I went for a petrol top-up at Caltex Upper Serangoon just two days before the incident. I had asked for $50 worth of petrol because I wanted to get the free Caltex tissue box, even keying the numbers into the pump myself before the attendant came to assist me.

When I was in the shop about to pay, the attendant rushed in and told me, “Sorry sorry! I accidentally pumped too much. You wanted $30 right? I stopped the pump too late at $35. So sorry!”.

He was extremely worried that I would refuse to pay the $5 that he thought he over-pumped by. His colleague who was doing inventory nearby commented, “Remember ah, if you put more than what the customer wanted, you have to pay the difference from your pocket, be careful.”

In the end, I ask him to help me top up to $50 because that’s what I wanted, not $35. He went out to top up the difference.

I thought that was the end of story until the cashier pulled up the bill for my pump – S$ 49.50. The pump attendant did his maths wrong. There goes my free tissue box. (But fortunately, the Cashier who saw the whole exchange decided to just go ahead and give the tissue box to me. :D)

Yes – the attendant who served me that day was also an elderly. And yes, I drove a BMW (that cost the same price as the Toyota Prius that most private hire drivers own). If he had over-pumped instead of under-pumped, and there was a Kelly Teo standing in the queue behind me, I might be the one in the lime light.

Read about what the Caltex Tampines BMW driver had to say about the incident.

The reason why I brought up the story is simple – it is easy and in fact pretty common for miscommunication to occur between customers and the pump attendants. It is not a big matter. But I think that there should be better ways in which petrol stations can handle the compensation in cases where the attendants put in more petrol that what was required.

The bigger issue here is – should we be self-righteous and publicly shame people on the internet without proper fact checks?

It has been revealed by the Police that Freddy (the BMW driver in question) was completely innocent. He was on the way to a car dealer to sell his vehicle, hence he only asked for $10 worth of petrol because that was all he needed to reach his car dealer in Jurong. Imagine having to pay for more than $100 of petrol that you will not be using because of a miscommunication.

(I remembered only pumping $5 or $10 each time on the days leading up to the trading in of my previous vehicle too. There are valid reasons why drivers may ask for such a small amount.)

Despite his innocence, think about what Freddy is going through right now. His career is in jeopardy. People have been stalking and following him to his residential home, where his young son and wife stays. He is fearful of the personal safety of his family members. What have they done to deserve this?

And the worst part – despite the statement by the police – most people who heard about this incident would probably never know that he is innocent – simply because bad news travel faster than the good ones.

All these happened because someone decided to be self-righteous and posted what she thought happened on the internet, with uncensored photos and car plate number without knowing the facts.

 

Note that in the screenshot above, the license plate was censored. This was because Kelly had earlier posted an uncensored version and took it down before posting a new version when the whole matter went viral. The photos of Freddy and his car at the station circulating the internet came from Kelly’s original post.

Upon seeing her post, the whole internet went crazy without bothering to fact check.

People fight for the underdog – I really think that is commendable and this is what makes our online community so great.

But, what if the information people were acting on was wrong in the first place?

Now, I hate to sound like a government mouthpiece – but isn’t this why the entire fake news debate is relevant to us? A vast majority of our netizens are too used to taking stories at face value without questioning it. This means the masses can be swayed based on nothing but untruths and hot air. That is potentially a very powerful tools for people with ill intent to manipulate public opinions.

While the whole internet is demanding that Freddy apologize for ‘bullying’ the elderly attendant, now that the truth is out, where are all the calls for people who have stalked him and his family to apologize?

Did Kelly apologize to Freddy and his family?

No, her Facebook profile photo, which was previously a photo of herself, had turned into that of a flower. She had hidden herself.

There were previously a number of public posts speaking strongly about her bad experience at certain establishments on her profile, and they have all been removed now.

As of writing, no signs of apology on her Facebook profile.

At the end of the day, who are the ultimate winners in the whole debacle? No one, except perhaps for certain content sites that posted more than 5 articles on this one single incident without any fact checks, all for traffic and cold hard advertisement cash?

Yes, let’s speak up and fight for those who were bullied! But the next time we do that, let’s get our facts figured out first, shall we?

Declaration: I have no relation to Freddy or Kelly.