BreadTalk passing off Yeo’s soya bean milk as ‘freshly prepared’

From ‘BreadTalk gets stern warning from CASE’, 7 Aug 15, article by Jessica Lim, ST

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has issued a strongly- worded warning to bakery BreadTalk, informing the firm that its recent actions were in breach of the law. It also warned the company that it would take action should such “flagrant breaches” continue.

The bakery chain came under fire for selling soya bean milk from Yeo’s in bottles labelled “freshly prepared” at many of its outlets.

A video of a BreadTalk worker pouring the drink from a Yeo’s carton into the bottles, which was widely circulated on the Internet, had sparked off the angry reaction.

…”The questionable practice by BreadTalk is unacceptable,” said Case executive director Seah Seng Choon. “By indicating the words ‘freshly prepared’ on the bottles, consumers may reasonably be deceived or misled to believe that the soya bean milk was freshly brewed in-house and therefore commands a higher value than Yeo’s pre-packed soya bean milk.”

Hey BreadTalk, Soya think you can cheat customers, eh? The company reportedly repacked and sold 350ml bottles at $1.80, from 1L packs of Yeo’s from Fairprice at $1.50 (probably currently going at 50% cheaper because of SG50). The question of what a bakery is doing selling soya bean milk aside, this cost-cutting stunt appears to be a desperate attempt to recuperate from the LKY bun fiasco back in April. If anything, this incident serves as a warning to consumers to educate themselves about how ‘Big Bread’ sources and markets their wares, and how ‘natural’ BreadTalk’s  ‘Natural Yeast Bread’ really is.

Food scams aren’t new. As far back as the early 1900’s, merchants were passing off butter as ‘cheap margarine’. One furious Forum writer compared the Yeo’s deceit to the case of meat suppliers passing off beef as mutton.  We panicked about the horsemeat scandal affecting our Ikea Swedish meatballs. Milk formula giant Wyeth sneaked lutein, unapproved as a nutrient by AVA, into their products. Yet despite all the lies and scares, we trust our AVA to do their jobs; that we don’t end up eating mislabelled, taboo meat, or pay a premium for something that you could get in bulk at a petrol kiosk during a CNY promotion. Fortunately for us, we were spared the raisin muffin aluminium scare which broke in BreadTalk HK back in 2014.  Not sure if these were labelled as ‘Freshly Smelted’.

BreadTalk apologised for the ‘misaligned presentation‘ in their Facebook page, which is a sugar-coated way of saying ‘we cocked up’. Sure, nobody got poisoned by the in-house repackaging, and one could argue that if you’re running a public listed company, some corner-cutting is likely to tolerated. I don’t expect your soup to be ‘home-brewed’, or even your bottled juice to be ‘freshly squeezed’. In fact, we all need to take such claims with a pinch of salt. Restaurants dress up their dishes with seductive claims all the time, whether it’s ‘slow-cooked’, ‘hand-made’, ‘homemade’, ‘organic’ or worse, ‘ARTISANAL’. We see things like ‘Natural Flavour’ in our foods but don’t think twice before dropping it in our shopping carts. It’s all in the marketing, but unlike BreadTalk, at least most people bother to hide their tricks away from concerned customers. I mean, just look at this Ferrero Rocher ad. It features a guy wearing an actual chef’s hat. And hazelnuts picked with fine tweezers.

If there’s anything that BreadTalk management knows it’s how to trim expenses. Founder George Quek was himself selected to be part of a ministerial pay review committee in 2011. They were also accused of discriminatory hiring practises, with one Malaysian HR manager reportedly signing up only his own countrymen. Well, as the saying goes – Talk is Cheap.

Overeasy sexy buns ad banned for showing butts

From ‘Eatery’s cheeky ad removed’, 23 July 2015, article by Jessica Lim, ST

A cheeky advertisement that raised eyebrows has been removed, after the eatery that put it up was ordered to do so by the advertising watchdog here.

The large billboard ad, featuring three scantily clad women exposing their buttocks, was put up by OverEasy Orchard, an eatery that is taking over the space occupied formerly by Wendy’s at Liat Towers. Beside the image was the tagline: “Seriously sexy buns. Two are better than one. Smack that. Aug 2015.”

