The first rule that many foreigners hear about doing anything in China is that you will need guanxi – relationships that help you clear the jungly bureaucracy, receive preferential tax treatment, or “free” land. Of course, the follow-up rule that is never stated in polite company is that guanxi means money, a greased palm, a sop, and a board seat. However, as useful as some relationships can be, they frequently outlive their usefulness and become nothing more than baggage.
That certainly seems to be the case for the so-named SMS information service Guanxi, which charges 1 RMB per request. What’s worse is that the user is frequently charged at least 2 RMB or more, because it costs additional kuai in order to clarify a search or request the result in Chinese. And guess what, we just got the following SMS from them:
GuanXi SMS city guide is back! We have a new unified no. 95882929. Pls.
Well, to begin with, we never noticed they were gone, and apparently, this is not the first time they’ve changed their number. Also, this latest number change comes just after Guanxi needlessly complicated its query format. So what’s a Shanghaiist to do?!
A better alternative is the Shanghai Call Center. By dialing 962288, you will be greeted by an English speaking operator (not a machine, so no need to prepend your query with a “2”), who can provide you with assistance in location, basic translation, and ticketing for live performances and other events in Shanghai (e.g. Cirque du Soleil, Shanghai International Film Festival, etc.). Additionally, the operator also saves your name and number, so that you can be addressed properly the next time you call. The service is provided free of charge by the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office, and we are very pleased with the results so far.