SHANGHAI: Surveying the long queues at hospitals, real estate sales offices and ticket counters, Qu Rongjun spotted a business opportunity where many others saw inconvenience.
The premise is simple: Simply contact his Shanghai-based queuing company, and it will furnish a professional to hold your place in line. An Internet search for "queuing services in Shanghai" will yield a variety of companies saying they provide such services and a fair number of advertisements from people who simply do not have the time to queue themselves.
"I am in urgent need of a professional place-holder," a message on Baidu.com said. "I need someone to get a doctor's appointment for me."
Qu was drawn to the business because he was tired of working for other people and saw a lot of potential in the queuing market.
"I don't have much money, and to do this business, all I need is some workers," he said.
He posted messages on the Web offering professional queuing services for doctors' appointments, ticket purchases and registrations at real estate sales offices.
"You'd be surprised to see that every hospital has long queues of people waiting for appointments with senior doctors specializing in certain diseases," Qu told China Daily. "Once I waited in line for a client, and after a whole night, I found the appointments had all been booked months in advance."
The one downside is that Qu's company is not registered with the industrial and commercial administration bureau. And many people are wary of Qu's services since neither he nor his colleagues provide invoices or formal receipts for services rendered.
Qu's business is still in its infancy, and though it does not break any laws, Qu still finds it difficult to stay afloat.
"When we wait in line to buy train tickets for our clients, police may come over and arrest us as scalpers. How can I explain the difference since I charge clients too?" he said.
Some queuing jobs take longer than others. For example, people have been known to start queuing days in advance of the opening of a real estate project.
"We charge 200 yuan ($26) for a whole day of waiting, and we can accept some bargaining too," he said. "Those who buy our services are usually well off, but if we fail to get the job done, we get nothing."
There is clearly some interest in such services.
"I think I could need such services at some point," Li Bin, a local woman said. "If they can get the job done, I think 200 yuan for a day is a good price. Besides, if they can register at a real estate sales office, they may help me to save me tens of thousands of yuan. I am willing to spend some money on their service."
(China Daily 08/15/2007 page5)