Tuan gou, or group buying, is already popular in China, with people massing together to buy houses, televisions and other white goods.
But with food prices rising rapidly (and who knows how rapidly – the markets do not exactly declare their income), groups of people are now clubbing together to buy vegetables.
In Yunnan, the Wang Qi Ying vegetable wholesale market in Kunming has seen teams of grandparents hunting down suppliers. "We have a wet market in our neighbourhood, but the vegetables are quite pricey. We can hardly make our pensions stretch. Here we can save 100 yuan each a month ($15) by group buying," said Grandma Li to Yunnan Net.
Mrs Xu, from Jindi Gelin town, Yizhuang district, Beijing, told the Beijing Morning Post that she uses a group-buying web page to organise her purchases, with different members putting their orders up online. Mr Liu, an enterprising vegetable delivery man, said he was selling his organic vegetables to the group, after he found out that his "premium" veg was the same price as the produce in the local market.
The Chongqing Evening News reports that sellers at Nanping Zhengyang market are ambushed by groups of grannies on their way to their stalls. "After some bargaining, one group bought all of one seller’s vegetables, some 44 kg in total, and paid 160 yuan." They then split the haul between them.
Meanwhile, in Shenzhen, shoppers are even nipping across to Hong Kong, where apples are now cheaper than they are on the mainland. Next year, some economists are already predicting the inflation rate will hit 5.5%, which means food prices are set to keep rising.