Customer & Springleaf Prata Place get into week-long dispute over 1 cup of lime juice

Hitting a sour note.

Karen Lui | October 06, 2021, 12:21 PM

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Springleaf Prata Place has been popular with foodies for their innovative take on a traditional food, churning out newfangled flavours such as the Murtaburger, Prata Alfredo, and most recently, the Praclette.

However, one outlet in the prata chain recently found itself at the centre of attention for the wrong reasons after a customer complained about a negative dining experience and how Springleaf's attempt at service recovery went wry due to miscommunication.

While the customer's first post about the complaint has been deleted, a follow-up post remains available on Complaint Singapore's Facebook page.

Here's what went down.

Initial visit

On Sep. 26, customer Ericaa Koh noticed a poster advertising Prata Alfredo with Lime Juice for S$10.80 at the Springleaf Prata Place outlet at Jalan Tua Kong and decided to check it out.

Here's what the poster looks like:

For the uninitiated, Prata Alfredo was first released in 2017 as part of the chain's Ultimate Hawker Fest Series and has remained a permanent item on their menu since.

It consists of rosemary smoked chicken, button mushrooms, Mozzarella cheese, and creamy Alfredo sauce wrapped in a crispy prata.

Prata Alfredo. Photo from Springleaf Prata Place's Facebook page.

However, the customer's meal was served without lime juice.

Lime juice. Photo by Springleaf Prata Place.

Promotion may have ended

When Koh asked a staff member about the missing beverage when the food was served, she was told that the promotion may have ended.

In response, Koh pointed out that the poster was still displayed at the window of the shop.

The staff said she would check with her boss and get back to Koh.

However, Koh claimed that the employee did not get back to her and she did not receive the glass of lime juice eventually.

Koh also added that they were made to move to a smaller table during their mealtime in order to let a larger group of diners dine-in.

The smaller space caused Koh and her partner to carry their bag and backpack while having their meal.

According to a screen shot of Koh's original Facebook post, Koh's dispute with them stemmed from their refusal to honour a promotion deal that might have already ended, but was still advertised on a poster in the restaurant.

Screenshot of Koh's first post (that is no longer available) by Springleaf Prata Place.

Screenshot of Springleaf's response to Koh's first post by Koh (left) and the full version of Springleaf's response by Springleaf Prata Place (right).

Springleaf Prata Place apologised

To express their apologies, Springleaf offered to serve the "whole meal, inclusive of the lime juice" to her and her partner on their next visit.

In addition, Springleaf also apologised on behalf of their staff who made Koh shift tables during her meal.

Subsequent visit

Taking up the offer to make up to her for her negative dining experience, Koh paid another visit to the prata eatery during lunchtime on Oct. 2.

According to Koh, she was apparently told to delete her initial post about her negative experience at Springleaf before her meal was served.

As she wanted to maintain a cordial atmosphere, she obliged with the request while "smiling and trying to make friendly talk with the manager, Shalom".

However, she claimed that he was not smiling nor interested in making small talk.

Instead, she observed that he behaved in a business-like manner and invited her to take a seat while the food was prepared.

Upon being seated, she received a serving of lime juice, followed by a Prata Alfredo.

Koh then enquired if that was all, to which Shalom asked if she wished to order anything else.

Puzzled, Koh replied with a rhetorical question, asking if he was the one who had invited her back for a meal.

According to Koh, Shalom allegedly responded by raising his voice, saying that they only owed her a cup of lime juice but he had thrown in a free Alfredo and demanded to know what else she wanted.

His words made Koh feel "like a beggar" and prompted her to show him what she was offered in writing.

However, Shalom claimed he was not aware of it.

According to Koh, Shalom had promised to treat her and her partner to a meal comprising "anything we want".

This conversation allegedly took place over the phone after the first complaint was lodged.

Nonetheless, Koh and her partner made no demands for it.

While Koh and her partner were eating, she claimed that Shalom was staring and aiming his phone camera at them.

Feeling very uncomfortable by this, they approached him to ask if he was taking videos or photographs of them.

However, he abruptly turned to talk to his staff and said he was too busy to talk, despite allegedly staring and aiming his phone at them blatantly, Koh added.

She then politely asked to see his phone gallery to verify that she was not filmed or photographed without her permission.

However, he simply "turned away and ignored" her.

In hopes of seeking assistance to resolve the situation, Koh texted Springleaf Prata Place to no avail -- her message was read but apparently ignored.

Due to the tension and hostility of the situation, Koh called the police who arrived at the scene and "escorted" her and her partner out of the restaurant.

