Man pays more than $23,000 for breakfast after AliPay typo

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The owner of a breakfast stall was shocked to discover the windfall when checking his AliPay balance. QR codes for mobile payments are displayed at her stall. Photo: Zhengzhou Evening News

China’s e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group, which operates the nation’s huge AliPay mobile payment service, has come under fire for not asking a user to double check a transaction when he reportedly paid 147,258 yuan (US$23,105) to the owner of a breakfast stall in Zhengzhou in central China’s Henan province.

The hawker at the stall selling breakfast was shocked at her windfall when she later checked the balance in her AliPay account.

The amount was almost the equivalent of one year of the hawker’s gross revenue for selling soybean milk and buns at her roadside stall in a residential neighborhood in the city, according to the Zhengzhou Evening News.

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Screenshot of the transaction on AliPay

Exactly how the muddled patron managed to transfer such a large amount of money to the stall owner’s AliPay account remains a mystery.

The name of the customer who paid for one of China’s most expensive breakfasts was only partially shown on the AliPay app for privacy reasons, so the stall owner could not contact him.

Normally, AliPay is a breeze to use: a user only needs to open the app to scan the QR code of a vendor, input the amount to be transferred on the pop-up page and confirm with a passcode or fingerprint. Instantly, the money will be deducted from the AliPay balance or registered bank account.

The expensive breakfast story went viral on social networking platforms because almost everyone with a smartphone in China relies on AliPay and similar apps to pay their bills, big and small.

Some suspect the patron, who was probably half-asleep, may have mistakenly typed in his six-digit passcode as the amount to be paid and authorized the transaction with his fingerprint.

Chinese papers are also asking why Alibaba does not request double-confirmation before processing transactions involving large amounts.

A spokeswoman for AliPay was quoted as saying that the daily cap on transactions was 200,000 yuan and she avoided taking any responsibility, stressing that every user should be careful when inputting the amount to be transferred.

Amid the outcry and social media chatter, Alibaba has helped identify the big-spending customer whose breakfast left him with a case of financial indigestion, but his refund may take more than one month.

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