Almost 2,000 people lined up outside the Beijing headquarters of bike-sharing company Ofo on Monday in an effort to get their deposits back. The company has come under immense pressure of late, with more than 10 million users currently seeking refunds on their deposits of RMB99 and RMB199, which are required to use the bike-sharing platform.
While initially the waiting time for refunds on deposits was three days, due to the overwhelming number of people seeking money back, Ofo had to change the waiting time to 15 days. Some users have reportedly been waiting for their refunds for months.
In order for the company to accomodate all of the refund claims, they would have to pay out hundreds of millions of renminbi.
Screengrab via The Paper
As thousands lined up for hours at the company’s headquarters in Zhongguancun, some people in the queue brought food and drinks, while one woman was spotted knitting in order to pass the time.
Ofo has come out and stated that users will be refunded in order of their application. It's unclear whether customers waiting in line at the company's head office were given precedence over those awaiting refunds online, however, according to witness reports by China Daily, some who queued were unable to get their money back.
While the online waiting list of more than 10 million users may seem like a lot, the situation has the potential to get a lot worse: Ofo’s customer base was estimated at around 200 million in December of 2017 by the company’s founder Dai Wei.
According to reports by Phoenix Finance on their Weibo page, one user jumped in line from No. 1,469,780 to No. 1,461,692 over the course of December 18, which seems to indicate that just 8,088 customers had received refunds that day.
Screengrab via The Paper
Earlier this year, Ofo’s rivals Mobike and Happybike eliminated the deposit feature on their service. That follows on from guidelines released by the Ministry of Transport suggesting that the use of bike deposits should be restricted, according to China Daily.
As pressure has ramped up, Ofo has also found itself in the midst of a spate of lawsuits from business partners. South China Morning Post reports that the company’s bike suppliers, Shanghai Phoenix Bicycles and Tianjin Flying Pigeon Cycle Manufacturing, as well as logistics providers Best and Deppon Logistics, have all sued the company.
Just last year Ofo was evaluated at RMB2 billion. Their fortunes took a turn for the worst earlier this year as they were forced to scale back their global operations, taking their bikes out of a number of countries, such as India, Australia and Germany.
[Cover image via @澎湃新闻/Weibo]