Photo: iStock/Julien Viry

Beijing-based ofo Inc, a cash-strapped bike-sharing platform that claimed to have been handling more than 10,000 deposit refunds per day, is probably only able to deal with around one-third of that figure, 3,500 applications, according to a media report.

A reporter for the Chinese website was told by an ofo employee who wanted to stay anonymous that the company was issuing deposit refunds to around 10,000 users daily, The Paper recalled.

However, according to observations by the reporter, which were based on how quickly a user moved up the queue from his or her position, it was calculated that the daily average number of users to receive a refund was around 3,500 at best.

More refunds were made on working days than on the weekend, meaning it would require 12 years to complete all 16 million refund applications.

Apart from queuing for refunds, ofo users were introduced and redirected to a new e-commerce market store – founded by FIT24 – on the existing bike-sharing mobile application, where their refund of 199 yuan (about US$29) could be converted to 300 shopping points.

Yet users were not amused, as most of the items offered on the platform were groceries and toiletries, and they were sold for shopping points plus cash. Worse still, the items were generally more expensive than buying them from supermarkets.

The unnamed ofo employee advised that bike-sharing users should wait patiently rather than converting their refunds into shopping points because to clear all 300 points, it was estimated that each user would have to pay around another 1,000 yuan, plus the conversion would be irreversible.

The trouble ofo, previously headquartered on four floors at the Ideal Plaza Property Management Office with 3,000 employees, has now been downsized to 1,000 workers and moved to a single floor on Block B of the Internet Financial Center, sharing an office with FIT24 – the company that set up the e-commerce market store, and was once invested in by ofo founder and chief executive Dai Wei, who also became one of the executive directors between July 2015 and March 2018.

The employee claimed that though the company had not gone bankrupt, it did not have much money. It was uncertain if it could continue maintaining the payroll.

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