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) ordered the eatery to remove the ad as it was deemed indecent and in breach of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP), an ASAS spokesman told The Straits Times in response to queries.

…When contacted, lifestyle company The Lo & Behold Group, which runs OverEasy and other restaurants, said that the ad was meant “to celebrate the female form” and that it intended to showcase OverEasy’s “characteristic cheekiness and irreverence”.

“The Lo & Behold Group apologises for how our advertisement might have made women feel,” said a spokesman for the group.

She added that the marketing for OverEasy, including the ad’s design, was done by an all-woman team. “To us, it is about women feeling sexy and confident in their own skins.” She said the phrase “lo & behold” has long been used colloquially to introduce something distinctive and impactful.

…Madam Raja Lachimi, 55, a housewife who has an 18-year-old daughter, said that such advertisements were “embarrassing” and “objectify women”.

She said: “That’s one reason I don’t take my daughter to Orchard Road. There are unsavoury locations there such as Orchard Towers and there are advertisements like the one at OverEasy.”

“I don’t think my daughter is ready for such ugly sights. I am happy they took it down,” she added.

ASAS decided to butt in and take it down

In 2010, Overeasy ran a ‘Fill My Cups‘ promo offering free booze to women based on the size of their breasts. 5 years on, they’re still in business despite complaints of ‘objectifying women’, proof that sex does bring in the booty, so to speak.

Lo and Behold is also the group behind ‘Extra Virgin Pizza’, which features ads like this:

All in the spirit of naughtiness then. ‘Lo and Behold’ is more an anachronistic expression than a ‘colloqualism’ as described, used most emphatically by medieval knights who managed to unlock chastity belts of damsels in distress. Looks like the group has all the erogenous zones of a lady covered in their campaigns.

It’s a shame that an 18 year old can’t even go shopping with her friends in town because she may stumble into sexy ads, be it the giant torso of Abercrombie and Fitch, or the simulacrum of a vagina by the Ministry of Waxing. Truth is, tits and ass are all over the heartlands as well, from semi-nude lingerie ads to Burger King ads that hint at fellatio. Did I also mention that she was EIGHTEEN?

The explanation about ‘women feeling confident about themselves’ is rubbish, considering the ad is all butt and nothing else. ‘Confidence’ is for sanitary pads and underarm whitening sticks, not light snacks. Subtlety is not Overeasy’s forte, and they’re downright shameless about it, even suggesting BDSM with the phrase ‘Smack That’. It’s crass, unimaginative and a sign that the marketing folks, whatever gender they belong to, have hit rock bottom when it comes to ideas for innuendo. A short skirt revealing a hint of undies is far more provocative than in-your-face buttocks, though the authorities may ban that too in case it increases the rate of people taking upskirt videos.

Grassroots workers getting tickets for 50 BBQs

From ‘Poor ticketing mars Aussie barbeque’, 1 July 2015, ST Forum

(Marc Lim Swee Keat): I applaud the Australian High Commission’s goodwill and generosity in organising 50 Aussie-style barbecues on Sunday evening (“It’s barbecue time for a taste of Singapore life”; Monday). Having been a beneficiary of the Australians’ big-hearted hospitality previously, my group of friends and I had looked forward to being part of the festivities.

To our dismay, however, we were turned away at Bishan Park, as the organisers’ personnel indicated that a ticket was required to enjoy the food provided. This was contrary to what we had understood in earlier reports of the event being freely open to the public (“Steak feast to mark 50 years of ties”; April 18).

Much as our group understood the need for crowd management, the means of ticket distribution left much to be desired. The People’s Association was engaged as the local community partner for the event. But only a select few community clubs had publicised the ticketing requirement prior to the event.

A sizeable majority of the ticket-holders were decked in grassroots attire, though we understood that it was not an exclusive event. Many visitors were left disappointed and confused.

However, many, including my group, were undeterred and had picnics along the river to enjoy the street performances, while soaking in the atmosphere. We had looked forward to an enjoyable evening of Australian hospitality, delectable food and entertainment.

But the poor public communications on the ticket allocation system had marred the true spirit and intent of our gracious Australian counterparts.

