More hawker centres islandwide now offer the option of cashless payment for food and drinks, but hawkers say this has yet to catch on with consumers.
Diners can now go cashless at 12 hawker centres, up from just three centres in January last year. Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre, Beo Crescent Market & Food Centre and Clementi 448 Market & Food Centre were the first three centres to have the Nets FlashPay service.
To pay without cash, consumers have to buy a FlashPay card at major convenience stores or get a Nets FlashPay-enabled card from local banks. They can then pay for their purchases by tapping the card at payment terminals at hawker stalls. The money goes into the hawker's bank account the next working day. Hawkers pay $28 a month to rent the terminals.
It costs Nets about $10,000 to set up the system in a typical hawker centre of 30 stalls.
A Nets spokesman told The Straits Times it "has made good progress since the introduction of this new service and expects to continue with this momentum".
WHERE IT'S AVAILABLE
•CLEMENTI 448 MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• 726 WEST COAST MARKET SQUARE
• HOLLAND DRIVE MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• HOLLAND VILLAGE MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• BEO CRESCENT MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• 22 A/B HAVELOCK ROAD FOOD CENTRE
• TIONG BAHRU MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• TANJONG PAGAR PLAZA MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• HONG LIM MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• ALBERT CENTRE MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
• BEDOK INTERCHANGE HAWKER CENTRE
• 724 ANG MO KIO MARKET & FOOD CENTRE
But many hawkers told ST they find the service inconvenient.
Mr Tony Lee, 54, who runs a coffee stall at the Bedok Interchange centre, finds it "troublesome" to key amounts into the machine. "It is a hassle during peak hours."
A pair of sisters who run Xiang Cheng kueh stall at the Bedok Interchange centre said technology can get in the way of business. One sister, who declined to be named, said: "It holds up my queue when the machine is jammed."
Hawkers added that customers' response to the cashless system has been lukewarm in general.
Mr Harry Tan, 70, who sells nonya kueh at Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre, said: "I pay $28 for nothing. Nobody wants to use it."
He has been renting the terminal for half a year and plans to return it.
Real estate agent C.Y. Tan, 44, said her habit is to pay for hawker centre meals using cash.
"I know hawkers would appreciate cash over card. I reserve this service for use at supermarkets and department stores," said Ms Tan.
When asked, Nets said it is "mindful that implementing payments infrastructure on-site can be challenging and we will help them (hawkers) overcome their challenges". It added that it also has "ongoing educational campaigns to encourage consumers to go cashless".
But some hawkers find the system useful.
Madam Alison Koh, 53, co-owner of Uncle Lim's Beverages at the Beo Crescent centre, said: "I don't have to prepare change. But I just have to be extra careful. I have to make sure I key in the correct amount."
Madam Koh, who has been using the device for close to two years, said about 20 per cent of her customers use the service daily. On weekends, up to 25 per cent of her sales are through the service. She gets $8 off the rental fee if there are 200 contactless transactions a month.
Mr Benson Low, 53, who sells laksa and prawn mee at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre, also finds the service convenient but said customers may find it a hassle.
"When my customer opens her wallet, she has 10 cards but no Nets FlashPay. Or, they have the card but ran out of value," said Mr Low, also the chairman of the Tanjong Pagar Plaza centre.
Top-ups of the FlashPay card can be done at any ATM.
To make it more convenient, the authorities plan to install self-service top-up machines - one of which is already available at the Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre - at Holland Village Market & Food Centre and the Beo Crescent and Tiong Bahru centres.