Mooncake! A traditional Chinese cake eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. If you have Chinese friends, you will know that they will go to any extent to lay their hands on the mooncake on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
But can you imagine the mooncake being the reason for four engineers from Alibaba. The Chinese e-commerce giant has kicked out four engineers who tried to hack the Alibaba’s distribution system for mooncake selloff and get the mooncakes for themselves.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd confirmed it fired four engineers this week after they hacked into the internal website that allows employees to purchase the company’s signature mooncakes, with an orange fluffy Alibaba mascot inside. The Hangzhou-based company allocates one free box to each employee for the holiday, and sells extras on the site at cost—59 yuan (about $9) for a box of four.
The four Alibaba programmers coded a new program into the mooncake website so as to divert a leftover 100-odd boxes to themselves. The hack apparently worked and the fired engineers got their mooncakes but they were also caught. Asked about the dismissals, Alibaba said its decision to fire the employees is “another reminder to our staff that every game comes with rules.”
The four engineers were however hailed as heroes on the Chinese social media. The four dismissed engineers were trending on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging Twitter equivalent, and were praised for their entrepreneurial instincts and technical competence.
The Chinese love for mooncakes can be further judged by the fact that Lin Wei, a manager at Beijing-based antivirus company Qihoo 360 has offered the four a job at his firm. Wei said he extended a job offer to the four via WeChat minutes after hearing about the mooncake drama.
“I think computer engineers need to have a geek spirit, and these people are not using technology to do any harm,” he wrote. Mr. Lin said he saw more than 30 job offers circulating on WeChat and decided to join in before talking to his boss.
“We always are hiring network security engineers,” he said. “They are hot commodities.” He said he didn’t receive an answer to his offer.
Another firm, JD.com which is main Alibaba competitor in the e-commerce space in China also offered the dismissed engineers a job. In a note posted on WeChat newsfeed, JD.com said, “We should treat network security engineers well. Please forward your résumé via email.”
One commenter on Zhihu, a Quora-like question-and-answer platform, evoked Forrest Gump: “Life is just like a box of mooncakes. You never know what you’re gonna get.”