After delivering packages around his assigned area for two months, Lufei (his pseudonym) has already become quite familiar with all the residential areas: where most thieves frequent, where people are polite or impolite, where it’s easier to ask the way and where safety guards love finding fault with us. From dawn to night, he would ride a tricycle without light and bumper and go upstairs and downstairs again and again. If everything went on right, he could earn RMB 4,000 every month. There are a lot more deliverymen out there in streets and alleys across Beijing and even across China who worked hard to keep the Chinese logistic industry functioning and expanding.
It was in the morning of April, 29th, 2016. Some deliverymen were sorting out packages and loading them on trucks at the allocating center of an express company at Chaoyang District of Beijing.
Lufei is one of the three deliverymen in this private-owned allocating center.
After loading the truck, he started one day’s job at 09:00AM. He’s supposed to deliver around 50 to 80 packages to 20 residential areas and would face punishment if the sign-up rate was less than 95%.
“Deliverymen in large-sized express companies can deliver a few hundred packages per day since they could deliver more packages at one place and deliver packages only in two or three places a day, while they have to spend most time travelling from one residential area to another,” Lufei explained.
He could earn RMB 1 for every package he delivered, no matter how large the package is. However, he had to pay the phone bill himself since the company didn’t give any subsidy. To save money, he would knock the door first, and call the recipient if no one answered the door. His smartphone often went out of signal, and he couldn’t hear clearly through the phone, so he could get really angry and frustrated sometimes.
The recipient was not at home, so Lufei left the package at the estate management office. Back when he worked as a deliveryman in his hometown, he used to suffer huge losses. “The recipient asked me to give the package to a friend of his, but denied so and make a complaint via the national hotline. The company fired me for RMB 500 first, and my direct boss asked me to give the recipient RMB 800 as compensation. I did as I was told and went to the recipient’s house but it turned out that the address was false and the phone number deleted,” he recalled. After this lesson, he was never complained by any recipient. “There was someone who went to pick up the package ten days after he left it in the package pickup center and couldn’t find it anymore. So he threaten me to compensate, otherwise he would make a complaint over me. I learned the lesson from the first recipient and settled the conflict,” he continued.
Lufei went to an owner of an e-commerce shop to see if he had any package to be delivered. He could earn RMB 0.5 for every package he delivered, but the owner didn’t want to have Lufei delivered too many packages, because the price was too high. When Lufei was prepared to leave, he gave another package to Lufei, saying that: “Your life is not easy, and I don’t want to see you come all this far for nothing.” Lufei was angry with some other deliverymen who competed to give a lower offer for each package. “It was a vicious cycle: when one deliveryman offered RMB 2, the other deliveryman would offer RMB 1.5, and the next deliveryman would offer RMB1. Such vicious competition won’t do any good to the industry,” said he.
It was the afternoon of April, 28th. Lufei was waiting for deliverymen from another express company inside an express pickup center. However, he didn’t show up. Lufei was worried if he would have to miss the time to deliver his own packages to the pickup center and get them sent by the truck. Some express company chose to transfer packages they couldn’t deliver due to concerns over manpower, capital and efficiency to other express companies through the pickup center and earn a tiny bit of money.
An hour later, the deliveryman finally showed up. They started to weigh the package and load the truck. It didn’t take them so much time to finish. A veteran deliveryman revealed to us the fact: the actual reason why they have to transfer the packages to other express companies was that the boss of the pickup center had run out of money due to too much fine from the mother company as a result of too many complaints. So the boss had no choice but to transfer the left packages to express companies offering lower price.
For Lufei, however, he wasted an hour waiting for the truck of packages, and would end up earning nothing. “I could earn almost nothing by delivering these packages, because both my boss and the pickup center want a share,” he explained. On his way back, the tricycle went out of electricity. Lufei rushed to put out some packages and changed the battery before he could start the tricycle again.
The truck had already gone before he could go back to the allocating center, so had no choice but to unload the package and get them sent the next day.
He did have free food and free place to sleep. This bunk bed in the above picture was where he could sleep. After going to the technical secondary school for a year also, he went out of his hometown at the age of 16 to work. Since then, he worked as construction worker, water pipe repairer and deliveryman. During the Spring Festival of 2016, he noticed a recruitment poster back in his hometown, so he signed up and went to Beijing along with the mediator. “We lived in a basement around Beihai Park, but when I was asked to sign a contract with them and be paid RMB 1,500 per month, I refused. They didn’t let me go until they kept my ID card and smartphone and asked for 800 as compensation,” he recalled. After leaving the basement, he got on a taxi and asked the driver to take him to the place where he could find the cheapest place to rent. So the driver drove him to Shuangshu of Chaoyang District, and that’s where he found a job in an express company.
The tricycle used to be another deliveryman’s, yet he gave it up after it got on fire because the electricity went wrong. The deliveryman asked for help from a store nearby, but was refused, so he put out the fire by taking off his clothes and carrying sand back and forth. Looking back, Lufei got really aggrieved, “once I saw a deliveryman being knocked down by a car, but all the passers-by were more concerned how much the drive would have to pay for compensation than how badly he was hurt.” As a matter of fact, he’s been considering the possibility to go back to his hometown and do peanut oil business. “My parents have some really nice peanuts back in my hometown, and I think I should go back and see if there is a market there,” he said.
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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @fliesslaughterhouse, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.