Our initiatives are introduced in accordance with the directives of the Government - which are to encourage people to marry and procreate.
- Mr Cupid International Matchmakers' managing director Martin Wong (above, next to a wall of photos of China brides)
JUST $1 as downpayment for a traditional China bride.
With a baby bonus carrot to boot.
That's the latest marketing gimmick by a matchmaking agency, Mr Cupid International Matchmakers.
But there's a catch to its eyebrow-raising offer.
Grooms will still have to pay the remaining matchmaking package eventually - in interest-free monthly instalments.
Mr Martin Wong, Mr Cupid's managing director, explained his agency's 'new initiatives'.
He told The New Paper: 'Our initiatives are introduced in accordance with the directives of the Government - which are to encourage people to marry and procreate.
'We want to encourage more people to marry by easing their financial burden when they get married, especially for those who may have to pay for a car, flat and other household expenses.'
The cost of a matchmaking package is $8,000 - a special price for the Chinese New Year period.
It is only applicable to brides from Fujian, China.
Here's how the $1 package works:
Clients pay a $2,000 downpayment for the matchmaking package
Upon successful selection of a bride in Fujian, clients will receive a $1,999 hongbao from the matchmaking agency
The remaining $6,000 is payable in interest-free instalments over 10 months (or $600 monthly). Civil servants may opt for a special 15-month extended plan (or $400 monthly)
There is a baby bonus for those who give birth to their first child within two years of marriage.
Couples who give birth to their first child within 12 months of marriage will be given a baby bonus of $1,000. Those who do so within 24 months will get $500.
Without the promotion, a China bride package costs $9,000 and does not include the $1,999 red packet, the instalment scheme and baby bonus.
In launching this interest-free instalment and catchy $1 promotion, Mr Wong is well aware of the potential backlash.
While potential clients will no doubt welcome the offer, some people have raised a cautionary flag. (See report at bottom)
But as competition looms and industry players get more aggressive, Mr Wong sees the need to up the ante and offer something different to potential grooms.
The $1 offer is a bold move for a once-conservative matchmaking industry, which started out by matchmaking men with brides from China.
Over the years, market forces and demand have driven agency owners to look to Vietnam, Cambodia and Kalimantan for more brides.
But Mr Wong is confident that his 'good intentions' will not be missed.
He said: 'The $2,000 token sum we collect upfront is to prevent people from abusing the system.
'We will be conducting the same checks as we do for all our packages - extensive interviews, character checks, income stability and so on.'
His agency is the only matchmaking outfit with CaseTrust accreditation - an accreditation scheme for retail and service sectors promoting fair and ethical business practices so that consumers can buy with confidence.
While Vietnamese brides are still hot favourites among many Singapore bachelors, Mr Wong noted that there is a growing number who are enquiring about China brides again.
Since last June, four in 10 customers who approached him ended up choosing a China bride. The rest chose Vietnamese women.
These China brides work and live in small towns and have never travelled outside of China.
Most work as retail assistants, factory production operators and restaurant waitresses, and earn between 800 yuan ($160) and 1,000 yuan a month.
Mr Tan, a civil servant in his late 40s, has already snapped up the $1 offer. He is earning about $3,000 a month.
He said: 'I've been putting off marriage for many years, and my mother has been nagging at me to settle down.
'It hit me that I'm not getting any younger, so when I approached the agency and learnt about this offer, I took it up.'
Mr Tan, who claimed he has never been in a relationship, doesn't see the $1 offer as a dollar value placed on his potential bride-to-be.
Yet he admitted that if he successfully found a bride, he would 'hide the truth' about how they met from his friends and colleagues.
He said: 'Other people might think that I'm paying for a wife and gossip about it, but I'm really paying for the agency's service.
'I can afford to pay for the package upfront, but since there's this interest-free instalment, I might as well take advantage of it.'
Counsellor : Don't put monetary value on marriage
CLEVER marketing gimmick, or a slap to the institution of marriage?
This is the question which ran through the minds of some people we asked.
And while some, like MP Halimah Yacob, didn't think a gimmick would push people into marriage, others had their reservations.
Family counsellor and therapist Charles Lee warned about having monetary values attached to a marriage and children.
Said Mr Lee: 'People should marry and have kids because they are emotionally and psychologically prepared, not because there is a monetary incentive dangled before them.'
Even Madam Halimah cautioned that going too far with promotions could be hurtful.
'We should not treat a marriage or the woman we want to marry as a product,' she said. 'It will cheapen the institution of marriage and demean the woman.'
Still, she acknowledged that most people are mature enough to think for themselves.
'People will get married and have kids when they are ready to, not because of a promotion like that,' she said.
'The $1 scheme is a creative and innovative way of attracting customers, but I don't think it will be the most important factor for rational people looking at marriage.'
Added Mr Lee: 'It is ultimately up to the consumer to be aware of the pitfalls, and be discerning enough to know if a particular scheme is suitable for him or her.'
As for whether the scheme could hurt the marriage, counsellor and psychologist Harry Low didn't think it would have much impact.
He said: 'If you want to hurt someone, you don't have to say you married her for only $1 or any other amount.
'Monetary value or worth is not the only thing you can use to hurt someone.'
|Is this article useful to you?