Singles' Day shoppers see red over deliveries

Mr Francois Chang showing the status of his delayed delivery by Roadbull. He was supposed to receive a board game on Dec 7 after ordering it from Taobao on Nov 11, but it has yet to be delivered.
Mr Francois Chang showing the status of his delayed delivery by Roadbull. He was supposed to receive a board game on Dec 7 after ordering it from Taobao on Nov 11, but it has yet to be delivered.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Couriers struggle to deliver products on time after popular Chinese online sales event

Some unlucky customers of shopping bonanza Singles' Day have seen their joy turn to rage, as courier services struggle to deliver their products on time in the face of a mountain of orders.

Start-up Roadbull has been struggling to handle what chief executive Alwin Liang called an "astronomical" number of products flooding into Singapore thanks to the Chinese sales event, "creating an industry-wide bottleneck and also affecting my operational capacity".

Logistics firm Ninja Van and SingPost have also acknowledged a spike in deliveries.

Roadbull user Francois Chang, an investment analyst, told The Straits Times that he ordered a board game from Taobao on Nov 11, and was supposed to receive it on Dec 7. He said he gave instructions for courier staff to call him at home before delivery.

Mr Chang, 27, said that he took leave on two separate days to receive the item but was left disappointed on both occasions. He even failed to get it when he went to the Roadbull warehouse, after taking another day off, to collect it himself.

He said: "I understand this is the peak season and deliveries can be slow, but you can't make an appointment and not show up. That's why I'm so angry."

Business owners have also suffered losses due to delayed or missing deliveries.

Mr Kenneth Chin, 24, who runs a gift supplying firm, was supposed to deliver electrical items worth more than $800 to his customer on Wednesday. He ordered these goods directly from factories in China on Nov 22 and, on Monday, received only one of his parcels.

He made around 40 calls to several Roadbull numbers. When he went down to Roadbull's warehouse the next day, he was told that his other parcel could not be found.

"I'm very fed up," said Mr Chin, who did not make orders specifically for Singles' Day.

He had to get some of his workers in China to buy the missing products and fly to Singapore with them. "My company has lost time, my customer's trust, my sales revenue."

LIMITED INFLUENCE

For online merchants that are located overseas, Case is able to intervene only if the business is in countries which Case has signed a memorandum of understanding with.

MR LOY YORK JIUN, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore

Roadbull's Mr Liang said delivery delays were due to "unforeseen circumstances like the weather or vehicle conditions", which he would work to resolve.

He said that the firm increased its driver capacity by about 30 per cent in the past week alone, and that it has started Sunday deliveries too.

"We're not making any excuses. We're working around the clock and doing all we can to get the things delivered," he said.

A spokesman for Ninja Van, which received a deluge of complaints online last month about slow deliveries, told ST that the company had cleared the "backlog" of orders by the end of that month.

Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Loy York Jiun said: "Consumers should always exercise caution for international online transactions... In the event that anything goes wrong, it is onerous to recover their payment due to the complex nature of cross-border transactions and the different laws applicable in other countries."

He added: "For online merchants that are located overseas, Case is able to intervene only if the business is in countries which Case has signed a memorandum of understanding with - for example, Malaysia and China."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2017, with the headline 'Singles' Day shoppers see red over deliveries'. Print Edition | Subscribe