The oBike Issue Isn’t About The New LTA License; It’s About oBike Ghosting Its Users

Image: Hezy Iqa / + paulaphoto /


I‘ve never believed the concept of “ghosting”: lest you’re too old to understand that term, “ghosting” is a millennial’s term to describe a situation whereby young people just suddenly cut off all ties from their boyfriends or girlfriends: all communications would be lost, and digital footprints erased like how Daryl Aiden Yow disappeared from the (online) world.

But let’s be frank: in 2018, when people even post an image of what they had for lunch, it’s almost impossible.

Unless, that is, one has taken great lengths to achieve that.

So, why the sudden millennial lingo lesson?

Because oBike.

What Happened

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few days, you’d know that oBike, the self-proclaimed pioneer of bike-sharing in Singapore, “suddenly” creased operations in Singapore.

I use the quotes for a reason; read on.

On 25 June 2018, without any official announcement (you can see that even mainstream media get their sources from the app and social media), oBike creased operations.


In its app, the grammatically filled announcement (the number of comma slices is too damn high, my dear Jedi) even asked people to use GrabCycle instead, leading us to think that Grab’s appetite is working up again and they’ve makan-ed another company.


Well, no. GrabCycle distanced themselves from oBike but at least did the ethical move of refunding users’ deposit, as a bulk of their bikes are from oBike. Here’s what a Grab spokesperson told Goody Feed:

“We understand that oBike has decided to cease operations in Singapore due to their difficulties in meeting regulatory guidelines. This means that we will no longer be able to offer oBike’s bicycles on the GrabCycle marketplace effective today, as oBike will not have the appropriate bike-sharing license to operate in Singapore, nor will they be maintaining their fleet of bicycles.

“As a marketplace app, our promise is to enable customers to find a shared bike or a personal mobility device easily by bringing multiple personal mobility brands into the GrabCycle app. With one fewer partner, we understand that our customers’ experience will be impacted. As such, we will be waiving all existing GrabCycle subscription fees and deposits, and offering a four-week free trial on GrabCycle for current users so that they can try our newest bike-share partner, Anywheel.

“We are strong believers in the bicycle- and personal mobility device-sharing opportunity, and its impact on the livability of our future cities. We will continue to serve and grow GrabCycle, as we work towards our vision as the everyday app with multiple transport options and daily essential services for consumers.”

Shit then hits the fan: social media were peppered with the hashtag #returnmydeposit (referring to, of course oBike) because allegedly, people weren’t able to get their deposits back.


But still judging from what happened in Australia two weeks ago, when people are still #returnmydesposit-ing when oBike creased its operations in Melbourne, you can bet that you really shouldn’t use the refunds for your baby’s milk.

“Why” it happened

Everything happened for a reason, and according to oBike, it was due to the new bike-sharing license that operators would have to propose by 7 July 2018. The license isn’t exactly friendly to operators, but it’s a Catch-22 because we users are the culprits (now you know why Utopia doesn’t exist).

But of course, if you’ve been pedalling with news about bike-sharing in Singapore, you’ll know it’s not that simple after all.

oBike’s Controversies & Rumours Before This

Earlier this month, a reddit forum discussed a rather damning issue: apparently, certain users’ deposits have been allegedly “converted” into a SVIP membership, and it’s a clause mentioned in their T&Cs – the document that 99.9% just click on “agree” while 0.01% click on “disagree” because they clicked wrongly.

The thread then exploded with many users complaining about the difficulty of getting back their deposits – kind of makes you think of car rental companies #justsaying

The controversy was reported in online media platforms but our goldfish memory wiped it off our mind within ten seconds.

However, that’s not all. Business Insider spoke to sources that indicated that even before that, oBike was facing financial difficulty. Not that that’s a major issue: Grab, Uber or even Facebook in its early days have been losing shitloads of dollars every month and they still survived.

Nevertheless, it’s more than that: the sources allegedly indicated that they’ve yet to pay suppliers.

Now, that’s damning. Because we know how it feels to have bad debts #returnusmoneysowecanpaypeople


Not so sudden, but so sudden

So here’s the thing: our beloved protagonist, even days before the “sudden” shutdown, has been active in social media. No one would see it coming, right?

See, even a giveaway!

Here’s why it pissed so many people off

It’s not about the new regulations.

Regulations are powderful, people need their $49 back ‘coz its their life savings (I meant it as a joke but in reality, it might be true #lookatthyself) and people want to know more.

But people are angry not because losing $49 couldn’t mean the end of their life – people are angry because oBike essentially just ghosted us.

Channel NewsAsia went to their office one or two days after the announcement and the office was closed and locked. Refund buttons magically disappeared from the app.

Image: YouTube (Channel NewsAsia)

Social media for oBike became quiet like they’ve gone to a place without Wifi. Heck, even heir BFF GrabCycle needed to distance themselves from oBike – when oBike explicitly instructed people to look for them instead.


An example based on real ghosts, Casper & Olinda

Here’s an analogy: you’re Casper, and you’ve been going out with this girl called Olinda for years. Recently, you realize something’s wrong with her: rumours have it that she’s seeing another guy. But heck, you believe her, and even lent her your life savings of $49.

Recently, you took a pay cut and was relatively stressful. But hey, you’ve got her, so everything is still a bed of Orchids.

One day, Olinda sent a WhatsApp message to you, telling you that she’s “gone” and asked you to look for her best friend, Germaine, instead. Her reason? She thinks that she cannot handle you with your new job. You tried contacting her but failed; you even went to her house and she has disappeared.

There were no signs prior to that. Well, there is lah but you refused to look at them #lovemakespeopleblind

So, are you angry with the $49?

And do you really believe it’s due to your new job?

Or are you just angry because you’ve been ghosted?

oBike’s done the same thing in Australia

Lest you’re not aware, on 11 June, people in Australia suffered the same fate: a new regulation kicks in and oBike ghosted the users. And as mentioned, they’re still #returnmydeposit-ing.


Their deposit is higher at AUD$69 (about SGD$69 coz our dollars same same but different)

Now, you’ve got to wonder: is this a calculated move to ghost, or is the new license the culprit?

And are we really angry that we’ve lost our life savings of $49, or are we eyeing for answers instead of $49?

Do come back to the Goody Feed app tomorrow for more commentary!


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