China’s Meituan Dianping vows improvements after delivery man kills retail worker in Wuhan

Minghe Hu

China’s largest on-demand services provider Meituan Dianping said it will take responsibility and “try its best to improve” after one of its delivery men stabbed a retail worker to death on the weekend, prompting debate on social media over the pressures faced by such workers in the country’s hyper-competitive delivery sector.

In a statement issued Monday, Meituan said a quarrel broke out when the delivery man arrived at the shopping mall in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province, to collect goods to be delivered to a buyer. The statement did not elaborate on the cause of the argument.

“Nothing can be more heart breaking than losing a life. We will shoulder the responsibility, identify the cause of the problem and spare no efforts to make improvements,” Meituan added.

A spokeswoman for Meituan’s told the Post on Monday that the company was cooperating with the police investigation, but could not comment further.

“Although it is only a single case, it already has caused a negative impact on Meituan’s brand,” said Dingding Zhang, former head of Beijing-based research firm Sootoo Institute and currently an independent internet industry commentator.

Didi boss says safety scandal hit harder than her fight against cancer

“Many incidents have happened these past few years because customers want their delivery faster. Companies are putting a lot of pressure on delivery men, who are risking their safety and even running red lights to deliver orders on time. This is a serious problem for the whole industry, not just for a single company.”

China’s fast growing on-demand delivery market is forecast to grow 30 per cent this year to reach 604 billion yuan (US$86 billion), with Meituan holding a 65 per cent share in the second quarter, according to a report issued in August by Trustdata.

In October, Meituan said it had used a total of 3.7 million delivery staff over the past year, including full time and part time workers. Trustdata estimated that each Meituan delivery person served an average of 29 customers per day compared to a daily average of 18 for rival platform Fengniao, the delivery service used by Ele.me, the rival on-demand giant owned by Alibaba Group, parent company of the Post.

The Hongshan district police department in Wuhan city said in a statement on its Weibo account that a 32-year-old delivery man attacked an employee of the shopping mall with a knife over a quarrel. The case is still being investigated.

The killing sparked a debate on China’s Twitter-like Weibo social media site.

“Why should I be considerate to delivery men? You are so busy that it gives you an excuse to leave my delivery by the elevator door? … Are you the only one who is in a hurry?” was one of the most liked comments under the police statement.

“So do delivery men work while carrying knives? ” said another.

Meituan is not the first Chinese tech company to come under pressure over a murder committed by employees.

In August last year, a driver working for Didi Chuxing’s Hitch service was arrested by police and confessed to raping and killing a 20-year-old woman passenger in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. That tragedy came about three months after a 21-year-old flight attendant was raped and killed in central Henan province by another male driver who used his father’s Didi account.

Didi underwent a year-long overhaul as it sought to regain public confidence that was shaken by the tragedies, with company president Jean Liu Qing later saying the murders and subsequent safety crisis hit harder than her personal struggle with cancer three years earlier.

Didi has removed about 306,000 drivers from its platform since August last year, or one in every 100 registered drivers as of 2018, according to company statistics.

Additional reporting by Coco Feng

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