Delivery chaos ensues in HCMC with delays

By Tat Dat   September 19, 2021 | 11:48 pm PT
Delivery chaos ensues in HCMC with delays
A police officer checks in with shippers operating in HCMC's District 7, September 16, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
As HCMC tries to return to some semblance of normalcy, its people and businesses face a new frustration: delivery companies are not delivering despite the easing of restrictions.

Hoa, who lives in Go Vap District, had ordered clothes for her baby on e-commerce site Tiki in July, but two months have passed and she has yet to get them.

She says: "I wanted to cancel the order, but the platform said the pants were already on their way and so cancellation was not possible. I've never ordered something online that has taken so long to be delivered".

When it passed a stringent social distancing mandate a few months ago, Ho Chi Minh City did not allow delivery people to ship goods between districts. But earlier this month it lifted the ban, and shippers are allowed to again cross district borders, but yet Hoa has yet to receive her package.

Thoa of District 8 says she has grown impatient with Tiki after failing to get some goods she ordered in August.

"Two orders were for cosmetics, and another was a musical instrument, but the company has not informed me when they will arrive. If they fail to deliver them after this month, I will cancel the orders and get a refund".

Hanh of Binh Tan District, who ordered kitchen items and children's clothes on another e-commerce platform, Sendo, says she is worried her orders have been forgotten. She says she was notified that delivery had been delayed due to the coronavirus and could take 15-20 days.

But that was two months ago.

"I will only wait until the end of this month. If they do not arrive by then I will not receive them even if they manage to deliver".

Even in the case of orders placed after September 15, when restrictions on delivering goods were almost completely lifted, e-commerce platforms have told customers they could not be delivered immediately and would have to wait until next month.

Hoang of District 3 says he ordered some books on Tiki on September 17, but the system said they would only be delivered on October 20.

"To have to wait for such a long time to read a book is pointless. Meanwhile, shippers have already been allowed to operate across districts. I will cancel my order if I can place it with another platform which delivers faster".

Annoyed, he says e-commerce sites should simply not list products they cannot deliver in time.

Overwhelmed: e-commerce sites

Some e-commerce websites admit that following the disruption caused by the pandemic, the number of orders is just too high to be processed quickly, especially with the workforce shrinking dramatically.

The low number of delivery people getting approval for inter-district operations exacerbates the problem, they add.

Nguyen Nguyen Phuong, deputy director of the city Department of Industry and Trade, says around 160,000 delivery persons from 33 establishments have registered but only around 20,000 of them are on the road.

This low number simply cannot meet the demand, he points out.

As businesses begin to reopen, new orders coming in also make it more difficult to deliver in time, he says.

A Tiki spokesperson said there are a number of factors that make delivery difficult, including restricted access in certain areas and delivery priority levels for various goods.

The severe impact the pandemic has had on Tiki's shipping partners and the low number of delivery people available also contributed, he added.

For business owners, things have not fared too well either after being forced to hire outside help to ship products due to the shortage of drivers at delivery companies. While they get the job done, they demand usurious rates amounting to hundreds of thousands of dong, often almost the same as the price of the products they deliver.

Bich, the owner of a food store in Go Vap District, says she began taking orders after hearing that the city would allow inter-district delivery. On September 18, after being unable to get a delivery company to deliver to various districts, she turned to online forums for drivers.

She did manage to find some people, but the price they demanded was shocking: VND450,000 ($19.67) to deliver to District 8 and VND500,000 to ship to Thu Duc City.

"I and my customers agreed to split the shipping fees, but this is too much, and people are unlikely to agree," she says.

She intends to cancel the orders and deliver on another date once the chaos dies down.

Thuy, who sells seafood in District 3, also failed to find someone from a delivery company to take some items to Thu Duc City on September 18 and had to resort to outside help, which cost VND300,000. The order she had to deliver was only for VND500,000.

"I had to negotiate with my customer. Since they wanted squid to make their child's favorite dish for a birthday party, they agreed to pay the entire fee".

Inter-district concerns

Many delivery people still hesitate to cross district limits despite the city's supposed permission to do so. Phu, who delivers within Thu Duc City, has received permission from the trade department for inter-district delivery, but does not plan to do so for another few days.

He says he wants to wait until two weeks have passed since his second Covid-19 vaccine and see how things are going for his colleagues.

"Since yesterday I have been seeing some of my colleagues complain about incoherent information displayed on the trade department website. I checked it many times and found nothing wrong, but I'm still worried."

Delivery company Loship received around 90,000 orders in Ho Chi Minh City alone on September 17, but managed to fulfill only 30 percent of them.

AhaMove reported a similarly low percentage of completed orders, blaming it on the lack of delivery people and restricted access in certain areas.

A spokesperson said: "Our drivers are our partners, so we can only encourage them and provide them an environment to work. We cannot force them to deliver products."

To undertake more orders, companies are working with the department to increase the number of drivers. If everything goes as planned, Loship says it can have around 8,000 delivery people on the streets daily, while AhaMove said it hopes to raise it to 70-80 percent of the number available before social distancing was imposed.

Once more drivers are available, the two companies say more orders will be accepted and shipping fees will also fall back to normal levels.

But Loship warns the market will still need some more time before it returns to pre-pandemic levels.

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