Buy Now, Pay Later
Yudy Wu interrogates the loan service Klarna and worries of its student appeal
In 2018, female university students’ nudes were leaked on the Chinese Internet; in those nudes, they are all holding their ID cards or a piece of paper that has their names on it. Police later found out that those were all leaked by many non-registered groups that offer illegal loans and ‘buy now pay later’ services – customers give nudes as collateral. If the repayments aren’t made on time, the money lenders threaten to leak those selfies; as for male students, they will go to their house and threaten them. When police and journalists asked why they borrowed the money, the answers they received were usually that they wanted to buy bags, clothes, cosmetics, and sneakers they couldn’t afford, eventually borrowing more and more, to an extent they couldn’t pay it back. The scandal ended with the Chinese government banning students from using any type of loan or ‘buy now pay later’ services, even if they are legally registered.
We want to be cool; everyone wants to be cool, and that’s the moment we fall into this consumerist trap.
This might be surprising – as they only wanted simple stuff at the beginning, but it snowballed to having severe consequences. But really, it all makes sense when we think about our society – our generation is drowned by adverts everywhere on the Internet. And they are not simple adverts that our grandparents used to see – remember when adverts used to be as simple as just saying what the product does? Now it’s no longer just that – Kylie Jenner will show you a gummy vitamin between her lips, convincing you that it will give you beautiful hair and skin just like her’s (which, in fact, probably costs her thousands every month to maintain).
And it’s not just her. You will see one product on all the influencers’ Instagram pages and YouTube channels, sending you this message of “buy this product, once you do you will be cool like us.” We want to be cool, everyone wants to be cool, and that’s the moment we fall into this consumerist trap. You find out that you want a lifestyle that you can barely afford. If you fall down the rabbit hole of loan services that allows you to borrow money, you could eventually rack up the debt.
Surely, if you use legal services like Klarna (a legal buy now, pay later firm used by websites like Asos and Samsung) you won’t end up having your nudes leaked online, but will it be worth it? As university students, we are in this strange situation where we are vulnerable and naive to dealing with money, but have some spare allowance from our loan and (if we’re lucky enough) our parents. We generally want more than what we can afford. But if we start using this type of service at this young age, we risk being trapped in debt and a life of continually paying for mistakes that we made before. What’s more, if you don’t pay your Klarna on time, it wouldn’t be much different from using an illegal service. Klarna will refer them to the debt collection agency, and the threats will come in their way (think “Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!”).
Services like Klarna itself aren’t the problem, but it shouldn’t be marketed as a choice for students. It should never be advertised to the student community – as it’s never ethical to bring students in debt.