Ezbuy.sg, Singapore's first and largest global shopping platform*, issued a press release on Friday to give a blow by blow account of what happened to its purchasing service for China e-commerce platform, "Taobao” since 4 Nov this year, a sequence of event that led to services enjoyed by Singapore consumers being withdrawn by the company.
Below is the statement in full
On behalf of the entire team at ezbuy.sg, we would like to apologise to all our customers who are affected by the recent delays in receiving their orders, and to our merchants, partners, family and friends who were unintentionally involved in this issue for lending their support. We regret the problems that had transpired in the last few weeks, specifically in the multiple delays that many of our customers had faced. It has come to a point where it is necessary that we address several things that have happened.
We first faced an issue of not being able to place orders through many of our purchasing accounts on 4 November 2017, the launch date of our ’11.11’ campaign. Since then, we had recruited a few hundreds of purchasing agents including small companies and individuals to overcome the issue. Due to the overwhelming customer queries, we have also added 40 new Customer Service Officers (CSO) within 2 weeks. Below is a chronological timeline of the incident from 4 November to 4 December 2017.
4 November 2017: On 4 November 2017, 161 purchasing accounts on Taobao begun to have issues while checking out the items in the e-shopping cart, with the following error message: “As there are overwhelming customers checking out, kindly try again later”.
Our immediate resolution to this issue was to clarify directly with the Taobao CSOs, which was conducted through our purchasing agents. Multiple queries were subsequently directed to Taobao CSOs over the next few days, however, we observed that more purchasing accounts started to receive the same error message. Subsequent replies received from the Taobao CSOs had the following message: “Your account looks abnormal and cannot be used; however, we can’t disclose the reason behind it”.
These purchasing accounts have been actively operating for several years, without any issues before 4 November 2017.
8 November 2017: Our 4 days ’11.11’ event was scheduled to start on 8 November 2017. We had set up 210 new purchasing accounts to facilitate a smooth order process. However, all 210 accounts were unable to carry out the processing of orders and seemed to be facing technical restrictions. We were unable to assist customers in completing their order from Taobao and had to put up an announcement on our website to inform our customers that our purchasing agents are blocked by an e-commerce website, and have to stop taking orders through ‘Buy-For-Me’ service for China.
11 November 2017: Our 2 main warehouses in China, specifically in Jia Xing and Dong Guan were blocked on the Taobao system. Our purchasing agent and ‘Ship-For-Me’ customers who were using their own Taobao accounts who had indicated similar shipping addresses, were also unable to process the checkout.
Our purchasing agents and customers clarified this directly with the Taobao CSOs but did not receive any response. Subsequently, only a few customers received a reply with the following message: "This is a system bug, they need 5-7 days to resolve". Since then, we have changed our warehouse addresses and recruited a new batch of purchasing agents.
13 November 2017: From 1pm to 10pm, another 200 purchasing accounts which directed all our customer’s orders to new warehouses were facing technical restrictions one by one.
At the same time, our purchasing agents received messages from sellers on Taobao asking if they were purchasing on behalf of ezbuy. Our purchasing agents were also notified that Taobao had informed them that our warehouse addresses in China was involved in “abnormal” activities, and the sellers' shops have had their credit points deducted by Taobao.
14 November to 30 November 2017: We sourced for additional 4 new warehouse addresses. However, 180 purchasing accounts which were directed to ship to 2 of these new warehouses were facing technical restrictions as well.
1 December to 3 December 2017: Another round of purchasing accounts was blocked. More than 300 purchasing accounts were also facing technical restrictions, as long as these accounts had indicated our warehouse addresses.
Before this incident, we used to process orders, finish inspection and repacking within a few hours to a day. However, with the constraints raised during the past few weeks, it took us much longer to process our customers' orders and we are very sorry about the inconvenience caused.
At ezbuy.sg, our intention is for customers to enjoy access to millions of products and make things easier and convenient for everyone. We started the "Buy-For-Me" service for China to help customers in Singapore to buy from Taobao and several other e-commerce platforms in early 2010. On a rough estimate, we have delivered hundreds of millions of orders to customers in Singapore for the past 7 years and have contributed a significant amount to Taobao’s business.
Our only wish is that after the Christmas winter season has passed, the ice would have melted off our “frozen” purchasing accounts so that we can resume the ‘Buy-For-Me’ service China to our customers. Not forgetting the personal accounts graciously provided by our colleagues, friends and families, which were inadvertently faced with technical restrictions as well, that their accounts may return to normal.
*by page views and number of distribution points