From ‘Sweet gesture hits sour note online’, 9 Sept 2013, article by Linette Lai and Walter Sim, ST
WHEN German couple Dana and Stefan invited strangers to their Singapore home for dinner last month, the response was overwhelming. Their online “open invitation” for six guests at an authentic German meal went viral, with 400 sign-ups. Netizens lauded the gesture as being “sweet” and “heartwarming”.
But all was not as it seemed. The dinner was the first of four hosted by expatriates as part of the sixth FairPrice Finest Festival, the supermarket’s annual food celebration.
And the marketing ploy has left a sour taste for some, with sign-up rates plunging after the link with FairPrice was revealed about a week after the first invite.
…Netizens speculated that the hosts were merely “paid actors” in a “staged marketing gimmick”, prompting organisers to clarify that they had “volunteered after hearing about the idea through word of mouth”.
If you see an over-friendly German couple trying their darnedest to convince complete STRANGERS to go over to their house, it calls for a healthy dose of skepticism. Personally, I wouldn’t go to a stranger’s home, expat or Singaporean, for a FREE meal without a professional taster who’s willing to sacrifice his life for me. I would expect at least a chat over coffee as a prelude to something as personal and heartfelt as home-cooking. Even then, my first instinct in a strange abode would be to spot the nearest escape route or piece of furniture to use as self-defence in case this ‘open invitation’ turns out to be a deadly cannibalistic trap. It’s either death by poison, or awkward silence.
The Singapore Kindness Movement were either in cahoots with NTUC or genuinely fooled by the video, saying that Dana and Stefan’s invitation ‘exemplifies the spirit of #bigmakan, bonding and building friendships over food’. Turns out that the couple got a nasty backlash for their hospitality which they didn’t expect coming from food-loving Singaporeans, who felt ‘cheated’ when they realised their act of ‘kindness’ was possibly sponsored by a multi-conglomerate. The follow up videos show Dana and Stefan stocking up from Fairprice Finest before cooking up a storm, though you could get fresher ingredients from the wet market or some other specialty deli. Finest does sell canned sauerkraut though, as if the reception from netizens wasn’t sour enough. I wouldn’t be surprised that some of the noisiest whiners about this ‘con-job’ were the ones who didn’t get selected to sample some Bavarian delights.
In 2011, an insurance firm ran a similar viral marketing gimmick to toy with our emotions, presenting us with a ‘forbidden love story’ between a 20-something guy and a 47 year old woman. Netizens who were fooled into tears were appalled by the dramatic revelations that unfolded, though I believe one reason for the nastiness flung at this disastrous anticlimax was the ridiculous amount of emotional investment in the story. It was like watching a tragic movie finishing with someone waking up saying ‘Phew it was all just a dream!’. You’d probably wouldn’t react like someone ripped you off half your life savings if you just took such online drama with a pinch of salt.
At first glance, Dana and Stefan look like trustworthy folks who are not likely to strangle you with a string of bratwurst sausages. I would have believed them even if they sold their souls to the devil, though NTUC comes close, but not to the extent of falling in love with their amiableness and feeling like I’ve been dealt a slap in the face because they were doing it for Fairprice Finest. I think they had good intentions, just unlucky to face the wrath of people who want a perfect, happy ending to every story they encounter online and hate to be duped and feeling played out. Food for thought, nonetheless; How many of us even cook for our neighbours, not to mention complete strangers?
Now if only there’s a German word for ‘the disappointment of having people accuse you of being sell-outs when you invite strangers to your home for a meal out of the warmth and goodness of your heart’.