On­line shop­ping boom vs courier ser­vices

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS - The author is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Did you pur­chase goods on Sin­gles Day, the on­line shop­ping car­ni­val onNov 11? If so, are you still wait­ing for the goods to be de­liv­ered to you?

Youmay never know what hap­pens to your goods be­fore they reach you. A China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion video re­port has re­vealed how they are treated at the sort­ing cen­ters of express delivery com­pa­nies. The pack­ets are thrown ran­domly four or five me­ters away, used as “chairs” and kicked down from trucks to the ground de­spite the la­bels say­ing “frag­ile” clearly ev­i­dent on them.

This is not the first time a media out­let has ex­posed the “vi­o­lent sort­ing” meth­ods used by work­ers at sort­ing cen­ters. This first came to light in 2011, the year when on­line shop­ping re­ally took off. In re­sponse, the postal au­thor­i­ties of sev­eral prov­inces, such as Jilin in­North­east China, in­stalled cam­eras to su­per­vise the process 24 hours a day. Yet not much has changed and the sort­ing process con­tin­ues as usual, es­pe­cially dur­ing on­line sales fes­ti­vals such as Sin­gles Day.

Many say courier com­pa­nies do not fol­low reg­u­la­tions when it comes to man­ag­ing their sort­ing staff. But while do­ing so, they for­get the low mar­gin of profit these com­pa­nies work on. One needs to pay only 5 to 6 yuan ($0.87) to post a 1 kilo­gram pack­age to a des­ti­na­tion in a city hun­dreds of kilo­me­ters away via an express courier and ex­pect it to reach within two days. In com­par­i­son, in theUnited States, the price of an un­trace­able delivery order is about $8 to $10, and you must pay all the ad­di­tional charges. And the charges for week­end de­liv­er­ies, SMS no­tices, early ar­rivals in the US are so high that some peo­ple jok­ingly say it is bet­ter and cheaper to drive and de­liver the goods in per­son in­stead of send­ing them through couri­ers.

Data show that in 2014, the av­er­age price of a delivery order in China was 14.7 yuan, which in­creased to 27.7 yuan in 2015. And some chain stores of express com­pa­nies earn less than 1 yuan as profit on each packet they de­liver.

No na­tional of­fi­cial data are avail­able, but a browse through 58.com or other do­mes­tic job­seek­ing web­sites will show do­mes­tic courier com­pa­nies of­fer a monthly salary of about 3,000 to 4,500 yuan to hire work­ers at sort­ing cen­ters. And sort­ing is a highly la­bor-in­ten­sive and tir­ing job.

The lack of use of ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy is an­other ma­jor problem for do­mes­tic courier com­pa­nies. While the ma­jor­ity of US express com­pa­nies use au­to­matic sort­ing ma­chines to do the sort­ing, only two Chi­nese courier com­pa­nies have re­port­edly in­stalled such ma­chines. Per­haps the low profit mar­gin has forced them to rely on man­ual la­bor in­stead of in­vest­ing huge amounts to pur­chase so­phis­ti­cated sort­ing ma­chines and lose their profit mar­gin fur­ther. Chi­nese courier com­pa­nies still have a long way to go be­fore achiev­ing qual­i­ta­tive growth, as op­posed to quan­ti­ta­tive growth.

MA XUEJING /CHINA DAILY

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