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Foodpanda prank orders: ‘Victims of harassment speak up’

'We were shocked to learn our domestic helper had allegedly borrowed money from illegal moneylenders'

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Singapore – A concerned member of the public has spoken up regarding “physical, mental and digital” harassment that has befallen their family as a result of the recent Foodpanda prank orders case.

In response to the Facebook post of one Afzai Nizan on Facebook on Saturday (March 6), a concerned individual who wishes to be called “J” has reached out to The Independent Singapore to shed some light on the Foodpanda prank orders case that happened on that day.

J writes:

My husband and I are currently victims of harassment – physically, mentally and digitally.

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Before I delve into the details, it is only right to share a little about our backgrounds to shed some context to the situation.

My husband and I are both in the healthcare sector and this past one year has proven to be a challenging one. I would see my husband and his colleagues working tirelessly with various agencies even during non-working hours to ensure that essential workers and frontliners are well-equipped and protected in the fight against COVID-19.

An example of this is securing sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) even when there was a global shortage so that frontliners need not resort to using garbage bags to wear as gowns like what some of our counterparts in some other countries (including developed ones) had to unfortunately endure with some eventually succumbing to the disease itself.

As for myself, it had only been a few months since returning to work as a medical doctor in the public healthcare sector after my maternity leave before the world learnt of a new strange disease emerging out of Wuhan. My young infant child had not even turned a year old yet when I had my very first encounter with a COVID-19 patient.

I recall returning home from work daily to shower myself from head to toe before interacting with my child (I still do) even when he does not understand why he has to be restrained from hugging me the moment he sees me.

We had hired a domestic helper to assist in caring for our young child and she had definitely been of much help, especially during the pandemic times.

We treated her as part of our family – she ate what we ate and came along with us to any family outings. We gave her monetary gifts of appreciation on special occasions (birthday, Christmas, Chinese New Year) and agreed to advanced payment of her salary when her grandfather was hospitalised.

We even gave her a year-end bonus and pay rise even when it was not part of her employment contract. We tried to be as good as an employer could possibly be to her, just as how we had hoped to be similarly treated as employees ourselves.

As mentioned, the purpose of writing the above is to provide some context. My husband and I do not seek any credit for what we do.

On the other hand, we found it a privilege to be able to perform this special “national service” for a country that has given us so much.

We are thankful that we still have jobs and money to put food on the table when so many others have lost theirs. To any keyboard warrior who thinks that it is a woman’s job to play the dutiful wife at home and be a full-time stay-at-home mother instead of hiring a domestic helper, firstly, this is not the Stone Age.

Secondly, even if you insist in your conservative thinking, more than half of the healthcare workforce comprises of women – it would mean instant collapse to the system if all these women were to subscribe to your belief and left their jobs.

Back to the story, you can perhaps imagine our shock and surprise when we learnt on a Friday night that our domestic helper had allegedly borrowed money from multiple illegal moneylenders after falling prey to scammers and losing a substantial amount of her savings.

She was fearful of the repercussions and so had gotten herself tangled in multiple loans in an attempt to pay back previous loans so that we, her employers, need not ever find out. We did, however, find out when one of the moneylenders called my husband directly and harassed him into paying our helper her salary (even when it was not her payday yet) so that she could pay back what was owed to him.

We brought our helper to lodge a police report the very same night. And so, our nightmare began.

On Saturday, we received multiple calls and text messages from multiple local and international numbers harassing us to pay up our “debts” even when it was not us who borrowed the money – our helper was coerced into providing our names and phone numbers when she first applied for the loans.

Despite rejecting and blocking the phone numbers, we still received a never-ending stream of “no caller ID” calls and more messages from new phone numbers threatening to harm our safety to the point that we had to turn off our mobile phones completely for a moment of silence.

Later the same day, a Food Panda delivery rider appeared on our doorstep with a food order addressed to us (our helper had also submitted photos of her work permit which lists the employer’s name and address when she applied for the loans).

This particular order was placed using a Malaysian mobile phone number with the instructions for “cash on delivery”. We had to kindly explain to the poor rider that this was perhaps a prank and the understanding rider subsequently left. We called up the police who then advised us to contact Food Panda to block all future orders made out to our address.

Unfortunately, there was no clear cut hotline number listed on Food Panda’s website and there was only an AI platform to take in feedback. Soon, multiple other Food Panda delivery riders arrived with the same order details and none of the riders could contact Food Panda to block any further upcoming orders addressed to us.

We alerted the police of this latest turn of events and they were swift to respond. We later received multiple text messages from various new phone numbers taunting us to “enjoy the food”.

We were co-operative in assisting the police with their investigations and had hoped that the harassments would eventually die down if we stood firm and not give in to the harassers’ demands.

Our helper may not have been right in her action to borrow money from these illegal moneylenders (who may also be in cahoots with the scammers whom she fell prey to in the first place) but giving in to their demands will only show them that we are intimidated (we do not fear when we stand in the truth) and will only condone the illegal activities of these harassers who will then prey on other vulnerable victims.

The next day (Sunday), various articles and posts appeared on several different social media platforms about the incident on Saturday, complete with our block number and street address and even identifying photographs.

We also received new messages from new numbers again on Monday, providing us the links to some of these articles, thinking that it would intimidate us further in this act of public shaming. We eventually tracked the root source of the articles – it was a Facebook post that was particularly inflammatory.

For someone who is supposedly an onlooker, how can one simply jump to conclusions just by spotting some food delivery riders and police officers to subsequently post a remark that includes “O$P$”?

We understand how easy and tempting it is to hide behind a screen and type and post to one’s heart’s content but every action has its consequence. To the person who posted the original post and the various media outlets who joined in to consume the story, your actions only further perpetuate the harassment with potential safety threats to us, our families, and perhaps even our colleagues and patients.

We all and the food delivery riders are the true victims in this unfortunate incident. The only party to gain from the whole incident is the original harassers. We are thankful to God that He has kept us safe thus far.

To the illegal moneylenders, it is never too late to stop and repent. Why even bother harassing a couple who has never even borrowed money from you in the first place and would never give in to your demands? You should be thankful that I was not at work when all your harassment calls and text messages came in. What if I was busy saving a life when you were busy harassing me? What if that life that could have been saved is your own family or loved one?

To my husband and our families, thank you for being my pillar of support during these trying times. To my young son, Mama is sorry if she has had to spend less time with you in these past few days as she tries hard with Papa to navigate us out of a particularly tricky situation. This world can be a scary place at times and things are never always rosy. Even roses have thorns.

Despite that, we hope that you will not lose faith in humanity and that you will grow up to be the man that God calls you to be – a selfless and courageous son of Singapore who puts God and others before himself while bravely tackling any obstacle that may come his way. Mama and Papa will always love you and do our best to protect you.

Read related: Another Foodpanda prank order incident, allegedly sent to Bedok Reservoir by loan sharks

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