Piano training company closes nationwide outlets, leaving members in the lurch

The sudden closure of stores was said to be caused by delayed payment of teachers' wages.
Yang Meiping / SHINE

A guard points to the notice and tells parents to leave their information at the information desk.

A famous piano training company suddenly closed all its nationwide outlets, causing panic and rage among its students and their parents.

The company, “Xingkong,” or starlit sky in Chinese, had about 60 outlets at shopping malls in 19 cities across China, including 12 in Beijing and 14 in Shanghai, according to its website.

It claimed that it was founded in 2012 by a former managing team of Alibaba and musical experts and its main business was “home delivery” teaching for children, but also providing small-sized classes for adults and children in its stores.

At one store in the CapitaMall in Shanghai's Xinzhuang area of Minhang District, many parents turned up to demand an explanation on Saturday after learning about its closure from their friends or via the Internet.

But they found only a mall security guard sitting in front of the closed door, telling them to register their information at an information desk on basement floor 2.

Yang Meiping / SHINE

Parents wait at one store's closed door to find out answers.

Yang Meiping / SHINE

The guard said some parents brought their children to Xingkong starting at around 10am on Saturday for class but found it was closed. They turned to the mall’s information counter for help and called police, who later came and launched an investigation.

A notice was also put on the door by the mall's property management company, saying the store closed without informing them at all and that they were also looking for the tenant. It had also reported the incident to related government departments.

“We had no idea about the closure at all,” said a woman at the mall’s information desk. “The store ran normally till 10pm on Friday, but none of its staff have come today. We are now taking down information about the store’s students and will contact them if we have more information.”

Yang Meiping / SHINE

The original version of the mall's notice, asking clients to contact the information desk.

Yang Meiping / SHINE

An updated version of the notice, adding that the store closed without informing the mall.

An old lady, who was accompanying her granddaughter playing at an amusement store opposite to Xingkong, told Shanghai Daily that earlier there were signs indicating the sudden closure.

“I saw all the teachers and staff took photos in front of the gate yesterday,” she said. “I have been accompanying my granddaughter playing here every day and have never seen them do that before.”

Shanghai Daily saw that nearly 100 people had left their personal information, including names, mobile phone numbers and numbers of unfinished classes, at the information desk by 5pm on Saturday.

One young lady and her parents rushed to the store in a hurry after hearing the news online.

“We paid several thousand yuan for an adult class in July,” said the mother. “We have never thought that such a famous organization would close up in such a sudden.”

Another mother was more furious as she had just paid 50,400 yuan (US$7,688.55) on Wednesday to rent a piano and buy a one-year course for her 5-year daughter.

“I purchased their adult class in May for about 5,000 yuan and was satisfied with their service,” she said. “That’s why I also got a class for my daughter. I’m stupefied by the news.”

She also told Shanghai Daily that she had reported it to the police.

But the mother showed Shanghai Daily a letter sent by store staff in her class WeChat group, explaining the closure.

It said the company had been expanding their business away from pianos in the past year, increasing operation costs and making the capital chain vulnerable.

The sudden closure of stores was caused as the wages, which should have been paid to part-time teachers on August 20 and full-time teachers on August 10, were postponed to be paid on September 11 due to problems in the receiving of investment capital.

Some teachers could not accept the delay and decided to stop teaching, which made some parents wrongly believe that Xingkong went bankrupt and gathered at some stores to safeguard their rights, it said. In fear of violent confrontation, the stores closed gradually.

It confirmed that the company has not gone bankrupt and that investors have participated in decision making processes directly. Company staff were still waiting for payment, the message added.

Another parent showed a message sent by a teacher, saying that she decided to stop teaching as the company still owed her two months' wages. She said she would resume teaching if Xingkong resumed normal operation but had to prepare for the worst.

Shanghai Daily also called the service hotline of Xingkong with no luck, and was told by the voice system that all customer service staff were busy.


Yang Meiping / SHINE

Parents at the information desk.

Yang Meiping / SHINE

Parents at the information desk.

Yang Meiping / SHINE

The message of a Xingkong teacher shown by a parent.

Yang Meiping / SHINE

A letter in a class WeChat group explains the closure.

Yang Meiping / SHINE

A letter in a class WeChat group explains the closure.


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