Woman searches in vain for 8 hours for package in warehouse
For two weeks, she waited patiently for her order to arrive.
But last Tuesday, a few days before an important event, she became desperate as she had yet to receive the outfits she ordered.
So the housewife, who wanted to be known only as Ms Lee, 45, called the supplier in China, only to be told that her items had been delivered to a warehouse in Singapore.
She went to the warehouse, owned by Dragonlink, at MacPherson Industrial Complex and was greeted by a shocking sight.
"I saw mountains of boxes of orders waiting to be delivered. Some of them were even spilling out of the warehouse," she said.
Then came another shock: she had to dig through the huge piles to search for her package.
The warehouse operations manager, Mr James Lee, 60, said this was the first time such a situation has happened.
Since Oct 17, the company has received more packages from China daily than it could deliver. Customers such as Ms Lee are not happy.
She told The New Paper that she had ordered two sets of clothes costing about $200 from China's top online marketplace Taobao on Oct 15.
She needed them for an event over the weekend and had paid about $20 for the items to be air-freighted.
"It should have taken about three to five days for the items to reach me. When two weeks went by, I became desperate as I really needed the outfits," she said.
When the supplier in China told her that the items had been sent to Dragonlink, she contacted the Singapore company and was told that she would have to collect the item from its warehouse.
"My husband drove me there at about 3pm on Tuesday and I told him to wait in the car as I thought it would be a quick collection," she said.
But she ended up spending eight hours rummaging through hundreds of boxes.
"Imagine standing up and bending down for eight hours. The clothes of some other customers were soaked with sweat," said Ms Lee, who struggled with the bigger boxes because of her small frame.
"I dug and dug until my hands were dirty. I probably went through some boxes more than once because the place was very messy, but I still couldn't find my package."
At about 11pm, she went home empty-handed.
"The employees said that they would look for my package and told me to go home," she said.
"But when I returned the next day, they said they had not found my stuff. I was angry and frustrated and told them I needed the items urgently."
They eventually found her package - after another six hours of rummaging.
When TNP visited the warehouse last Thursday at about 7.30pm, it was filled with boxes. There was barely enough space to walk through the maze of boxes to get across the warehouse.
About six customers were seen hunched over the boxes, searching for their packages.
When TNP approached one customer, who was sitting down and looking weary, he declined to comment.
The warehouse looked mostly cleaned out when TNP returned the following night.
A female customer was arguing with a warehouse worker.
"You don't pick up calls and you never reply to any of my e-mails," she was heard saying as she demanded to speak to the person in charge.
Some customers took to Twitter and online forums to vent their frustration.
Ms Lee said she was just relieved that she got her clothes in the end.
"I don't know whether I'll continue using this service, but I really hope things improve soon," she added.
"I saw mountains of boxes of orders waiting to be delivered. Some of them were even spilling out of the warehouse."
- Ms Lee
Orders just came flooding in: Manager
More boxes than they could cope with.
That has been Dragonlink's headache since the pile-up of packages began on Oct 17.
Dragonlink is a courier service that delivers packages from overseas to local addresses.
Mr James Lee, 60, who is in charge of operations at its warehouse, said his employees had not encountered such a situation before. The packages usually arrived from China, mainly Guangzhou and Shenzhen, in quantities that they could deal with.
"Everything was smooth before Oct 17, when suddenly, orders just came flooding in. There were more than we could deliver each day," he said.
As a result, a backlog started building up, worsening by the day as more shipments arrived.
"We're doing our best to deliver every package. We understand some customers may not have received their orders, but they don't have to come down and shout at us," he said.
Mr Lee said the company has spoken to its overseas clients about the issue.
"But how to complain? At the end of the day, we are running a business and they are our clients. We just have to solve this problem quickly," he said.
As there are only about seven workers at the warehouse, Mr Lee said he tried to hire additional helpers.
"But no one took up our offer. So some of us had to stop our own administrative work to help the customers look for their items," he said.
He estimated that all the orders would be delivered by this week.
Mr Marcus Chua, 42, an operations manager who has been in the courier industry for 10 years, said such situations can be prevented by proper planning.
"The sales team must know how much the delivery team can handle. They must communicate," he said.
"It's like if you're alone, but you order food for 10 people, you're in trouble."
But Mr Chua conceded that such situations could still crop up unexpectedly.
He said: "You must have back-up resources, maybe part-time or freelance workers you can call to help settle your extra deliveries.
"If you plan right, you can handle at least 80 per cent of such excess. If not, then you're planning to fail."
"We're doing our best to deliver every package. We understand some customers may not have received their orders, but they don't have to come down and shout at us."
- Mr James Lee