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January 9th, Sunday…
A strange-looking phone booth had been erected at the topmost floor of Huanyu Tianjie Shopping Center. This level also had a cinema, a few claw machines, and a bubble tea shop.
The strange-looking phone booth had been set up in front of a wall that visitors would have to walk past on the way to the cinema. It would be easy to spot the phone booth from the escalator.
The phone booth was made out of see-through glass on all four sides. The sound-proofing was not bad, and there was a ventilator on top to ensure that one would not feel suffocated even if they stayed inside for an hour or two.
On the exterior of the side of the phone booth closest to the path, the metal frame on either side looked wider than the others. It looked like the creator had left empty spaces on purpose. That was the space that Zhang Wang wanted to leave for the artist to express himself. As for the other two sides… the left side had more sci-fi vibes. Through the glass, one could see an electronic screen with a poster on top. The poster said, ‘Shared Phone Booth Advertisement Space Available’.
The right side had purposely been decorated to look more like traditional phone booths. Through the glass, one could see the ancient-looking phone inside the booth.
Apart from that, one could also see some things on the table through the glass. Those things included a water dispenser, the Wi-Fi router, a power outlet, a bookshelf, and the line.
They had not been well-prepared so the karaoke machine, the drinks dispenser, and the remaining items were not moved in yet.
Soon, many people began to gather around the booth.
“What’s this?” “I don’t think this was here before.”
“Doesn’t the advertising poster make it clear? ‘Shared Phone Booth Advertisement Space Available’.”
“Pfft, what’s that? A shared phone booth?”
“Hahaha, I’m dying laughing. What a lame project. Quick, take a picture to remember it!”
Soon, many shoppers in Huanyu Tianjie started taking photos outside the phone booth to mock it in their respective chat groups.
Many people also tried to find out what exactly the phone booth did.
This was the first and only shared phone booth in Jingzhou. Zhang Wang had rushed this ‘prototype’ out in his own working space at home over the last few days.
The first batch of products he had ordered from the manufacturers had not arrived yet. To see the effects of the shared phone booth as soon as possible, Zhang Wang had decided to move his own ‘prototype’ into the shopping malls to test the waters. He had engaged a moving company to move his phone booth into the mall. The installation was quick; it only took them about an hour or so.
Huanyu Tianjie was one of the core shopping malls in Jingzhou City. Thus, there was a steady flow of traffic. This was the first chance that Zhang Wang had to see how everyone would react to something as novel as this and whether they would accept it or not.
Soon after, a couple retrieved their phones from their pockets and scanned the QR code on the phone booth.
“Holy sh*t, that expensive?!” The man was quite shocked.
After they scanned the QR code, they were brought to a simple-looking webpage. Obviously, this had been rushed out at the last minute. The webpage explained the pricing standards of the shared phone booth. Everything in the phone booth could be used to a limited extent. They would be charged ten yuan every fifteen minutes. That was the price one had to pay for playing for an hour in Fish-Catching Internet Cafe.
One could log in using their social media accounts or cell phone numbers. However, if they wanted to use the facilities in the phone booth, they would have to pay money first. That was because the creator of the shared phone booth had not thought about getting a deposit from users instead.
After payment was made, the phone booth’s door would open. Users could enter the phone booth and close the door. Then, the power outlet, Wi-Fi router, and the like would be activated. That was when the countdown would begin.
When time was up-if one did not pay for more time, the phone booth’s facilities would automatically switch off. Customers would not be allowed to continue using them.
Once customers left and closed the door, the booth would detect that there was no one left inside and automatically lock its door.
One could say that its functions were quite simple at this stage. It barely provided the basic functions expected of shared phone booths. Usage was also not that convenient.
Furthermore, there were many gaps to be filled. For example, if people refused to leave and if their skin was thick enough, they could stay inside and keep enjoying warm water. On top of that, most of the facilities were lacking. For now, there was no drinks machine, karaoke machine, AED, or weighing scales.
The drinks machine was not there because they could not resolve the problems related to its usage. If customers could top up their cups indefinitely, the phone booth would lose a lot of money for sure. However, if they wanted to limit each customer to two cups of drinks each, they would have to purchase a special drinks machine. Thus, they were replacing it with a water dispenser for now. As for the karaoke machine, they were in the midst of negotiations with a singing application, and they still needed time to purchase the necessary equipment.
They were still purchasing the AED as well and could not arrange for delivery at such short notice.