Sir there’s a cock on your head

This 50 BBQs event comes fresh after the two nations’ ‘koala diplomacy‘. Much has changed since PM Lee’s late father called Australia the ‘poor white trash of Asia‘. Today, his son, being the good sport that he is, is wearing silly balloon hats with Tony Abbott. We borrowed their marsupials and fired up the ‘barbies’. What next, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman starring in a Mediacorp drama series? Malaysian PM BFF Najib Razak must be jealous.

For anyone who’s been here long enough, free steaks for everyone is simply too good to be true, and Singaporeans would fight tooth and nail to get a taste of Down Under without paying a bloody cent. The organisers only catered for a max of 1200 people, but 4800 tickets were given out to people on a first-come-first-served basis, which means there are likely to be ticket-holders who went home with an empty stomach. Incidentally, STB once launched a tourism campaign aimed at Australians, telling people to ‘GET LOST’. This steak fiasco is our retribution. You can smell and hear the sizzle from afar but can only stare and drool, as all these VIPs, who probably know shit about Australian history, sink their fangs into a juicy, oozing ribeye hot off the grill. I wonder how much a BBQ ticket would be worth on Carousell. Not more than the $400 NDP ticket I hope.

Grassroots members getting perks like priority steaks is nothing surprising anyway. They get priority for Primary 1 registration and parking, among other goodies as reward for serving the community. Once they’ve got their kids’ placing and Aussie steak, some will simply quit the job and go back to being an afterthought ordinary Singaporean like the kiasu buggers that they are. Wouldn’t it be a better idea if the Australian High Commission and PM Lee had flipped burgers for underprivileged orphans and grilled steak for old folks who’ve never been to Jack’s Place in their lives instead of promoting an unrealistic free-for-all meat orgy, causing many Singaporeans to ‘go off like a frog in a sock‘? Otherwise, there should have been a selection process for this, really, like inviting only the top 100 finalists of a ‘Waltzing Matilda’ karaoke contest.

Bring AC/DC here and all will be forgiven.

Kopitiam staff sacked for washing shoes in sink

From ‘NEA to take action against Kopitiam after employee was caught washing shoes in sink’, 23 June 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will take action against food court operator Kopitiam after one of its employees was caught on camera washing her shoes in a sink at an outlet in the National University Hospital (NUH). The employee has been sacked after the incident was highlighted on social media.

The clip, which lasts almost two minutes, shows the woman scrubbing both her shoes with a brush under a running tap within the cold desserts section of the food court. She then appeared to return the brush to a container which held other kitchen utensils.

…Kopitiam, known for its chain of food courts in Singapore, has since apologised for the incident. In a post on Facebook on Tuesday morning, it assured customers that the washing equipment used by the employee had been replaced and the sink disinfected.

You may not be a frequent visitor to NUH Kopitiam, but patients from the wards are. Imagine if you were hospitalised for a severe bout of food poisoning and you decide to give yourself an icy treat near recovery, only to spend another few nights retching away because your Ice Kachang comes with ‘extra toppings’: Someone’s inner sole leather shavings.

Food courts in hospitals should be held to a more stringent hygiene standard than the ones in your average shopping mall. For an environment already teeming with bugs, the last thing you need is someone introducing ‘foot-borne’ ones into your meal. Rival food chain Koufu was once flanked by an army of cockroaches, and a kid lost his life after eating tainted Nasi Padang in Northpoint’s Kopitiam branch.  Yet, despite all these horrific lapses in hygiene, Singaporeans still flock to these places because they’re willing to eat mediocre, sometimes atrocious, food as long as there’s air-con and staff discounts.

The rest of us with more discerning stomachs but on an equally tight lunch budget often turn a blind eye to the filthy practices at hawker centres, nor do we stand by and film elderly cleaners using the same piece of cloth to wipe tables, plates and trays and cost them their jobs after posting videos on Stomp.

There are worse things than giving your shoes a rinse-over in the sink, though. Here are some real-life tummy-churners:

1) Cleaners washing glasses in a pail of dirty water.

2) Washing raw food with rainwater from the roof.
4) Putting raw chicken on the floor.
5) Smoking while flipping prata.

