Serangoon coffee shop charges S$0.50 for hot water, patrons bring tea leaves & cereal from home & occupy seats

Uniquely Singaporean.

Belmont Lay | Ruth Chai | December 14, 2022, 05:49 PM

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A cup of hot water from a coffee shop in Serangoon was recently revealed to cost 50 cents -- sending complaints flying across the internet about jacked up prices.

However, after some probing, it appears the S$0.50 price might be a steal -- if you know how to play the system.

This intrinsically hilarious story was pursued and reported by Shin Min Daily News.

50 cents for water

The complaint regarding the coffee shop located at Block 237 Serangoon Avenue 3 first appeared on Facebook.

The complaint accused the coffee shop of price gouging.

When the Shin Min reporter want down to suss things out, it was revealed that the price of one cup of hot water had just recently been increased from 40 cents to 50 cents -- a 25 per cent increase.

A 60-year-old stall assistant manning the beverage counter said: "Prices have risen sharply recently and everyone knows that water and electricity bills have also gone up, and shops also need to pay for services, including boiling water and washing cups."

But that apparently did not solve the mystery as to why a cup of water, which is a solvent and can be used to make tea and coffee, comes up to 50 cents a cup.

So, the answer was subsequently found -- at another coffee shop located nearby.

Customers take advantage of seats

A coffee shop at Block 262 Serangoon Avenue 3 sells its hot water for 40 cents a cup.

And the reason a charge was levied for water was made clear by a 50-year-old stall assistant, who said some patrons will buy one cup of hot water and nurse it for a long time.


She explained: "Some customers will bring tea or cereal from home, buy hot water from us, make it for themselves, and then sit for hours."

Not only do these customers take up the limited space available at the coffee shop, she said, they also contribute to the opportunity costs of the operator.

Rental and miscellaneous expenses come up to S$3,000 a month, according to the stall assistant, who added: "These people buy boiled water and steep their own tea by themselves, occupying seats for several hours, causing other customers to have no seats and affecting our business income."

Responses: Game the system

Given this set of circumstances, the 50 cents price tag might be too hefty for some, especially the elderly, who feel that forking out money just for water is not financially prudent.

However, there are clearly recalcitrant seat-hoggers amongst them.

One of the patrons interviewed, a 78-year-old retiree, admitted to being a less-than-ideal customer.

He said he would order a drink and some water, and proceed to sit at the coffee shop the whole day nursing it.

He explained: "I usually order a cup of coffee first, and then two cups of boiled water. I know that there are coffee shops that sell plain water for 60 cents."

A woman who was at another table, who did not want to be identified, said that she often sat and chatted with friends in the coffee shop, and it would be too expensive to buy plain water all the time.

But she can be counted on to make life work.

She said: "I bring my own water because I'll be sitting all day after all."

Top photo via Shin Min Daily News