Have you ever noticed how a lot of things that supposedly make life more convenient – buying on Taobao or Tmall; getting an Alipay or WeChat Wallet account; having water delivered – are mind-boggling inconvenient to actually set up?
The idea behind the service, which sometimes also refers to itself as WeSecretary, is so laughably simple – 'tell us what you need, we do it, it's done' – that at first we thought it was one of those
After testing, however, it turns out to be not only real but (almost) as simple as promised.
To get going with the service you just add them as a WeChat contact with their ID (15011016934) or by scanning their QR code
and get chatting about what you want.
We opted to get hold of something we'd had our eye on in a Tmall shop that was making purchasing as difficult as possible. We sent WeSecretary the link of what we wanted and they sent back three quotes: one from the Tmall shop we'd sent and two cheaper options from elsewhere.
After some minor confused wrangling – in the spirit of investigation we also asked for some quotes for water delivery which led to some crossed wires – we opted for the cheapest quote.
We then added our international card details (they take Visa and Mastercard) on the account signup page and sent our address over WeChat.
The goods arrived, as promised, within a few days and, adorably, with WeSecretary listed as the sender on the parcel. And it's exactly what we were hoping for.
That appears to also be the general verdict: word about the service is already spreading fast.
Based in Beijing, Wechat Secretary provide services across the country. Since last Wednesday, co-founder Daniel Worlton told us, WeChat Secretary have been getting about 60 signups a day, mostly through QR scans.
Not all of those people are actually going on to use the service immediately; Worlton told us that, of about 500 signups, only 10 per cent are actually active users, though he hopes they'll become active once something they need help with comes up.
However, that growth rate is still very promising for a new service and, even more promisingly, they're also seeing a handful of power users, who come back every day with new requests or even multiple requests at a time.
Perhaps this is all a little too promising, though. Will WeChat Secretary be able to keep up with demand?
Worlton agrees that high demand is a potential stumbling block. 'The number of orders we've taken is in the triple digits, although unfortunately, quite a number of those are on backlog,' he told us.
'Our most pressing concern is to scale up our ability to meet demand for our service. It really warms my heart that our users have been so patient, understanding, and supportive.'
He adds that the company's staff – they started with one full time Chinese employee and the two foreign co-founders – has already grown by two more employees, and he expects to add more staff soon.
Another potential concern for users of the service, and the company itself, is payment options.
The service accepts foreign credit cards, Paypal, Chinese bank transfer, Alipay, WeChat Wallet and, bizarrely, Bitcoin, an option which slashes their costs and has got them some tech news coverage
Testing the service, we were initially told that we'd have to fund our account with at least 300RMB to pay. Then they changed their mind: they'd just debit the account we added.
That's fine with us, but what's going on?
Worlton says the problem is scale.
'For large orders, we can process it as a one-time transaction, but for smaller amounts, it becomes very mafan. So, that is why we ask our users to either link a credit card through our signup page or pay a refundable deposit of 300RMB.
'For credit card users, we aren't hot on the trigger to process any charges for the same reason that it would be easier to bundle it into one transaction assuming you are using our service a couple of times per week.'
In other words, they're more worried about getting your orders out than getting your money, at least for now.
In our book, that makes WeChat Secretary well worth a whirl.