Seriously, most of us are too hungry to scrutinise a hawker’s fingernails, how he handles our money, where he wipes his sweat, or how the dishwashing is done behind the scenes. Let this be a wake-up call not just for kopitiam vendors, but anyone with a licence to sell food, that whenever public health is compromised by a gross act of negligence, someone will be watching, complaining and NEA will step in and not hesitate to give the offender, well, the BOOT.

Breadtalk LKY bun in poor taste

From ‘Breadtalk apologises for Lee Kuan Yew commemorative bun’, 25 Mar 2015, article in CNA

Bakery chain BreadTalk has apologised for a “commemorative bun” it put on sale to mark the passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Proceeds of the sale of the buns were to be donated to the Community Chest, BreadTalk indicated. However, the move was criticised on social media as being in poor taste. Some on Facebook said it was a “disgusting” attempt to cash in on the passing of a founding father of the nation.

…The buns had gone on sale with a sign: “Thank you for your unwavering strength and dedication in transforming Singapore. Filled with gula melaka-flavoured grated coconut and mixed with attap seed, this kampong-inspired creation is a tribute to a visionary leader who gave his life to build a nation from a kampong to a successful Singapore today. Let us join hands and hearts to honour him, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”

D'ough!

D’ough!

This is just wrong. ‘Li Bu Kai Ni’ (can’t bear to leave you) should be made of a spicy red-hot tom yum filling, more representative of LKY’s fiery passion for Singapore, instead of some flaky coconut. While people in crutches are out there braving the heat queuing for hours to bid farewell to the icon, the people at Breadtalk were thinking of how to use this sombre event to promote their brand, for charitable causes or otherwise. They should just sell black charcoal red bean buns throughout this entire week of mourning instead.

It isn’t the first time that Breadtalk mixed pastry with puns; In 2010, they were accused of being racist for selling Naan the Nays. During the presidential election campaign in 2011, they dedicated the TAN-TART to all 3 candidates. When Steve Jobs died, they created the APPLE OF MY I.  I don’t recall Apple fans running riot over their stores demanding they withdraw this monstrosity. Not sure if they did any ‘Black and White’ creation when Michael Jackson passed away.

Occasionally they run out of ideas, naming one of their ring buns the ‘Circle Line’ to promote the new MRT line.  The commemorative ring pastries were launched in early October 2011. 2 months in, and the actual Circle Line broke down in one of the worst PR disasters in the history of Singapore’s public transportation.

The Circle Jinx

As if naming LKY after food isn’t bad enough, PAP MP Teo Ser Luck invented a crossfit workout named LKY91 dedicated to his hero, 91 being the age of LKY’s demise. No doubt the late LKY was an exercise addict, but surely he deserves better than be honoured by air goddamn squats and ‘double unders’. Not to mention in the late stages of his life he was suffering from peripheral neuropathy. LKY91 reads more like a torture manual rather than an exercise routine. Maybe you should rename it the #fml91 workout. Because that’s what you’ll say to yourself over and over 91 times for subjecting yourself to this physical abuse.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.30.39 PM

This clip is the perfect response to all this personality cult nonsense, one that says ‘I ain’t got the time for your dumbass bullshit’.

Restaurants charging up to 80 cents for tap water

From ‘More F&B outlets now charge for glasses of water’, 8 Feb 2015, article by Cheryl Faith Wee, Sunday Times

More restaurants are putting a price on tap water, to the frustration of diners. Around one in 10 dining establishments now charge for a glass of water, at least twice the number from just two years ago, said Restaurant Association of Singapore executive director Lim Rui Shan. The typical price is between 30 cents and 80 cents. And the reason is rising costs.

Industry sources say an average restaurant can end up spending from $5,000 to $10,000 every year serving free water. There is also the loss in drink sales, which can make up at least 20 per cent of a restaurant’s total earnings, and the manpower cost involved in what is already a tight labour market, as service crew have to constantly refill glasses.

…About two to three years ago, Chinese restaurant chain Crystal Jade also started charging 30 cents for boiled water and this practice is currently in place at 21 of its 25 outlets here. Another food and beverage brand, Skinny Pizza, stopped serving plain water for free in April last year.

