Photo of Marsiling Hawker Centre by NEA

Hawker centre customers condemn Amy Khor’s Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee initiatives

On Monday (29 Jan), it was reported that two hawker centres, one at Marsiling Mall and the other at Bukit Merah Central, have started charging deposits for food trays used in the hawker centres.

It also said that over the next few years, up to 25 hawker centres managed could start charging deposits for food trays too, for the sake of raising productivity.

Patrons at Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre will have to pay $0.50 for the food trays, while those at the Bukit Merah hawker centre will pay $1. The deposits would be refunded once patrons return their trays.

However, cleaners will continue to be employed. NEA said that the scheme will allow cleaners to be “better able to focus on table-cleaning, allowing for a faster turn-around of tables”.

Hawkers will need to pay for such services but initially, they will be subsidised by National Environment Agency (NEA) for only 2 years.

The tray return service is one of the initiatives proposed by Dr Amy Khor’s Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee. She is currently the Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources. Speaking to the media, she said that her committee’s efforts will help to improve hygiene and cleanliness”, and improve the dining experience of patrons.

Already, hawkers and customers are throwing brickbats at such initiatives put up by Amy Khor’s committee. Rather than forking out the extra S$0.50 tray deposit, many choose to do without a tray.

Said drinks stallholder Joseph Tok, “They (customers) would rather make multiple trips, walk about three to four times, if they order five or six drinks… It’s troublesome… but they’re not happy when they hear they have to pay extra (for the trays).”

Briyani stallholder Jaburdeen Syed Faruk, observed that while some customers return their trays, they leave their plates and utensils on the table, which “totally defeats the purpose”, he said.

90% of customers refuse to pay for food trays

ST reporters went down to the 2 hawker centres and found that as many as 90% of customers had, in fact, refused to pay for the trays. They would rather take their food directly from hawkers without using the trays.

At Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre, ST observed most did not take trays for their orders. As a result, there were many bowls and plates left on tables after the customers finished eating.

Mr Eric Mao, a manager at an electronics company, said, “The system fails if people choose not to take the tray and end up leaving all their bowls on the table.”

A 59-year-old dessert stall hawker told ST nine in 10 of his customers do not take a tray. Before the system was in place, almost everyone would take one.

Mr Ye Ah Mao, who is unemployed, said, “It is so troublesome because I have to walk so far to the tray return station. During peak hours, I also have to queue up to return the tray.”

Civil engineer Nurul Ain said the scheme helps her to make some side income. She said, “Sometimes, when people forget (to return) their trays, I will help them to do so. It earns me an extra $1 and I can help to keep the place clean.”

“Siao ah. It’s a damn stupid idea”

Some customers were even more critical of Amy Khor’s initiatives, reported Redwiretimes.

“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,” said banker Felix Lim.

Pharmacist Megan Oh joined in, “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?”