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No time to wait in line? Start-up offers queueing services for S$20 an hour

SINGAPORE — Singaporeans’ obsession for queueing — be it for a limited edition Hello Kitty plush toy, the latest iPhone or a bowl of Michelin-starred noodles — has seen students or the unemployed offering to stand in line for a quick buck.

A start-up here — called the iQueue — hopes to cash in on Singapore's national past-time of queueing up by providing professional queueing services. Photo: TODAY

A start-up here — called the iQueue — hopes to cash in on Singapore's national past-time of queueing up by providing professional queueing services. Photo: TODAY

SINGAPORE — Singaporeans’ obsession for queueing — be it for a limited edition Hello Kitty plush toy, the latest iPhone or a bowl of Michelin-starred noodles — has seen students or the unemployed offering to stand in line for a quick buck.

Now, a start-up here is hoping to cash in on the national past-time by providing a professional queueing service, which has taken off in cities abroad.

Founded in May, iQueue offers queueing packages which start from S$20 for an hour to S$250 for 18 hours.

It currently employs 10 professional queuers comprising mainly students and homemakers. Business has been modest for now: The company gets, on average, 10 orders each month — translating to earnings of S$500 monthly — to queue for concert tickets, food, mobile phones, limited edition shoes and action figurines.

Speaking to TODAY, co-founder Mr Jeffrey Tan, 27, said he started the business with graphic designer Ms Zin Nu Aye, 24, who came up with the idea after noticing how busy Singaporeans often had to take time off from work to queue and buy highly-sought after items.

Mr Tan, who has an O level certificate and a Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) diploma in retail management, works in sales and marketing.

Eventually, Mr Tan and Ms Zin hope to go into the business full time, and have 50 queuers on their books, as well as develop an app for the company’s services.

Syahir Tahir, 17, is one of those working for iQueue. He had to put his studies on hold due to his family’s financial constraints.

He recalled arming himself with a fully-charged phone on which to play games and be occupied, a floor mat and cushion on his first job in July, but he was “too nervous to sleep”, He was helping a client queue overnight for the Louis Vuitton and Supreme collaboration, which eventually attracted a queue of hundreds of people hoping to enter the Louis Vuitton boutique at Ion Orchard to get their hands on the fashion collection.

Chased away by security staff, he loitered nearby throughout his 12-hour shift, and raced ahead of others to clinch the first spot in the queue once the staff started setting up the barriers at around 5am. “It’s a very interesting job,” he said.

Mr Tan pointed out that queueing is not easy as people think. Apart from dealing with fatigue and boredom, as well as the weather, his staff have to have their wits about them to work around the queueing systems imposed by malls and the businesses. They also follow rumours of product launches closely.

Professional line-sitting services are not new, especially in other cities such as New York and Beijing where busy lifestyles and rising affluence have allowed one person to buy another’s time, sociologists had previously noted.

In Singapore, sites such as TaskRabbit, TaskAmigo, TaskIsland, and Taskporter have sprung up in recent years, allowing users to post errands including queueing, and bid for jobs. But several of these platforms, having found it hard to sustain business, have closed shop.

Mr Tan is optimistic that iQueue would not follow the same fate. He pointed to its effort to create the “human touch”, such as doing surprise deliveries to client’s offices and recommending items to repeat customers based on their preferences. Its fixed package rates also offer certainty for customers, compared to the bidding models, he said.

Ms Zin, a diploma holder, said the start-up hopes to provide money-making opportunities for students, those with low education levels, housewives and senior citizens.

For Mr Tan himself, it was a struggle to hold on to a job. He recalled taking on various jobs after he dropped out from his hotel and hospitality management course at a polytechnic. Apart from selling cable TV packages door-to-door, he had packed rice at a supermarket and worked as a stable boy.

He conceded that he has faced discouragement about his start-up, but he is determined to grow iQueue and use it as a launch pad for other ventures. While he was previously drifting in life, the start-up has given him a “destination”, he said.

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