Hawkers say 90% of customers just refuse to pay for or use trays since tray deposit scheme came into effect

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Customers at 25 hawker centres will soon be charged a fee if they do not return their food trays at the tray return area. Customers are these hawker centres will be required to pay a deposit between S$0.50 and S$1 when they use a tray. This amount will be returned to them if they return their tray at the appropriate station.

This change is part of the new Automated Tray Return System (ATRS) that is being implemented at the 25 hawker centres, starting with Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre, which will charge 50 cents deposit per tray, and Bukit Merah Hawker Centre, which will charge a dollar for the same.

This move will supposedly allow cleaners to clean tables more quickly for the use of more customers.

However, hawkers at Marsiling Mall and Bukit Merah Central hawker centres claim that up to 90 per cent of customers refuse to pay for and use a tray all together, since the tray deposit scheme came into effect, even though their deposit will be refunded in full if they return the tray.

Hawkers say that used utensils and food scraps are still left on tables for cleaners to clear while customers at these hawker centres explained to reporters that they consider the tray return system a hassle.

One customer, banker Felix Lim, said: “Hawker food is meant to be ‘eat quick, eat cheap, then zhao already’. Now you want people to queue up to buy food, then queue up to return tray again? Siao ah. It’s a damn stupid idea.”

Another customer, pharmacist Megan Oh, asked: “Last time at hawker centres, the stall owner will serve you the meal then clear the dishes for you. Now, you have to take the food yourself, then return the dishes yourself. So prices go up, but service standards drop. Does this make sense?”

The ATRS scheme was recommended by the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee which was convened to lower hawkers’ workload and boost productivity in the face of manpower challenges in the industry.

While 23 other hawker centres are expected to adopt the system, it remains to be seen whether the system will be incorporated in the remaining centres in light of the findings at Marsiling Mall and Bukit Merah Central food centres.