A few days ago we posted a story called “Desperately seeking … anyone.” It was about a Canadian man named Paul Gillis who had reportedly taken out a personal ad on a billboard in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, looking for a Chinese wife. Well, we got an email from Mr. Gillis yesterday. Its subject line read “desperation misplaced.”
He says he did join a local dating agency and he did “sign a paper allowing them to do this some advertising on my behalf,” but said he knew nothing about a billboard. He said he thinks the owner of the agency “was looking for some publicity and profit and was persuaded that this might happen through deceiving a foreigner in this manner and hoping for a legal right to keep the billboard there for years. The more people talked about it the more exposure the [company] received. I paid nothing for the billboard. I was not told about it. and was quite happy to see it removed. Some unscrupulous business men will go to desparate lengths for financial advancement with little thought or amusing thought to the predicament for the foreigner.”
Gillis said someone told him the billboard was “declared illegal by government officials” and taken down after just a few days. “I have seen four different pictures of my board (in different papers and internet) with different people in the foreground,” Gillis said. “I went to see the board on the day the first newspaper reported it. It was not there. … There seems to be a lot of pics of a board that was never allowed to go up. I think the advertising agency is recouping its losses by selling photos of the board to the media after the govenment told them to take it down.”
News of the billboard was originally reported by Chinese media. Shanghaiist noticed it after it was translated into English by ESWN. To truly know the whole story, one would have to contact the dating service and the “advertising agency” and the newspaper that originally ran the story. But it’s not worth all that. The “story” has already gotten more exposure than it ever should have, most of it at the expense of Mr. Gillis, who very well could have been duped or mislead or taken advantage of. Shanghaiist is sorry for any role we played in furthering the story and we apologize for any embarrassment it has caused Mr. Gillis or those who know him.