Chinese internet firms are offering services to help people obtain train tickets for the Spring Festival travel rush, arguably the largest annual human migration in the world.
Online travel agencies such as Ctrip.com International Ltd and Qunar Cayman Islands Ltd claim their online software-driven ticket-buying services can increase the chances of securing a train ticket.
Consumers need to pay 20 yuan ($2.89) to 200 yuan more per ticket as a commission fee.
Ctrip said it had secured more than 120,000 train tickets by 6pm on Wednesday alone.
The eve of the Spring Festival, which falls on Jan 27 this year, is the most important festivity for Chinese people.
About 356 million railway trips are expected during the annual travel peak from Jan 13 to Feb 21, official data show.
Ma Bin, a 30-year-old computer engineer, said Qunar helped him secure two sleeper tickets from Beijing to Wuhan, Hubei province, within just five minutes, after he paid an extra fee of 60 yuan.
"It is a good deal. Scrambling for tickets on my own would have been very, very time-consuming. But now it has been settled for just an extra 60 yuan," Ma said.
But not everyone has been as lucky as Ma. Five consumers China Daily interviewed on the street said the services are of no help, although they charge high fees.
"The use of software to grab tickets has increased congestion on the official website," said Zhang Wentao, a 24-year-old student in Beijing, adding the service works to some extent like scalpers.