On May 4, a Shopee customer in Singapore claimed that she was sent a piece of cardboard by the merchant after purchasing a S$39.90 ladder.
The customer, identified as Gen, shared her experience with Stomp.
In response to the complaint, Shopee confirmed they have "investigated the issue and have since suspended the seller and issued a full refund to the user".
Seller's side of story
A day after the incident was made public, a man claiming to be the merchant, who asked to be identified only by his surname Ong, wrote to Mothership to share his side of the story.
According to him, his products listing featured three types of foldable step-ladders for sale.
Each ladder had three, four or five steps.
Ong explained that the three-step and four-step ladders are delivered by Shopee's assigned courier, J&T Express.
The five-step ladder, however, has been dispatched by the merchant himself since April 2022 as "Shopee made some changes to the permitted maximum length of the ladder" capped at 150cm.
The five-step ladder, according to Ong, is 160cm.
As the length of the ladder exceeds the maximum permitted dimensions, Ong claimed that "the courier will reject the parcel".
This left the merchant with no choice but to handle the deliveries by himself.
According to J&T's packaging guidelines and Shopee's help centre, for parcels shipped using the courier service, the maximum dimensions for the entire parcel must be within 300cm, and the "greatest dimension" must not exeed 150cm on any side.
The same does not apply to another of Shopee's supported logistics partner Ninja Van, which only enforces the maximum dimensions of 300cm rule.
However, the platform's Seller Education Centre states that "only J&T Express is available to all sellers", while "the rest are available to selected sellers".
"Cornered by the system"
Ong, who called himself an "honest seller" who is "cornered by the system of Shopee", explained that merchants have to use J&T's services as that is the only way for the tracking number "to be scanned into the system to show that the parcel is delivered".
He added: "By sending the empty parcel with a (cardboard), the Shopee system is able to "scan" and pay (the merchants) accordingly."
To ensure that buyers of the five-step ladder will receive their purchase, Ong delivers the actual product personally on the same weekend that the empty parcel is sent as they have to "travel the whole of Singapore for different orders".
Ong claimed that he has been doing this after J&T changed their delivery guidelines.
According to Shopee's website, sellers can submit a request to use their own fleet as an delivery option if they have "bulky items exceeding the weight/dimension limit of integrated channels", but have to fulfil specific requirements, such as maintaining a shop rating of 4.8 and above, have "few bad reviews related to shipment", "few return refund due to shipment", and "submission of pickup manifest and proof of delivery upon request, in the event of any shipment disputes".
An untimely injury
Ong's deliveries on the weekend of April 30 and May 1 were affected because he "injured (his) back and could not stand up at all", he claimed.
In a medical certificate (MC) seen by Mothership, he was certified as unfit for duty from April 30 to May 6 after a visit to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's Acute and Emergency (A&E) Care Centre.
After receiving "tons of injection and medication", Ong said he "rested all the way till May 3" before he could walk on his own.
It was on May 3 that he delivered some ladders despite still feeling under the weather, but was able to dispatch "only half of the ladders" as he still had some mobility issue and "could not cover all the orders".
Ong added that "some orders were automatically refunded by Shopee as (he) could not get to the computer to reply the refund cases".
Admits oversight in delivery protocol
Acknowledging that it would be "very shocking to receive just an empty box instead of the actual ladder", Ong accepted that he understands why the buyer "panicked".
He added that Gen has since mentioned in the comments section that she has received the ladder.
At press time, Mothership was unable to verify this claim.
"I can totally understand why Shopee had to ban our account temporarily," Ong explained.
"But this is still very disappointing."
While the seller's listing remains active, an attempt to purchase the item did not succeed, and the error message stated that the "product has been suspended/ deleted".
The listing in question
Nowhere in the said listing was there any indication that the seller has had to resort to the unorthodox delivery method.
Reviews on the five-step ladder are mixed, with one disgruntled user calling their purchase the "worst experience ever" as the seller "deliver me small envelope with bits of papers on it at first", and only got the ladder "few days later".
There were also less scathing reviews, however:
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Top photos from Shopee Singapore's website & Stomp.