Sheets of paper advertising multiple services, such as low-cost septic tank pumping services, are rampant in Ho Chi Minh City, making the metropolis ugly.
Boarding houses, power poles, walls, dustbins, and water supply pipes become locations for such paper advertisements.
Venturing into the lion’s den
In early September, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters infiltrated companies printing and organizing the plastering of such adverts on power poles, houses’ doors and walls, and even manhole covers.
Two of them specialize in environmental hygiene, including Sai Gon Group Technology Co. Ltd. in Hiep Binh Chanh Ward, Thu Duc City, a district-level unit under Ho Chi Minh City, and Tien Dat Environmental Cleaning Company in Di An City, Binh Duong Province.
|It is hard to clear ads from power poles.|
The two companies own at least 12 phone numbers which are printed on blue or purple decal pieces of paper.
These papers also include phrases ‘drainage dredging’, ‘septic tank pumping’, or ‘low-cost septic tank pumping’.
Tien Dat Environmental Cleaning Company uses a minimum of five phone numbers, including 0934.255.088, 0977.678.373, 0974.274.660, 0977.636.444, and 0934.224.557.
Its paper ads for the septic tank pumping service attached with these phone numbers are mainly plastered on electricity poles, walls, and water pipes in Thu Duc City, a unit under Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring Binh Duong Province.
Meanwhile, Sai Gon Group Technology Co. Ltd. has a large website with an impressive slogan ‘environment today, life tomorrow’.
The company often includes the phone numbers 0919.079.966, 0787.881.886, and 0922.229.668, among others, in its ads.
In late September this year, Tuoi Tre reporters posing as job-seekers were recruited to Sai Gon Group Technology Co. Ltd. whose director is Nguyen Van Thanh.
|An employee of the ad sticking unit of Bom, residing in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City, puts ads into a bag.|
At the time, some 100,000 pieces of ads measuring 4x6 and 8x15 centimeters were found at Thanh’s house.
Thanh said the ads were printed in Binh Chanh District.
Ads should be plastered on walls, power poles, and water pipes to help improve the accessibility to potential customers. Meanwhile, running online ads is costlier but less effective, Thanh noted.
He added that he had just asked his staff to paste 140,000 paper ads and an extra 200,000 others were being printed at VND330 (US$0.01) each.
“I recruit four employees and offer them free meals and accommodations. They just need to stick ads.”
Each employee was asked to stick 1,000-2,000 pieces of ads per day. New ones must paste 700-800 pieces a day.
If they can daily plaster 300 more ads, they can get VND50,000 ($2) each as a reward. The best time to plaster ads is from 4:00 am to 8:00 am and from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
To respond to the police or night-watchmen, Thanh asked his employees not to bring identity papers with them.
They are transported to ad plastering locations.
|An employee of Bom sticks ads in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City.|
Thanh instructed his employees that “Don’t mind what others say. If you are detained by the police, just say nothing and you will be released.”
They were also required to tear or stick ads of their company overlapping ads of other companies, and not to throw ads away.
On September 29, Thanh personally plastered ads. He chose alleys on Street No. 40 in Hiep Binh Chanh Ward, Thu Duc City.
He stuck large ads on power poles and small ones on the doors of residents’ houses.
“You stick too many [ads]. The power pole is fully covered with ads. It looks like a landfill,” a woman cursed Thanh while he was doing his job.
However, Thanh ignored her and continued the job.
In addition to power poles, he did not miss dustbins and water pipes out. He stuck ads on anything which was obvious.
Being thick-skinned to do the job
To train new employees to stick ads, Thanh sent the undercover reporters to another ad sticking unit located on Alley No. 5 on Le Quy Don Street in Phu Nhuan District.
|Nguyen Van Thanh, director of Sai Gon Group Technology Co. Ltd., personally plasters ads.|
The manager of this unit is Bom, whose real name is Viet, 31.
In addition, Tai, 22, is assigned to transport others to ad sticking locations; while Duc, 20, Sy, 19, and At, 16, all from the north-central province of Ha Tinh, are responsible for plastering ads.
There were dozens of wads of ads with phrases ‘septic tank pumping-drainage dredging’ and the phone numbers 0963.074.470, 0939.228.116, 0879.233.266, and 0799.429.789, among others.
