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Chinese Soccer Fans Sick Over World Cup Time Difference


So need some time off from work to watch the World Cup? If you're in China, no problem. Online stores can provide fake doctors notes, even extensive falsified medical records, to get you those days of sick leave. So you can enjoy your favorite teams. For more on this story, we turn to Frank Langfitt in Shanghai Frank, good morning.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: How does this service work, exactly?

LANGFITT: Well, the problem in China is we're 11 hours ahead of Rio. So the matches that open - the daily openers - are going to be around midnight. So if you watch them, you're going to be exhausted, watching all through the night and then have to go to work. So some online stores on Taobao - and that's the eBay of China - they're offering doctors' notes. And one company that we contacted, they offer a signed signal with a real doctor's name and then an extensive diagnosis from any hospital in Shanghai. So naturally, I ordered one.

MONTAGNE: Naturally. And how hard was it to get?

LANGFITT: Easy, super easy. We ordered it yesterday afternoon. And it was couriered to the office this morning. And for $33, I got a diagnosis that said I was suffering from gastroenteritis. I needed about four to five days off. Now, the best part is my diagnosis is actually dated for this coming Sunday. So I could get all next week off to watch the World Cup. Now, this company has all kinds of fake medical documents. For 15 bucks, you can get a death certificate or surgery records. And for 50 bucks, you could get blood test, urine tests, CT scan, ultrasound and get them to say whatever you want.

MONTAGNE: Do they really look authentic?

LANGFITT: Well, you know, the hospital stamp on mine looked quite good. But the letterhead look really cheap, like it came off a desktop printer. So I went to the hospital to ask some of the nurses there if it was real. And here's how they reacted.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: (Foreign language spoken).

LANGFITT: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: (Foreign language spoken).

LANGFITT: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 3: (Foreign language spoken).

LANGFITT: OK, so the nurses are saying, right now, that they don't have any documents like this. And they called the doctor, who was supposed to have signed it, a Dr. Hu, who was off-duty at the time. And she, of course, said, she'd never seen me and never signed anything. And the nurses look at the signature. And they said it was total forgery.

MONTAGNE: Are all these sick notes so obviously fakes?

LANGFITT: No, they're not. Actually some of them are really good. I've seen some that look like they are, actually, exactly, from the hospitals. I'll give you an example. My office mate, from the BB, he bought one yesterday. And it looks a lot more authentic than mine. And he paid about half of what I did. So I feel like I was kind of ripped off.

MONTAGNE: Yeah, it sounds like - OK, Frank, any idea how popular this really is for people trying to get out of work?

LANGFITT: Well, I don't think there's any way to actually know. But, we called our supplier today, about our order. And he said, he had so many orders, yesterday. He couldn't even remember that he'd sent anything to us. So, obviously, he was doing big business.

MONTAGNE: Well, this sounds like a natural for some sort of crackdown. Although, is that happening?

LANGFITT: Well, you know, these stores are on Taobao, which, as I was mentioning, is the eBay of China. It's owned by Alibaba. It's the biggest e-commerce company here. And so, Taobao's been blocking search terms, to keep people from getting to some of these stores. But, you know, if you tweak the search words, you can still find what you need.

MONTAGNE: Well, Frank, hope your gastroenteritis clears up soon, obviously, not before the first few days of the World Cup. But, anyway, hope you're feeling better.

LANGFITT: Well, thank you very much. Although, according to my medical records, Sunday's going to be a very bad day.

MONTAGNE: (Laughing) NPR's Frank Langfitt, speaking to us from Shanghai. Thanks very much.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Renee.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.