Woman's hair burnt from tea light candle while eating at Dempsey restaurant

She felt that the restaurant should pay for her hair damage and dining bill.

Julia Yee | October 10, 2023, 02:38 PM



A 37-year-old woman said she had a "shock" while dining with three friends at Min Jiang Dempsey, an upscale restaurant serving Sichuan and Cantonese fare along Dempsey Road.

Chee Pei Wen told Mothership she was there on Sep. 24, 2023, at around 8pm to celebrate one of her friends' birthday.

Halfway through their meal, Chee's friend, seated on her right, noticed something was wrong with Chee's hair.

Hair on fire

The friend noticed that Chee's hair had caught fire.

She claimed it caught fire from an exposed tea light candle placed behind her on a tabletop.

"My friend reacted quickly by putting out the fire with a cloth napkin, not knowing what was the best approach at that very moment when it happened," Chee recounted.

Photo via Chee Peiwen

Chee claimed that no staff members were around when her hair caught fire.

She snapped pictures of her burnt hair, which had fallen onto her chair.

Photo via Chee Peiwen

Photo via Chee Peiwen

Chee said one of the staff showed up later, offered her a wet tissue and "quickly wiped the burnt hair off the chair's armrest".

She said her friend saw the staff snuff out the candle and placed it on a table away from her.

She also observed that there were no other candles in the rest of the restaurant.

Manager offers S$200 for haircut

Getting wind of the incident, a restaurant supervisor offered the group four glasses of what Chee "believed to be Prosecco", along with dessert, which they didn’t order.

On top of that, the restaurant shaved 25 per cent off their total bill.

Miscellaneous items like wet towels and tea were also waived from the bill.

The four women were also given forms to fill in, which entitled them to a membership card each.

She said she filled up the form so that she could leave her contact number and email there for them to reach out to her.

The supervisor then asked Chee for the cost of her haircut and gave her the restaurant manager's contact.

"I mentioned the usual price for hair trimming is around S$150-200 when I was still in a distraught and traumatised state," she said.

"Um... You may need more than a haircut..."

Later that night, Chee texted the manager, saying she frequented a Scotts Road hair salon and the estimated haircut price.

She said the manager followed up with a call immediately to apologise for the incident and invited Chee to return to the restaurant so that she could make amends.

Chee claimed the manager offered to transfer her S$200 for the haircut, which Chee "upright refused".

"I must emphasise that I mentioned all this without knowing how bad my hair situation was at that time. And I had yet to untie my hair which was up in a ponytail."

She said she informed the manager that she would follow up with an email instead.

After the phone call, Chee untied her hair to ask her partner to see how bad the burnt part was.

He said, "Um... You may need more than a haircut... Best get it assessed properly by a licensed hairstylist."

Hair repair of over S$2,500

The next day on Sep. 25, Chee emailed the restaurant.

She also made an appointment with her regular hair salon.

"Luckily there was an appointment slot for me the next day (Sep. 27). I couldn't sleep another night with my hair burnt smell lingering while I slept, even after washing it on that night of the fire incident."

Two days later, at the hair salon, after examining her hair, the stylist determined that four inches of hair on the right side had been singed off.

"I was advised that on top of a haircut, I needed three treatment sessions over a period of three months to restore my hair back to what it was. It took about three hours for just the haircut."

She said the bill turned out to be over S$2,500.

Received membership card

After not getting an email response, on Sep. 28, Chee sent a follow-up email to Goodwood Park Hotel, which manages the restaurant.

She also made a police report on the same day.

Chee also texted the restaurant manager again, who gave her another call.

"At this point, I wasn't interested in receiving any more calls as I want a formal prompt response by email given the seriousness of the fire hazard incident," Chee griped.

She'd received the membership card in her mailbox on Sep.27, but was still upset that she didn't get an email response.

After seeking "legal advice", Chee said she sent a "Letter of Demand" via email to the Director of Food & Beverages of Goodwood Park Hotel.

Loss adjuster involved

On Oct. 2, Chee left a review documenting the incident.

An hour later, she got an email reply from the director.

In the email, the director said they were reviewing and investigating the matter and would get back to her by the next week.

Chee said that after more correspondence, the director told her they decided to hire a loss adjuster, who reached out to her three days later.

"Personally, I feel a reasonable compensation would be for the company to pay for my hair damage and dining bill," Chee said.

Responding to Mothership's queries, Goodwood Park Hotel confirmed that they've been directly communicating with the guest after she had sent the email to the team.

Stating that it was still an "ongoing correspondence", they will be reserving comments.

Top images from Google Maps and Chee Peiwen