Bom admitted that he used all of these phone numbers, saying that areas on power poles stuck with many ads are ideal areas.
Working as a switchboard operator, Bom has to use several mobile phones with two to four SIM cards each to get information from customers.
With thousands of ads stuck per day, his customers' demand for drainage dredging and septic tank pumping services is huge.
After several delays due to heavy rains, at 8:00 pm on September 29, Bom’s team was divided into two to stick ads in Go Vap and Tan Binh Districts.
Tuoi Tre reporters also secretly followed Tai and Sy, who pasted small pieces of ads on the doors of houses along an alley on Chan Hung Street in Tan Binh District.
|Nguyen Van Thanh carries a bag containing hundreds of ads with mobile phones of his company.|
At 9:00 pm, after dropping off Sy on an alley on Chan Hung Street, Tai traveled to other alleys to seek positions for ads.
Meanwhile, Sy immediately did his job after being dropped off.
He walked on narrow alleys and quickly stuck ads on houses’ doors. Some doors were plastered with two to three pieces.
At night on the same day, Sy was detected and chased by a resident. He and his co-worker hurriedly threw their wads of papers and fled.
They later did not stop their job but traveled to Huynh Van Banh Street in Phu Nhuan District to complete their job.
On Sunday 30 afternoon, they continued doing the job on Tran Huy Lieu Street in Phu Nhuan Street. Duc told his teammates to beat anyone from other teams if they enter their areas.
Duc said he used to be chased by local police officers. They seized his ads and asked him to clear ads stuck on walls.
However, “I become thick-skinned. I just keep silent,” Duc said.
Besides ads for septic tank pumping and drainage dredging, those for usury services with the phone number 0388.091.705 are rife in Ho Chi Minh City.
|A youngster pastes an ad for consumer loans on an electricity pole on Dinh Bo Linh Street in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.|
Manh, who owns a ring to stick ads for usury, proudly said that “our phone numbers are displayed everywhere”.
Ad sticking units innumerable
Many companies even stick ads over other ads.
From an ad that ‘leaflets help raise revenue by 20-50 percent’, the undercover Tuoi Tre reporters had an appointment with Trung, director of M.N. Investment Development JSC.
The meeting took place at the headquarters of the company on Hoang Quoc Viet Street in District 7. Trung said his company operates in various fields, and has ten years of experience in distributing leaflets and plastering ads.
|A resident finds it hard to clear ads from a power pole.|
Being asked for an ad for security guard recruitment, Trung said digital ads are not effective and suggested using leaflets or stick-on ads instead.
He quoted a price of VND2,500 ($0.1) per A5 paper sheet and committed to reporting the results in photos.
“My company has 20 ad sticking employees. Five people can complete plastering 1,000 pieces of ads within three days”, Trung asserted, admitting that the job is not authorized.
There are many groups with hundreds of people involved in the plastering of ads on walls and power poles in Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring provinces. Tens of social network accounts are used to introduce the service.
Among them, Viet, residing in Binh Tan District, has stuck ads for more than ten years. He said the job requires hot-headed and experienced people.
He quoted a price of VND6 million ($241.6) for 1,000 decal pieces of ads for land or houses for sale. The job can be done in two days.
Meanwhile, another person named An in Go Vap District quoted a price of VND2 million ($80.4) for sticking 1,000 sheets of septic tank pumping ads on electricity poles.
His team can stick 2,000 ads each day.
|Boarding houses are also favorite locations for ad sticking groups.|
“Ads will be glued on almost all power poles across the city. A power pole can be stuck with six to seven papers.”
Pursuant to the government’s Decree 144/2021 on administrative penalties for violations against regulations on security, social order and safety, fire prevention and fighting, those spraying paint, writing, drawing, sticking photos or pieces of paper on walls, power poles, or other places in residential areas, or other construction works without competent authorities’ permission will be fined VND1-2 million ($40.2-80.4) each.
In addition, under the government’s Decree 38/2021 stipulating penalties for administrative violations in culture and advertising sectors, the same fine will be imposed on those hanging, placing, pasting, or drawing ad products on power poles, traffic light posts, and green trees in public places.
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