In Jinan, located in China’s eastern province of Shandong, beggars have been found using QR codes in hopes that passersby who use a smartphone will transfer them money. Expert studies have found that China is slowly becoming a society that will no more use cash in the future. The needs of panhandlers are being accordingly accommodated for through QR code money transfers.

The Growing Influence of Mobile Payment in China

The advent of mobile payment has greatly influenced the people of China and the way they use money for their daily transactions. Also known as money transfers, mobile payment is a non-coin based currency system that allows one to transfer or receive funds from or via a mobile device. Instead of using cash, cheque or credit cards, mobile payment allows one to carry out one’s financial transactions conveniently and at any time.

According to a Shanghai-based radio researcher, Yuhan Xu, “pretty much every shop, restaurant and bar accepts WeChat and/or Alipay these days”. She adds that she doesn’t need to carry cash when even a small pancake stall does that. China was the first country to introduce paper money and it won’t take too long to become the first one to phase it out as well. Research suggests that within the forthcoming years, the use of mobile payment applications will increase and consequently, the use of cash, checks and cards will become rare.

Increasing Number of QR Code Users

QR codes are frequently used among the people in China as they offer an easy means to individuals and businesses to receive and transfer money anywhere without the need for a third party. Just like UPC barcodes allows the scanning of data on products in stores, QR codes also works like a barcode vector. Any smartphone that has a camera can access QR codes, both in online and offline marketplaces. China has around 700 million internet users and 60{8b3f73219b5080a422b1f04099b73d538078b62721cecdfd0086dbdff3438969} out of them use mobile payment methods for their daily transactions via Wechat or its rival Alipay.

How Does the QR Code Work?

QR Pay Limited is a technology company that specializes in mobile payments and QR codes and they offer a wide range of QR code related products. Some of their QR code options include the QR Pal, QR Pay, QR Track and QR API. These QR codes also allow payments to be done by SMS or Text through mobile phones. Their new contactless payment solution also enables both business people and individuals to SafeScan (which protects users from malicious codes), perform online backups and synchronisation. The QR Pal Track offers various advantages, making it easy for QR Pay Limited to integrate their service into third party systems. QR Pal Track is a useful tool for businesses seeking to generate QR Codes and track their marketing campaigns. Although they are highly beneficial to marketers and businessmen, the use of QR codes have extended into the life of beggars as well, making it either an essential means to survive or their profession.

People No Longer Have Cash to Give to Street Beggars

As panhandlers come to the realization that people will no longer have cash handy to donate to them in the near future, they are starting to accept QR code money transfers. Those who beg to survive carry around their neck a printed QR code which is safely kept in a plastic pouch and accompanied with a lanyard. Although this used to be a rare practice among street beggars, now more and more individuals are resorting to this option. If someone would like to help but has no change with him/her, the panhandler offers an alternative way to transfer the funds through mobile payment. One simply needs to scan his/her QR code and the money is transferred to his/her account.

Giving Donations Through QR Code Money Transfers

While most of the beggars obtain the QR codes on their own, some of their families and friends give it to them as gifts. These QR code printouts are inexpensive and easily acquired. For instance, once in Jinan, Shandong province, a mentally ill man was given a QR code by his family so that people can transfer money from their mobile e-wallets even if they don’t have loose change.

Vagrants in eastern China mainly rely on Alipay and WeChat Wallet when it comes to asking passersby to transfer them money. Although these beggars are considered poor and needy, they work “a 45-hour work week and every QR code scan earns them between CN¥0.7 – CN¥1.5 ($0.10-$0.22, £0.08-£0.17)”. It is estimated that beggars get a new scan from passersby every 2.5 minute. At the end of the month, they receive around CN¥4,536. Although this isn’t a huge sum of money, it is still enough to survive compared to the minimum wage of workers in China.

Companies Advertising Their Services Through Panhandlers’ QR Codes

Street beggars can benefit even more through this method of accepting donation, especially if they partner with nearby businesses to advertise their business. These companies often link adverts related to their business services and products to the QR codes of the panhandlers. As such, passersby will view the advertisements when they scan the QR code on their phone.

However, there are also scam businesses which benefit from this practice, using street beggars’ QR codes as a medium to capture the WeChat ID details of individuals. The latter will later receive unsolicited ads and even risk having their phones corrupted with viruses later on. If these malpractices continue, then passersby will hesitate to scan the QR codes of panhandlers for fear of giving away any confidential or private information related to them.

Should We “Boycott These Professional Beggars”?

While some of these social media users were praising these street beggars for moving along with this new form of technology, others feel like they don’t deserve any excuse for begging. One of them wrote, “I wouldn’t give a penny to him, he’s capable of working and walking, not to mention using a smartphone.” According to Beijing News, a state-controlled newspaper in China, these panhandlers should be boycotted and arrested. They claim, “A beggar armed with a smartphone and adept in operating his or her account is probably not a person that is really in need. Technology is supposed to make life and work easier, but should never become a means for those who want to thrive without making any contribution to the world.”

Contactless Donation Boxes Solving The Excuse Of Having No Change

This new trend of using mobile payment for charitable causes has extended across the world. Even in UK, Barclaycard has created the idea of contactless charity boxes that are equipped with NFC receivers to accept payments from debit and credit cards. However, as a form of mobile payment for our daily transactions, the QR code is considered to be a “much cost-effective and viable option” compared to NFC.