Koh ended her second Facebook post by insisting that she would never set foot into Springleaf Prata Place again.

Check out the full version of her second post here:

Screenshot by Springleaf Prata Place.

As comments have been disabled, Springleaf Prata Place was unable to respond directly to the second post.

Springleaf's response

Speaking to Mothership, Springleaf Prata Place founder SV Gunalan shared more information about what he knew about the incident.

Shifting tables

According to Gunalan, Koh entered the restaurant as a dining party of two at 9:55am on her first visit to the restaurant.

They were initially seated at a table for four but were asked to move to a table for two at 10:03am as a dining party of three had arrived and were waiting outside to dine in.

Gunalan said Koh and her partner had not ordered any food at that time and only did so at 10:05am.

A Springleaf representative also confirmed that the dining party of three were not friends of the restaurant, contrary to what Koh suggested in her initial post.

However, Gunalan acknowledged that due to the lack of space available for the bags, Koh and her partner had to consume their meal with their bag on their lap and backpack on their shoulders.

Missing lime juice

The founder also reiterated that the lime juice was Springleaf's fault, hence they invited the duo to return another day to have the same meal again.

Following the incident during the first visit, Gunalan confirmed that Shalom had spoken with Koh on the phone but cannot verify what was said.

Gunalan also confirmed that Shalom had gone ahead to ask Koh to remove her first post without consulting the Springleaf headquarters.

When the founder found out about it, he felt there was no need to do so.

"There's no need to take down... We made a mistake, we stand up and own up," and told Shalom that he didn't have to do that next time.

He also admitted that it was their fault that a miscommunication took place between the headquarters and outlet partner on the day of the customers' return.

"We wanted to give her the whole meal as a replacement, which is an [Prata] Alfredo (S$10.90), a lime juice (S$2.20), and a red bean prata (S$3.90)."

However, they did not communicate it to the outlet partner properly who interpreted it as just the Prata Alfredo and the lime juice, causing the customer to ask about the red bean prata, he added.

Gunalan said once Shalom knew about it, he said he would fetch the red bean prata.

Red bean prata. Photo by Springleaf Prata Place.

Alleged shouting and photography/ filming

In response to Koh's allegation that outlet manager Shalom shouted at her, Gunalan said it is "impossible to tell" if there was any shouting as the in-store CCTV footage has no sound recording function.

However, he acknowledged that Shalom is "a big guy", calling him his "tallest partner", and "his voice is naturally a bit loud", hence he may be perceived as an intimidating figure.

Gunalan also addressed the allegations that Shalom had stared and aimed his phone at her.

The founder of the prata business said that it lasted less than a minute according to the CCTV footage.

While Gunalan conceded that Shalom could have still done it in less than a minute, he revealed that when the police arrived, they checked and no photographs were found.

Gunalan also confirmed that no statements were taken down and no police reports were made.

Gunalan also clarified that when Koh observed that Shalom "suddenly turned to talk to his staff and claimed that he was too busy to talk to" them, Shalom was handling a complaint due to a delay in a food delivery order.

From what they've seen in the CCTV footage, Gunalan said Koh was not "escorted" out but was just "chit-chatting to the police" and she just walked out with her partner.

In the CCTV footage that has been seen by Mothership, two police officers arrived at the scene -- one approached Koh and her partner, while the other approached the staff at the counter.

As Koh and her partner walked out of the store, the two officers remained in the shop to speak to Shalom, after which they left.

Improvements to service

Gunalan shared some adjustments to their service that they have decided to implement moving forward.

The chain will not replace meals and instead offer vouchers that are worth more than what the customer's initial order was, as well as allowing them to order what they like on their subsequent visit.

Springleaf Prata Place will also be more careful with their promotional posters that are outdated and admitted that it's their fault for not crossing out the lime juice part.

Gunalan confirmed the promotion dated back to August 2017 when the Alfredo Prata was first launched.

He clarified that they'd typically offer a free beverage as part of a promotion for a month when they launch a new item every National Day.

Back then, they gave out lime juice but recently, they've switched it to teh tarik.

Gunalan confirmed that they have since rectified the information on the poster to accurately state that there is no free lime juice and also checked with all the outlets islandwide to make sure the posters reflect accurate information.

They will also use hanging stickers for such promotions from now on so they can easily remove the stickers when the promotion ends.

They also admitted that the waitress who attended to Koh should have got back to her on time. "If she had done that, I think the problem would have been solved there and then," he said.

Read more

Top photos by Springleaf Prata Place.

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