SINGAPORE: Rising inflation has prompted some hawkers in Singapore to implement additional charges for seemingly trivial items, leaving diners perplexed. The latest incident involves a customer who was told to pay for an empty bowl at Marine Parade Food Centre.
The customer told Lianhe Zaobao that the incident took place last Saturday (27 May). He was enjoying desserts with his friends at the food centre and wanted to share some cheng tng dessert with an elderly diner. When he asked for an empty bowl from the dessert stall, the customer was surprised to be informed that he had to pay $2.60 for it.
Expressing his shock, the customer wrote in his letter to the Chinese daily: “That was the first time I’d encountered something like this. I’d understand if [the extra charge] was for takeaways, but for an empty bowl, it’s unreasonable.”
Acknowledging the impact of inflation on the cost of living, the customer emphasized that while consumers understand the pressures faced by businesses, certain price increases and surcharges are frustrating and appear to be taking advantage of customers.
A reporter from Shin Min Daily News visited the dessert stall on Monday and an employee named Lin revealed that the stall had stopped offering empty bowls to customers approximately a year ago.
Lin explained, “We calculate our daily sales by looking at the number of used bowls.” She further said that the stall used to provide extra bowls upon request, but due to customers frequently failing to return the bowls after finishing their desserts, the stall was losing two to three bowls daily.
The incident at Marine Parade Food Centre sheds light on the growing frustration among diners regarding the implementation of additional charges by hawkers in response to inflation and the rising cost of living.
While some customers sympathise with the economic challenges faced by these businesses, they question the fairness of certain pricing practices.
The incident at Marine Parade Food Centre has left netizens divided, with some saying that it is sad to see hawker stalls resort to such methods to cope with rising costs while others have said that charging for empty bowls is simply unacceptable.
Interestingly, this is not the first nor only incident of stalls charging for empty bowls. In 2018, some stalls owners at Block 628 Market & Food Centre resorted to charging 10 cents for empty bowls and plates as they grappled with inflation and increased cleaning and tray collection costs.
Patrons did not take well to the charge, who said it was unfair for customers to bear the additional costs, even if it was only 10 cents.
Others have called for more understanding and compassion from patrons. In March, the nephew of a local hawker revealed on Facebook that it is difficult for vendors to provide extra bowls and utensils as they can only wash bowls after closing time.
Worse, if all the bowls are used up, vendors have to provide take-away bowls to new patrons, which eats into their profits. The nephew, Facebook user Foo Choong Lim, said:
“Please when making request, for extra chopsticks, chili, bowl, sauces plate etc, please take what you need and request only what is reasonable ….. please, for $3.60 and ask for extra 5 bowl will mean we need to wash 7 bowl for $3.60 and all the bullying we may encounter when we refuse is really depressing.”