Aug 16, 2012 · 1 minute

In the wake of a seemingly insane-ish price war that broke out on Sina Weibo two nights ago, Chinese consumers have woken up to find that the prices aren't as crazy as the claims.

Three of China's biggest online electronic retailers broke into an impromptu battle of oneupmanship on the Twitter-like service after 360buy CEO Richard Liu announced the decision to sell big home appliances at zero gross margins for the next three years. He also promised to undercut any prices offered by competitors Gome or Suning by 10 percent. “Within these three years,” Liu wrote, “any employee found to sell at marked-up prices will be fired." Both Suning and Gome responded by saying they'd go as low it takes to undercut 360buy in return.

But as the smoke from the gun-fight cleared, consumers have been left wondering what happened to the promised bargains. Some had even held out hope that washing machines and dishwashers could drop to the sweet price of $0.00. After all, Liu had promised: "If Suning dares to sell at 1 yuan, then 360buy will surely sell at 0 yuan."

According to price comparison Web site, however, only 78 of 360buy's 2,200 electronic appliances were available at a discount rate, China Daily reported. In fact, Etao said 360buy had even raised the price of about 50 items by as much as 100 percent. Gome, meanwhile, had cut prices on only about 7.8 percent of its products online.

Sensing a conspiracy, Sine Weibo's skeptically minded users started floating the idea that the Weibo war was a PR collaboration between the three companies designed to drive sales. A Weibo poll showed an overwhelming majority believed the "collusion" narrative over the "fight to the death" option.

Image from The red indicates the number of people who think the price "war" is a public relations ploy.

There was more interesting little nugget from Etao's figures, which, as TechInAsia notes, it has been displaying in an Olympics-like medal tally table. The online retailer that currently offers the best prices is the dark horse of ecommerce in China.

And just who, you might ask, is that?

It is, I might answer, a little company called Amazon.

[Lead image from]