Cashless. Tray return deposit. The first “Smart Nation” hawker centre is failing and hawker owners are leaving.
According to a state media interview with a hawker stall owner at Yishun Park Hawker Centre, one-time customers are unlikely to go through the trouble of downloading and transferring credit to the food centre’s mobile application. Customers would be deterred by the marked-up prices and not go to the kopitiam.
The hawker stall owner also revealed that he mark up his food prices when too many customers pay 10% discounted prices through the app:
“The discount eats into our costs, so when 60 to 80 per cent of the crowd is using the app we need to mark up the cost to cover the costs.”
Another hawker also said customers are angry with the 50-cents deposit tray-return system, with many choosing to boycott the hawker centre. A customer criticised the “Smart Nation” idea:
“Some people end up returning only the tray and leaving the bowls and utensils; it half works and half doesn’t. And for the app, older people don’t know how to use it, and I became lazy to use it as it’s troublesome to use the kiosk to top up.”
Many hawkers are making massive losses, with 8 already vacated the food centre built last year in 20 Sep 2017.
The hawker centre’s owner, Timbre Group, is desperate and sought help from the government and local PAP MPs. Due to the failure of the first “Smart Nation” hawker centre, the Singapore government promised free 1hr parking during lunchtime.