teacher's Day has actually become something of a competition between students, parents and teachers. The cost of gifts is rising sharply as they brag about the lavishness of their gifts.

According to data from liyi99.com, an online gift store, the sales of gifts see substantial growth ahead of Teachers' Day, especially the week immediately before it. Parents of students are the main gift buyers. College students and graduates also buy gifts for their tutors.

Many parents wonder how Teachers' Day has become so competitive.

"Everyone does it. It's an unspoken rule. If I do not, am I stupid?" asked a woman. "If the gift is too cheap I wonder whether it is good enough and whether the teacher will accept it. Cash or a gift token are best. Beauty treatment coupons are suitable for female teachers," she added.

A man surnamed Hou, the father of an 8-year-old boy, said: "In the past, students often sent a greeting card or flowers to show respect for teachers. But now students and parents like to see whose gifts are more valuable, more creative."

According to a nationwide survey by the China Youth Daily in 2010, more than 60 percent of 4,083 parents favored the idea of schools or educational authorities initiating regulations to ban teachers from receiving gifts. In recent years, some elementary and middle schools across the country have launched their own initiatives calling for teachers not to receive gifts from students.

In Shanghai, the local education department has issued a policy to "purify" the school atmosphere. Teachers who accept bribes will be punished in their yearly ethics assessments.

Chen Jing contributed to this story.