A takeaway box of economy rice from a hawker centre stall in Ang Mo Kio led to a spirited discussion online after it was revealed that the piece of fish, several pieces of yong tau foo, and rice cost S$11.
The diner who bought the food shared a photo of it on Reddit on June 15 and wanted to seek the opinion of others if this was the result of inflation or being fleeced.
It turns out, mackerel fish is not cheap, inflation is real, and this particular cai png stall at Mayflower Market and Food Centre has its fans who would defend it for preparing a diverse and fresh selection of dishes that are worth paying for.
Stall owner speaks up
The economy rice stall owner spoke to Shin Min Daily News on June 17, to share their side of the story and provide more context.
The reporter, who went down to the hawker centre, noted that the stall, which sells economy rice and porridge, had a steady stream of customers.
The 64-year-old woman, surnamed Cai, who spoke to the Chinese newspaper, is one of the stall owners running the business with her husband for the last 12 years.
Cai said she was aware of the discussions online regarding her packet of economy rice.
She explained that the mackerel bought by the diner that day was already expensive in terms of its cost price, given that the price of that fish had recently increased.
Price, she explained, is determined by the quality, which differs.
Cai said: "The mackerel has different grades. The ones I take are good ones, and they are thickly sliced, not thin-sliced like other economy rice stalls."
"The piece of mackerel was S$7 or S$8, and I only sold the diner that piece for S$9-plus."
The lady boss also explained that she even gave the customer a discount by not factoring in other costs, and had informed him about the meal being costlier.
She added: "I did not charge for extra rice and the container, so how can it be expensive?"
"And when he was buying the meal, I even told him that it would be more expensive, and asked him if he was sure he wanted to buy it."
Regular customers defend stall
According to the reporter, regular customers jumped in to defend the stall owners and said prices at this stall is reasonable and that prices of seafood have gone up.
Based on the reporter's observations, some diners will ask about the individual prices of dishes before picking them.
One regular customer of 10 years, who frequents the stall regularly, said the selection of food is diverse and fresh.
The regular customer said: "Some things are cheap and expensive. If you are used to buying fish or vegetables, you would know that everything has become more expensive recently."
"If you think it's expensive, you should ask clearly before buying it, and you shouldn't say that."
Cai also said in response that the customer who complained could be someone unfamiliar with the general pricing of the items at the stall, in particular, the two dishes that was purchased that day.
Top photo composite via Shin Min Daily News & Reddit u/Dagachi_One