HK: Online purchases with MTR delivery

More than just a transport hub, the MTR has also played a role in the city’s e-commerce trading. Transactions are initiated on an online market place such as UWants, Yahoo! Auctions or Asiaxpat where brand-new or used items are up for sale.

The rule is simple: agree on price and the item is yours. Once a purchase is confirmed, buyer and seller can exchange numbers and agree meet at a certain MTR station. It’s not uncommon for the merchant and buyer to meet for the first time. In a subway station, there is a feeling of security and mutual trust; if I sell you a defective iPod, I’d be hesitant to do so in such a prominent location. Without exiting at the turnstiles, the one who took the train need to pay only the minimum fare. Transactions are often concluded within the edge of paid areas, separated by a five feet high glass fence.

Personally I have done this practice when I bought DVD player and old set of DVDs a few years ago and so far it worked for me.

While this method of buying online is still a bit backward compared to the more straightforward way of entering credit card details and delivery address, some locals may still prefer this one not because they don’t have credit cards, but they feel more sure of what they’re getting, not to mention getting the same product at lower price. While it’s more laborious to meet the seller instead of waiting for the doorbell to ring, buyers get more flexibility; the can negotiate for an even cheaper price and outright reject the transaction if things go awry.

On a busy hour at Mong Kok MTR station, it’s common to see a line of people waiting for money and merchandise changing hands. Replica toys, phone accessories or used DVDs waiting to be tested by prospective owners. For certain sellers, business is brisk and overhead costs are minimal. What didn’t seem to work elsewhere is thriving in Hong Kong.

In 2007, Yahoo Auctions was doing so poorly in most parts of the world that it shut all of its sites down, except those in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. The volume of transactions on Yahoo Auction’s Hong Kong site has since grown 20 per cent a year.

The future of concluding a business at railway stations remains gloomy as MTR management frowns upon such practice. Notices are posted on walls forbidding pedestrians from carrying out any type of business activity. An MTR spokesman also confirmed that it is prohibited to exchange items betwee paid and unpaid areas, just like eating, drinking, begging or running into trains as they are closing. But thanks to the lenient law, business transactions continue to take place even before the presence of MTR employees and police officers.

That could be because a simple exchange of goods over MTR stations isn’t as bad as jumping over the turnstile and avoiding payment of fares.

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