- Cates will install self-collection lockers in Saraca and North Hill Hall clusters, and also employ ambassadors to conduct checks at delivery points
- A survey at Tamarind Hall found that over 62 participants reported at least one occasion where their parcels or meals were “stolen” – 70 per cent were related to Cates
- Cates said a daily average of around four orders were lost in the past year
Text and photo by Chong Xin Wei
Saraca and North Hill Hall residents can start receiving Cates food deliveries from self-collection lockers by the end of the year, according to the food delivery start-up.
Cates, a third-party food delivery company launched in 2019, will also employ ambassadors to conduct random checks at delivery points around NTU starting next week, its founder, Mr Sun Yin, told Soapbox.
The self-collection lockers, which can only be unlocked with a passcode keypad or via the Cates mobile app, will be installed in partnership with the Office of Housing and Auxiliary Services (HAS).
Cates will also put up notices around the collection points to notify students of the random checks and students will need to verify their identities via the Cates app when collecting their food.
These new measures come amid a growing spate of missing delivery items reported by students. According to Cates, a daily average of three to four orders were lost in the past year, though it is unknown if these orders were lost in the delivery process or taken by others mistakenly.
Several students who had deliveries go missing told Soapbox they suspected that their items or meals were stolen.
Tamarind Hall residential mentor Tan Li Ling, 26, ran a survey in her Hall to record reported missing delivery cases after she noticed a rise in complaints.
In her survey results, a total 62 people reported at least one occasion where their parcels or meals were “stolen”. Almost 70 per cent of responses were related to food deliveries, half of which pertained to deliveries from Cates.
“In the month of March, more cases of missing items were reported again and this time it is pertaining to the loss of food delivery items. A lot of people on the [Tamarind] Telegram chat were very upset,” said Miss Tan, who is also a third-year graduate student from the School of Material Science Engineering.
Miss Tan presented her survey results to the Hall office, which later disseminated frequent reminders for students to collect their food items or parcels on time and issued an advisory on the risk of their parcels being stolen.
Still, she noticed that some students leave parcels at collection points for up to several days.
“So definitely the individuals are just putting themselves at unnecessary risk, for sure, they must do more to safeguard their own interests,” she said.
Across the school, some students reported that despite being on time to collect their deliveries, food items were still missing.
Second-year student, Ng Kai, 23, said he did not receive almost $10 worth of food that he had ordered, despite being punctual to collect his food.
The English and Public Policy and Global Affairs student from Hall 14 said: “I am not sure if it was stolen but I came down immediately and there was also another person who did not get his bubble tea, so there could be a possibility that the delivery person forgot to collect the drinks.”
Year 3 business student Lee Ying Hui also recounted a similar experience. Her order from Raydy Bee Hoon was also missing despite her reaching the collection point at Hall 12 within five minutes of being notified. She then contacted both Cates and Raydy and had her order re-delivered.
First-year Art, Design and Media student Sun Rui Tong, who had her orders go missing twice, suggested that order sheets be printed with the name of the student who ordered it.
“There should be a better way to identify which order is yours. Just by the number itself, you can’t really tell whose order is whose,” said Rui Tong, 21, a Hall 3 resident.
Cates founder Mr Sun said orders were sometimes not delivered as merchants forgot to prepare the food, or deliveries had been sent to the wrong location.
In these cases, he said Cates will refund or re-deliver missing food items reported within 20 minutes of the stipulated time of delivery.
When asked if the lockers can be used to collect non-Cates deliveries or parcels, Mr Sun did not dispel the idea.
“There are many possibilities on the usage of the lockers and we are exploring,” he said.
He added that if Cates were to find someone intentionally taking food orders not belonging to them, the company may report them to the Hall office.
Despite the cases of missing orders being reported, most students interviewed said they were willing to continue using food delivery services, including operators like Cates, which offers one of the most affordable food delivery services on campus.
Hall 3 resident Rui Tong said: “It saves my time because I don’t have to worry where to go or how long I need to travel to get my food.”