On Tuesday night (21 April), the Ministry of Trade & Industry (MTI) said in a statement that all standalone food and beverage outlets – as well as hairdressing and barber shops, will have to close – until 4 May.
Following the announcement, long queues were seen at bubble tea shops like LiHO outlet at My Village in Serangoon Garden and Gongcha in Toa Payoh.
As reported on The Straits Times, over 40 people including delivery riders were seen at a LiHO shop in Yishun Avenue 6. All of them were waiting for the drinks to be made.
A GrabFood rider that goes by the name Elfy Haikal on Facebook shared his experience on 21 April, noting that the bubble tea shop was overwhelmed with too many orders nearing closing hour. He also talked about how Grab was basically uncontactable for further support at that time.
Bubble tea shops overwhelmed
Mr Elfy described that he had to collect a bubble tea order from Blk 461 Yishun Ave 6 when at that time, he was around Khatib MRT. He thought it was pretty far just to collect a bubble tea order, but he went on anyway.
As Mr Elfy got closer to the bubble tea shop, he was taken aback by the sheer number of vehicles, bicycles, PMDs, and PABs at that area. He named that area including LiHo bubble tea shop as “Ground Zero”, explaining that there were more than 100 GrabFood riders there, and all of them were confined in that small shop.
His statement implied that if there was a new cluster of COVID-19, the bubble tea shop would be the exact spot.
Mr Elfy also stated that there were only two staff working in that bubble tea outlet, and they were expected to handle over 400 orders as well as the large number of GrabFood riders who were waiting there.
“Firstly, It was the Liho Staff, They were overwhelmed with non-stop orders and no way to stop it from coming in. There were only 2 staffs working in that outlet and over 400 cups of orders + about 100 grabriders waiting there.. IF there ever was a time when keep social distance failed, it was there and then. (100+ riders confined to a pretty small space),” wrote Mr Elfy.
Grab was uncontactable
Mr Elfy continued to describe that both LiHo staff and GrabFood riders were unable to get through the Grab hotline.
According to Mr Elfy, the LiHo staff tried to contact Grab to notify them that the bubble tea shop was overwhelmed but to no avail. Therefore, the crowd of GrabFood riders kept waiting for the orders – with some of them even waited for two hours.
Other than stating that Grab has a “pretty bad” system, he said that many GrabFood riders were forced to cancel the orders, knowing that they would have to bear the loss. He explained that if Grab had actually supported the cancelling of orders, the GrabFood riders would at least be compensated for their time and effort.
Since Grab was uncontactable, the riders had to choose between cancelling the orders or waiting until the orders were ready. Although Mr Elfy chose to wait for his order, the bubble tea outlet ran out of time and ingredients, and the store had to close at 10.50pm, leaving him with no choice but to forfeit.
He went on to say that were about 80 riders who could not complete their orders even when they had waited for two hours, and no compensation will be provided by Grab.
In the comments, Facebook user Rom Omar asked Mr Elfy why couldn’t the vendor turn off the Grab app to stop orders from coming in. Mr Elfy explained that at that very moment, the shop was unable to turn it off despite receiving requests from GrabFood riders to halt the orders.
Tan Eng Wee commented that this chaos was caused by the public as well as “irresponsible company antics”.
OneDee Isa agreed with Mr Elfy, stating that GrabFood’s customer service and management were a “failure”.
Kyler Tan, on the other hand, thought that the chaos was solely the customers’ fault that the GrabFood riders had to risk queuing up at a small area just to get their job done.