Durian lovers in thorny situation as orders fail to bear fruit

Most of the customers said they had seen Instagram and Facebook posts by "Top Grade Durian" that offered express deliveries. PHOTO: TOP GRADE DURIAN/FACEBOOK

It was a more bitter than sweet experience for some 200 durian lovers who made large orders with an online seller only to be left with empty promises.

Some claim they placed orders ranging from $300 to $900 with duriansexpressdelivery.com, but there was no express delivery or durians at all.

The customers have since started a Facebook group to share their experiences and attempt to seek recourse. Two of them told The Straits Times that they had filed police reports, and another three said they were considering doing likewise.

ST interviewed 20 people who had made orders totalling over $8,000 on the same website. They had e-statements showing payments made via credit card, debit card or Internet banking.

Housewife Annie Ng, 31, said she waited an entire afternoon on July 10 for the $500 worth of durians she had ordered. Unable to contact the seller hours later, her situation began to reek of a scam.

After some online sleuthing, she realised that the site she had patronised had a very similar URL to durianexpressdelivery.com, the website of a legitimate business, Durian Express Delivery - with a barely noticeable difference of an "s".

Most of the customers ST spoke to said they had seen Instagram and Facebook posts by "Top Grade Durian" that offered express deliveries within three hours, from 11am to 11pm daily. They visited the linked website at duriansexpressdelivery.com, where they selected the number of durians they wanted to purchase. The checkout process was similar to those of online food delivery services, they said.

However, all 20 customers ST spoke to said they did not receive electronic receipts or invoices by e-mail - which raised a red flag, as it is a common practice in e-commerce to follow up with an e-receipt.

Ms Ng said she and her husband had paid around $35 per kg for the durians, which worked out to over $120 for each fruit, which averages 3kg to 4kg each.

"The thing that infuriates me most about the situation is that we got scammed not because we were being cheap and wanted to get durians at lower prices. We thought we were paying a premium for the best durians ever but we ended up getting cheated," Ms Ng said.

She said that duriansexpressdelivery.com was taken down a day after she filed a police report on July 13.

A man in his 40s, who gave his name only as Mr Muhammad, told ST that he had ordered $600 worth of durians as a birthday present for his wife.

"It was hard to find premium durians during the circuit breaker and phase one, so I thought it was a good purchase for a special occasion," he said.

"We are still in the process of filing complaints with Case and we hope to get our money back and get some justice." Case is the Consumers Association of Singapore.

Besides the 20 customers whose orders were not fulfilled, two others told ST that they had indeed received durians - but that the fruits were frozen hard with rotting seeds and flesh. They have both made police reports after the company refused to provide them with a refund.

Checks by ST revealed that the company, Top Grade Cheap Frozen Durian, was set up in June under a Jasper Tan Zhi Hong who was registered with a Tampines HDB residential address. Attempts to reach Mr Tan at the address and via cellphone were unsuccessful.

A check with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority yesterday found that the company changed its address on July 14, and now lists the Orchard Road address of a management consultancy firm of a completely different name. Staff at the firm said they did not know of Mr Tan and have not heard of his company at all.

ST also contacted Durian Express Delivery, but did not receive a reply as of press time.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2020, with the headline Durian lovers in thorny situation as orders fail to bear fruit. Subscribe