Living in a world where labor cost is relatively low – especially those low end labor like Ayi cleaning or Express man, is very different from the developed country.
Some people suffer from the absence of effective and secure way to transfer goods. The EMS by China Post Service does not work as I expected. A package from Shanghai to Changsha cost me 3 days. It is not even a guaranteed delivery time, while UPS or Fedex can deliver the same package to any large cities in the world in 24 hours. The surface mail with 0.60 RMB postage is worse. It is something like UDP package in the TCP/IP protocol – you send it but there is no guarantee that the package will be received. :-D
However, other people are enjoying the low cost delivery already if the destination is at the same city. It is called Kuai Di or the Express man. The market price for a common service is 5 RMB per delivery. They ride motor-cycle or even electronic empowered bicycle. They are flexible enough to deliver the good to everywhere – even somewhere without an address – they can find it by calling the recipient. :-) Express man has been the standard department for many organizations, no matter foreign-owned or small private business. The typical scenario is: “Hey. I have the contract ready. I can ask my Kuai Di to deliver it to you or you ask yours to come to my office to pick it up?”
Ayi is another good service that is not comparable in any city in the world. Due to the high demand, the large supply (many woman come to Shanghai and pick Ayi to be their first job), it has been a very powerful business. The standard price for one hour of work is 5 RMB in Xuhui district, and it is 7 RMB in Pudong (Why? I guess more Ayi wants to work in Puxi)
You can ask them to help – from cleaning the house to taking care of the baby, from cooking dinner to doing the repeatable work. It is quite amazing how Ayi changed the life of people in Shanghai.
Ayi as an occupation can be classified as servant in modern terms. But they are more flexible. They are paid by hour and one Ayi can serve more than one family or company at the same time. It is highly commercialized industry. Many companies hire Ayi to keep the office clean, serve tea, and help employees on their personal stuff, like paying the electricity bills or fetch the laundry clothes. As everyone is so busy with their own business, to ask an Ayi to help do the simple work seems to be effective than doing it by themselves. Companies, whether small or large, has find it very effective to hire Ayi.
Many broker help to connect the Ayi and the host together and charge commission. Some professional Ayi or Express man management companies emerge, so it is no longer the personal business of the Ayi or the Express man. It is the same for Safe Guards.
Express man is a frequently used method for e-commerce in Shanghai. Ayi has been a more cost effective way to do many things than IT solution. For example, I once thought of inputting all the ISBN number of the books I have into a database. Besides the system, I need to buy a bar code scanner, which is at least 200 RMB. Later, I found with 200 RMB, I can hire an Ayi to help me do the work. If they are given a computer and 10 minute of training, they can pick up a book, check the ISBN from the book cover and enter the ISBN numbe into my Excel. It only costs several hours. It reminded me the experience of my friend. After he moved to his new apartment, he paid 200 RMB for after-renovation clean up. That morning, 20 Ayi showed up at his door and worked for the whole morning. It was quite amazing.