Speaking in Parliament during the debate on Budget 2020, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) FairPrice group CEO, MP Seah Kian Peng confirmed that there would be no refunds for those who stockpiled grocery items as this was “standard policy.”
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, “we have seen the best and the worst of ourselves,” said Mr Seah in his speech on February 26, and expounded on the good and bad instances.
He started by thanking the “heroes in this [Covid-19] fight” who are undoubtedly the healthcare staff who “work under incredible pressures and fears.” He mentioned how cumbersome N95 face masks are yet healthcare staff have to go through entire working days with said masks, “sometimes doing delicate work like taking blood all the while knowing that these bodily fluids are infected.”
Unfortunately, when it is time to finally take off their equipment, to clean up and go to lunch, some of them are shunned and avoided, said Mr Seah. “On trains and buses, their uniforms are a badge for isolation.”
“There are some who mock the great that have toiled so hard,” he added.
Mr Seah highlighted other instances of altruistic behaviour, “of people who act not because they have no fear but act in spite of fear” and noted that “there is no budget measure that accounts for greatness.
Some of the examples he gave were of those who provided free face masks and sanitisers to their neighbours and university students who gave free meals to fellow students.
“But of course, there are those who spill untruths and outright lies, opportunists walking among the wise,” said the MP. “I am glad that we have POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act) to check the deliberate spread of falsehoods for it will have serious consequences which the society will ultimately pay a heavy price for,” he added.
Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, there have been numerous scams such as individuals impersonating Ministry of Health (MOH) contact tracing teams and attempting to retrieve the personal financial information of their targets. There were also instances of face masks scams which the police have apprehended.
There will always be those who behave badly, said Mr Seah.
He then touched on the stockpiling and hoarding incident. “As you know, FairPrice was caught up in this panic buying,” he said. “As the group CEO of NTUC FairPrice, I’ve witnessed firsthand the shopping frenzy by many people on those two days.”
He shared how the panic buying behaviour involved “People from all age groups, races and social strata.”
Aside from the variety of measures such as the imposition of purchase limits on some items, FairPrice also received suggestions that when this episode is over, the company should not allow people who stocked up to return their excess goods to ask to get a refund, said Mr Seah.
He stated that it was “standard policy” to reject refund requests by those who stockpiled items. “This is to teach people a lesson on buying responsibly and not hoard first only to return their stocks later,” he added.
“I think what we will do is to encourage all who have bought probably a bit too much to consider donating excess stocks to Food Bank or Food From the Heart,” he said as an alternative. “Maybe I’ll set up a collection counter for them too.”
Netizens were in full agreement of the no refund policy, emphasising that the “hoarders must be taught a lesson.”
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