SINGAPORE: As he made his way down to a telco shop at Plaza Singapura last Friday, Mr Syahir Tahir had only one thought on his mind: To get hold of an iPhone 8 Plus that would be launched that morning.
But upon reaching the shop at around 8am, the 17-year-old was surprised to find just one customer in line.
“The night before I read that there were people queuing overnight at the Nubox in Bedok Mall, so I was expecting a queue. That’s why I had breakfast before leaving the house and made sure my phone was fully charged,” he said. “I was very surprised.”
After taking a queue number, the part-timer at local start-up iQueue, which offers on-demand queuing services, contacted his supervisor and the customer who had paid for him to stand in line.
Thirty minutes later, his job was done when the customer arrived and purchased the phone. Mr Syahir was paid S$20 for the stint, including a S$10 tip from the elated customer.
While it may sound like easy money, the young Singaporean, who’s been taking up jobs from iQueue since July, has had less relaxing assignments.
For example, he was in the queue for 12 hours when Louis Vuitton unveiled a collaboration with New York-based streetwear label Supreme at its Ion Orchard boutique two months ago.
Other stints include queuing for limited edition sneakers and jerseys, as well as a concert T-shirt for Japanese pop-rock band Do As Infinity’s gig earlier this month.
So far, he has earned nearly S$600 from 12 assignments. He plans to continue the part-time job, which he described as “rare” and “interesting” until he enlists for his national service next year.
BOOKINGS “SLOW AND STABLE”: IQUEUE
Mr Syahir is one of the 20 part-timers at iQueue, which provides on-demand queuing services. Founded in May, the online platform offers five packages starting from S$20 for an hour to S$250 for 18 hours.
The start-up is the brainchild of Mr Jeffrey Tan and Ms Zin Nu Aye. Mr Tan, 27, told Channel NewsAsia that the couple decided on the business idea after becoming “tired of queuing” and realising the inconvenience of having to take leave every time an in-demand item is launched.
The country’s obsession with queuing for almost anything also presents an opportunity for such an on-demand service, the Singaporean added.
“Once, we saw a post on Carousell asking for help to queue for a popular bak chor mee stall. This person was in reservist but it was his wedding anniversary and he wanted to get his wife her favourite food,” Mr Tan said. “So I decided to offer him our packages, with additional services like buying a gift card and a bouquet of flowers.”
Since the launch, Mr Tan said business has been “slow and stable”, with about 100 bookings so far.
While this number is below his expectations, the founder said he does not accept all bookings that come his way.
For example, he turned down three reservations last week for the release of the new iPhones. These customers had been keen to book 12-hour packages but Mr Tan did not think overnight queues were necessary.
“We were tracking social media and it seems like most people are waiting for the iPhone X. Also, Singaporeans don’t need to queue at the Apple Store since most of us are re-contracting to get the new iPhones. There are so many telco shops so I told them I don’t think an overnight queue is required.”
The one booking he accepted was a last-minute request for a three-hour package. When the queue turned out to be much shorter than expected, Mr Tan said he made an exception to charge the customer for just 30 minutes of service.
“I know it’s weird but we want to provide a personal touch,” he said. “I think this will be better for our business in the long run too.”
According to Mr Tan, who still holds a full-time position in sales and marketing, the job of an on-demand queuing service provider is more challenging than it seems.
While staff will be provided with water, pillow and a blanket for overnight assignments, they will need to cope with working alone for long hours. They will also need to think on their feet and come up with back-up plans to get around the various queuing systems that malls and venue operators have in place or when preferred items of a customer get sold out.
For the start-up’s first job in May, which is to secure tickets for Ed Sheeran's concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, it was hit by an unexpected manpower crisis.
“We had 20 requests but we only managed to fulfil 13 because some of our part-timers did not turn up. We tried alternatives like booking online but not all were successful,” Mr Tan recalled.
As such, the founders now have strict requirements when it comes to hiring.
“Their personality is the most important,” the founder said. “Apart from a sense of responsibility, they need to be able to think on their feet. They cannot be shy because they’ll need to make friends with people in front and behind of them in the queue so that they can tell them what we are doing and if a customer comes to take his position, there won’t be any quarrels.”
Moving forward, Mr Tan and his co-founder have begun monitoring upcoming product and ticket sale launches. He believes that iQueue’s offering of a personal touch, such as recommending suitable queuing packages, will help it to attract more customers.
“We can queue for anything as long as it’s a request from a customer. We also track social media for product launches and ask our customers if they are keen. We want to provide a personal touch and if we don’t think it’s worth queuing, we will tell you.”