Last July 4, 2017, Sebastian Wickstrom fell in line 45 minutes before the Hong Kong Soya Chicken Rice and Noodle hawker stall in Chinatown Complex opened. What he expected was a 20-30 minute wait but it turned into something well over an hour when two people in the line ordered 60 meals each.
After a few days, he wrote about his experience in an opinion piece and sent it out to top food bloggers and publications in Singapore. In the post, he complained about how the Michelin Star hawker stall was employing allegedly “dirty business tactics” to create long lines and gain customers.
In an interview, Wickstrom then said that he may have been a bit harsh when reacted to the long wait. Still, he found the practice of allowing bulk orders to be very inconvenient and troublesome for single-order customers.
Netizens and foodies have weighed in on the issue that Wickstrom brought to light. Here are his reactions to some comments and transcripts of emails between the latter and the former. These emails were sent to Alvinology.com by Wickstrom.
Foodies react to Wickstrom
Seth Lui of SethLui.com posted the piece on his Facebook account yesterday, July 7. Several food bloggers have commented and have even sent emails to Wickstrom in hopes of engaging and knowing more of his experience.
Here is Wickstrom’s response to Seth Lui’s Facebook post:
Seems like Seth Lui agrees that it sucks to end up behind a company catered order, but that it’s not a dirty business tactic. “Dirty” might be a bit harsh to call it in hindsight, but it certainly is misleading and unfair, especially while a big part of the problem could be solved with a simple maximum order limit, just to avoid a company technically buying out the whole production of the hawker stall for 30 minutes or more.
As he says it’s inconvenient, but this is an inconvenience caused by a company taking preference over regular customers. With system in place now, what would prohibit a company from placing 1000 orders and effectively closing the stall for the people who have stood for hours in line already?
It doesn’t make sense to allow this corporate exploitation of peoples time. It’s a popular hawker stand, i’m not saying it should be the pinnacle of convenience but this system in place is just disrespectful to locals and tourists who are unaware of this issue, it’s really misleading.
Wickstrom’s response to Daniel Goh
Here is Wickstrom’s response:
Yes, this is a result of Michelin star commercialism and like I said, the queue itself is not a problem. I didn’t feel like standing in the normal 2 hours long queue so I went there early, just for a company to buy out production for what I guess amounted to 40minutes or something like that.
About me (Wickstrom) going to a normal Michelin Star restaurant if I’m unhappy:
Why is that relevant at all? This is in regards to Hawker Michelin stalls, unfair business practices and misleading customers and prioritizing catered orders. I didn’t go to Chinatown complex because I thought, “wow, I can get Michelin star food for no money!”
I went there because as the many other people standing in line, you see a news article about Michelin hawker food. They are first 2 stalls in the world to achieve this, so I assume the food is great.
I get there and the line is 2 hours long and think, “WOW the food must really be great!” But in reality the queue is maybe half as long, only extending because the stall accepts catered orders that stop the queue completely.
So the queue isn’t that long in reality. Take away the catered orders from the equation and they could easily cut that queue down to 40 minutes or so. Much more reasonable. After the catered orders were finished the short queue of people that were there before opening was the normal 2-hour queue that usually is there.
Emails from netizens and prominent food bloggers
Here is an email exchange between Wickstrom and Heng Kang Wei of Wanbao:
We were also able to acquire a copy of the email exchange between Wickstrom, Daniel Ang of Daniel Food Diary and Seth Lui of SethLui.com thanks to the former. Ang sought to clarify Singapore queue culture to Wickstrom and he was seconded by Lui. Here’s the email:
Here’s what Wickstrom had to say to Lui’s email:
Here is his response to Ang’s message:
What do you think of Wickstrom’s insistence that there must be a maximum number of orders allowable? Let us know in the comments!
Wickstrom’s responses have been edited for readability.