Bike-sharing firm taking people for a ride?

After months of dispute over its incapacity of refunding the 299 yuan (US$ 43.5) on time, the company's office was cleared out this week.
Xu Lingchao / SHINE

Two users of Xiangqi came to the headquarters of the company in Minhang, hoping to get the refund which they have been applying for over a month.

E-bike sharing firm Xiangqi is again under fire, after months of disputes over deposit refunds.

The company’s head office was cleared out this week.

The e-bike sharing company told Shanghai Daily that they left the office because angry customers stormed the office door and attacked staff on December 3.

The company said they called the police, but provided no evidence. Minhang police refused to confirm the story.

“We had no choice but to leave for the safety of our employees,” said a company spokesman who refused to reveal the new address for “safety reasons.”

On Thursday morning, both of Xiangqi’s offices in Les Enphants Tower, Minhang District, were locked. Two workers in the 14th floor office were clearing out cabling and electric devices.

“I heard they are now refunding the deposit via WeChat, but only 100 people per day,” said one of the workers. “There is a long queue.”

People working next door said the staff of Xiangqi stopped showing up this Monday but “sneaked back after nightfall to move their stuff out.”

In just one hour on Thursday morning, 16 people came to the office looking for a refund. All of them had been waiting for months.

Wang and Yan had come all the way from Xi’an in Shaanxi Province.

“We were planning to spend a holiday in Shanghai next week,” said Yan. “I read we could get a refund at the headquarters, so we came a week earlier, but still too late.”

Yan said Xiangqi’s e-bikes on the streets of Xi’an were either broken or out of battery from the end of October. “It felt like no one was taking care of the bikes.”

Since then the couple have been trying to get refunds through the app and WeChat.

The situation in Shanghai is no better. Wang Rong used to ride Xiangqi from home to the Metro station. “But now it’s a lottery,” he said. “The jackpot is when you find a working bike by the second or third try.”

Wang also applied for a refund around the end of October. “It is not about the 299 yuan (US$43),” said Wang. “But about integrity and dignity.”

Everyone at the headquarters for a refund told Shanghai Daily that the customer service phone never worked.

“Once I dialed more than 50 times, but no answer,” said a very discontented Hua. “I guess I’ll just consider myself down 300 yuan.”

Two weeks ago, Xiangqi’s office was packed with people asking for refunds. Many had noted they could get their money back if they came straight to the company with their ID card. Soon after Xiangqi issued a statement saying that for “safety” reasons, the refund process at the office was suspended, and sending users back to WeChat.

Minhang District has received more than 24,800 complaints about Xiangqi this year, about half were filed since the beginning of November.

“We noticed the problem in October and arranged meetings with Xiangqi,” said Mao Hui from the district market supervision department. “We asked the company to resolve the deposit issue, but apparently they didn’t.”

It was not just users banging their heads on the empty office door. A supplier had come to ask for money too.

“They own us about 700,000 yuan,” said the representative. “We’ll consider filing a case if they keep stalling.”

The spokesman for Xiangqi told Shanghai Daily that they were close to a new round of financing.

“We will announce it when the time is right,” he said, again claiming all operations are running smoothly. “We are still returning deposits.”

Xu Lingchao / SHINE

The office of Xiangqi was empty by Thursday morning.

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