To Zhang Wang, this project was still in the midst of research and development. There was still time to perfect it and improve it in the future.
For now, he only wanted to reserve the space and get everyone accustomed to seeing a shared phone booth in the shopping center. More functions would be added in as time went by.
The first couple who tried scanning the QR code hesitated for a while outside the booth before they decided not to pay and leave instead.
The main reasons were that they did not think it was necessary to enter at that moment, and it would be expensive to enter.
Compared to the narrow, suppressive glass box; they would have much rather found a cafe or dessert shop to rest in and spend the money on drinks or food instead.
Many people were surrounding the phone booth and taking photos, but not one of them actually scanned the QR code.
After taking a few photographs, a significant number of people walked away to carry on with their day. Some went to the nearby bubble tea shop to get drinks while others walked into the cinema.
At that moment, another couple walked towards the shared phone booth.
The lady looked at the phone, and her eyes lit up at once. “Eh? That phone looks really good! Quick, let’s scan the XXX and enter. Take a photo for me!”
The lady quickly scanned the QR code to enter the phone booth. Then, she picked up the ancient-looking phone in the both and struck a few poses. The man hesitantly but helplessly raised up his own cell phone and snapped a few photographs from outside the phone booth.
“Alright, I’m done.”
The man entered the phone booth and showed the pictures to the lady.
“Er… your photography skills are lacking. Forget it, let’s leave it at that.”
The lady forced herself to accept the photographs and then turned her attention to the interior of the shared phone booth.
It looked simple, but it also looked quite solid.
“There are so many best-selling novels and comics on the shelf. The paper cups and warm water are free too…”
After looking around at the various facilities in the booth, the lady fell silent for a moment. Then, she said, “I just spent ten yuan to take a few photos, sit here for some rest, and drink two cups of water… what a loss.”
The man quietly picked up a comic book from the shelf and said, “Take it as an IQ tax.”
The lady, “…are you saying I have a low IQ?”
Opposite the shared phone booth, in a dessert shop…
Zhang Wang and He Desheng sipped at their drinks while they looked in the direction of the shared phone booth.
“Three hours have passed since the shopping center opened in the morning.
“Many people came to look at the shared phone booth, but the only one who paid to enter was that lady who wanted to take photographs.” He Desheng sighed. “That’s why I told you before not to rush things. You should have waited until the various facilities for the phone booth were ready and the design was complete before you moved the booth into the shopping center.
“It’s no wonder that customers are not paying for your half-completed product. “Currently, the quality-price ratio of the phone booth is horrible. People have to pay ten yuan to go in and read some comics, have some warm water, and sit in there for fifteen minutes. That amounts to forty yuan per hour. They can play at Fish-Catching Internet Cafe for four hours with that same amount of money.” “We don’t have the most important facilities —the drinks machine and the karaoke machine.”
Zhang Wang looked determined. “It doesn’t matter. Once the shared phone booth’s facilities have been installed, the price will make sense to everyone.
“So… how are things going with the artist? That’s what I’m more concerned about.”
He Desheng shook his head. “I have asked around, but I still can’t find a suitable one. After all, Jingzhou is not like Beijing or Shanghai, where there are many more impressive artists…
“Still, I think Boss Pei might have an idea. Tengda’s main business is developing games. I’m sure we can contact some famous artists.
“However… we have already used up our budget. I wonder if Boss Pei would be upset if we ask him to fork out more money for us to hire an artist…”
Resolute, Zhang Wang said, “Let me talk to Boss Pei, then! I believe he will understand.
After a moment of silence, He Desheng said, “Yes, that’s true. As long as you explain to Boss Pei what the shared phone booth is supposed to look like according to your plan, I’m sure Boss Pei would understand.”
Zhang Wang shook his head. “That wouldn’t do. I’m an honest person. I have to truthfully tell him how the shared phone booth is doing now.
“Boss Pei trusts me so much; how can I lie to him?! I believe Boss Pei will appreciate my honesty!”
“Appreciate your honesty… what a naive thought,” said He Desheng as he rested his head in his hands. “Alright, if this were Fu Hui Investments, you would never get more funding by acting this way.
“However, Boss Pei has unique wisdom. Maybe he’ll give you a chance…”
He Desheng had wanted to offer Zhang Wang a warning, but on further thought, he realized that he had no right to do so.
He had not even learned a tiny fraction of Boss Pei’s investment wisdom, and yet Zhang Wang had produced a project that Boss Pei was willing to buy into.
