A man passes a sign offering China-made Viagra. Photo: VCG
The advert immediately caught the attention of a man surnamed Yang, who at 47 years of age was looking to enhance his sagging libido.
All he had to do, the advertisement promised, was to wear a pair of underpants that were embedded with 18 strategically placed magnets.
He only need cough up 268 yuan ($45) for three pair and surely his he-man sex drive would return, the ad assured.
When the expected results didn't happen he called a toll-free number that accompanied the underwear for a chat with a "tutor."
The 26-year-old woman, surnamed Dai, coaxed Yang into buying a special treatment for the discount price of 3,680 yuan. Yang's story was recounted by the news site jiemian.com.
As directed by Dai, Yang soaked his magnet filled underpants in a boiling soup made of the concoction he had received that included dried mugwort leaves and slices of ginger.Accompanying Yang's purchase of the soup mixture was special spray to be applied to his genitals that was supposed to extend his lovemaking sessions.
Again he got no satisfaction.
Yang was not the only man duped by the scam and the scammers have paid a heavy price for their deception.
Some 50,000 men were bought into the Magnet Pants swindle and the head rip-off artist, a man named Xie Qinrui, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for telephone fraud by the Tianhe district court in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province.
The court heard that Xie's operation hired more than a hundred telephone "salespeople" whose job was to upsell the men who had purchased the magnet-laden underpants, which were only the bait in a sophisticated con that started with the online advertisement run by the Lanhai Technology Company, jiemian reported.
"You'll never need to take an aphrodisiac," promised the headline of the ad, which guaranteed men who faithfully wore the "British Guardian" underpants would experience stronger erections, reported jiemian.com.
The online ad asserted that the "British Royal Army" wore the underpants, which "gave off remote rays that could end premature ejaculation and impotence."
The advertisement also offered free consultations with a 'tutor' at the "British Guardian Underpants Center" who could provide an additional "tailored treatment."
In cracking the case last July police brought charges against 119 people. Xie was sentenced in September.
When Yang took the bait and called his "tutor" Dai. She told him his condition was "very rare and he needed a detox."
Dai said he had to rid his system of "poisons … such as soybean residue that were affecting his private parts."
News site jiemian.com reported on November 16 that the more than 50,000 men who were cheated lost 7.68 million yuan ($1.16 million).
More than 680 men complained the products were useless and a sham. They demanded their money back and cheaters prosecuted.
Yang's "tutor" Dai said it wasn't easy to persuade a man to buy products to treat a dysfunction they regarded as "a skeleton on their closet."
She said her company trained her and provided a script with the 'right questions' to be asked in the 'correct tone of voice' to entice her clients into making purchases.
"Oh my God, you only have sex once a month?" she was told to ask. "Normally men will have sex two or three times a week lasting 15 to 20 minutes," reads the sample script.
"Yours only lasts one to three minutes? That's premature ejaculation for sure, no wonder you have so little sex," said the sample script.
Dai's workplace, in the bustling Tianhe district in Guangzhou, Guangdong also had a strict code of conduct for employees.
Female staffers are banned from wearing mini skirts or clothing that was too "revealing."
The tutors were paid a commission after their sales volume surpassed 10,000 yuan. They earned commissions of 12 percent once their sales exceed 100,000 yuan, according to jiemian.com,
The sales team was told they could avoid legal risks if they refrained from calling themselves "doctors" or "professors." They were told to call the merchandise "health products" not medicine.
The company had a department to "monitor" phone calls. If a salesperson violated procedures four times he or she would be fired.
Fraud investigators say the company purchased around 100,000 of the magnet filled underpants from suppliers from October 2015 to August 2016 at a cost of between 17 yuan each and 30 yuan each.
A web search by the Global Times shows numerous advertisements for magnet-laden underpants can still be found on China's e-commerce platforms, such as Taobao. Prices range from 180 yuan to 1600 yuan a pair.