Whatever, I can’t help with this… He Desheng changed the topic. “The manufacturer of the phone booths, the karaoke application, and the manufacturer of the drinks machine have all gotten back to me. It won’t be difficult to pay them. The first batch of AEDs is also on their way.”
Zhang Wang nodded. “Apart from that, we have to improve the application.
“At the end of the day-once we’ve found a suitable artist and all the items we ordered arrive, we can announce the official opening of the shared phone booths!
“Let me call Boss Pei.”
Zhang Wang retrieved his phone and dialed Boss Pei’s number.
After that, he calmly explained the shared phone booth’s situation to Boss Pei in detail.
On the other end of the line, beads of cold sweat formed on Pei Qian’s forehead when he heard that Zhang Wang had set up a shared phone booth in the shopping mall.
However, he relaxed almost immediately. According to Zhang Wang, he had changed the structure of the phone booth and increased its scale. He had also set it up in the shopping mall. However, from the morning until now, only one girl had scanned the QR code to take some pictures inside the booth. They had only earned fifteen yuan. The initial investment into the shared phone booths was about forty thousand yuan. Rent alone cost close to a thousand yuan per month.
Of course, Zhang Wang simply said that he was ‘working hard to improve the customer experience’, and he believed that they would ‘see the effects soon’.
At last, Zhang Wang dove into the purpose of his call. He requested for Boss Pei to help him find an artist who would do an artwork on the front of the shared phone booth, so that it would look more artistic.
At that point, Pei Qian realized that the shared phone booths had far more potential than he had imagined!
Pei Qian had originally thought that he would invest less than ten thousand yuan into each phone booth, set them up by the roadside, and leave them there for half a year. At most, he had expected to lose about ten thousand yuan per phone booth.
When they finally sold the scrap metal and glass, Pei Qian expected to recover some capital as well.
However, from the way things were going, they could lose about fifty thousand yuan in just half a year!
If one phone booth could lose that much money, how about a hundred phone booths?
At that thought, Pei Qian immediately perked up. He almost decided to give Zhang Wang five million yuan immediately so that he could create a hundred phone booths at once!
However, logic prevailed over his emotions in the end.
Zhang Wang’s promise to work on improving customer experience and to show results soon sounded unreliable, like pleasantries that one would use to placate a leader and obtain more money. However, Pei Qian could not be sure.
Many of his employees had said similar things in the past, and nearly all of their words had come true.
At that point, Pei Qian decisively subdued his mental demons and decided not to trust his employees’ words so easily. “Take a picture of the shared phone booth and let me see.”
A moment later, he received the picture. Pei Qian glanced at it and saw that although the phone booth was big, it was very simple.
Furthermore, there was a table with two folding chairs, which could be folded and left against the wall. The bookshelf contained very few books, and there looked to be a rather simple water dispenser.
Various people stood by the side, observing the phone booth. However, it was obvious that none of them were interested in entering
He didn’t lie to me. It’s really deserted. I picked the right person indeed. Such honest employees are rare!
Pei Qian was elated. Since Zhang Wang had requested for an artist, Pei Qian had to do his best to find one for him!
It was just that… Ruan Guangjian was in Jingzhou.
Pei Qian pondered for a moment. “Should I ask Ruan Guangjian to do a huge oil painting that measures about two meters in length? According to his current pricing standards, it probably won’t be excessive to give him fifty thousand yuan, right?
“What’s more, no matter how good his painting looks, people would only appreciate and take pictures of it from the outside at the most. That wouldn’t affect the phone booth’s revenue.
“Eh? If I can pay fifty thousand yuan for one phone booth, I would be able to spend five hundred thousand yuan for ten.
“That’s a great idea!”
Pei Qian had thought the idea was quite ridiculous at first. However, after some analysis, he had realized to his surprise that the shared phone booths were a good avenue for him to spend money!
If he could get Ruan Guangjian to paint twenty phone booths, he would be able to spend a million yuan immediately. Even if Ruan Guangjian gave him a huge discount, Pei Qian would at least get to spend five hundred thousand yuan, right?
The only question was whether the big boss would be physically up to the task or not. In any case, Boss Pei had no problem paying the money.
At that thought, Pei Qian immediately said, “Alright, leave me to settle the artist.
“I’ll give you another five hundred thousand yuan. All twenty phone booths that we planned for must be produced!”
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