It now charges 50 cents for a glass of water flavoured with herbs and fruits such as mint and strawberries. A spokesman for the brand said: “Unfortunately, business costs have spiralled over the years and we have to do all we can to find a balance.”

…Establishments which still offer tap water for free said that there are customers who take advantage. Some come in a group, order one dish and keep asking for water refills. Said Ms Debby Lim, 27, senior marketing executive of Peranakan Place, which runs two bars and a cafe: “What the customer sees is just a glass of water; what we see is time and effort taken to wash, pour, serve and refill.

One clue which tells you whether a restaurant serves free tap water or not, if you’re afraid to ask, is if it has more than 1 brand of bottled water on its menu. It’s not clear if these places are charging for boiled water (50 cents at Ya Kun) or water literally taken from the kitchen tap (which logically should be cheaper than boiled). The water direct from our pipes is supposedly top grade and more drinkable than some of the tonic oxygenated slush they sell these days. So drinkable in fact, that some establishments would charge you $26.40 for two pitchers of it. But that doesn’t mean customers are willing to bring an empty glass to the toilet to help themselves.

I think most people tend not to opt for the bottled alternative, but the unhealthier and cheapest drinks on the menu, usually a basic coffee (not handcrafted or artisan), or worse a can of Coke.  If you’re the sort you needs to rinse your palate after each course, you’re better off bringing your own tumbler of home-brewed H20. Now, if the restaurant not only has a no-free-water policy, but one whereby you can’t even bring water from outside, then you’re morally obligated to make a scene about it, Joanne Peh style.

Thankfully, there are still eateries that uphold the philosophy of free tap for all and we should all applaud them for making sure we don’t perish from dehydration. Some places I’ve visited provide each table with one communal flask without you having to ask for it (Swensens, for example), which means less effort on your staff to ‘wash, pour, serve and refill’. We don’t ask where the water comes from, or demand that someone puts a lemon slice in it. If you see free water (especially the ICED variety) on your table before you even flip to the drinks menu, you feel good enough about it to want to order dessert as well. Otherwise, I would rather go to the Toastbox next door for kopi after dinner rather than buy your signature tiramisu cake (which I’ll need to wash down with a $2.50 Evian).

In 2009, blogger Veron Ang put up a list of restaurants that charged for water, some of which turned out to be ‘libelous’ accusations, which shows how serious the issue of free water is. In Hungry Go Where’s updated list, True Blue Peranakan charges you A DOLLAR if you order water on its own without accompanying drinks.

Restaurant owners were quick to come up with excuses, like:

  • People who complain are not educated about business..nothing is free.
  • Our patrons are ‘serious’ diners who come to taste food, not water…nobody outside Singapore asks for free water…which turns out to be false.
  • Even the kopitiam charges 30 cents for ice water i.e Everyone else is doing it.

Well of course if I’m having a posh dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant I would think twice about asking for tap water, but here you’re talking about places (according to the Sparklette blog circa 2009) like Ajisen Ramen, Crystal Jade, Gelare and even Boon Tong Kee chicken rice. There was a time when asking for ‘tap water’ made you sound like a hobo in a soup kitchen, and we had to say stuff like ‘normal’ or ‘regular/plain’ water, especially after the server asks you the dreaded question ‘Sparkling or still’?, which is a hint that ‘No, we don’t serve tap water to cheapskates like you’. (The correct answer to the question is ‘Sorry I asked for water for drinking, not the liquid from church that you vanquish demons with’)

Personally I wouldn’t boycott a restaurant just because of a strict water policy if the food can make up for it. Others, like this parchedpatron blogger, insist on shaming the culprits. People have their own business reasons (which the lay diner can NEVER understand) for charging you for trivialities, be it water, wet towels, peanuts, an ice bucket, or non-existent service.  I’m curious though, about places that charge you almost a buck for a glass. Maybe they run their tap water through a silver nanocrystal filter, or it’s some ‘handcrafted’ elixir infused with homegrown mint, acai and Chinese wolfberries.

If you’re ever charged 80 cents for a glass, do the rest of us water fans a favour; ask that it be filled to the brim, with not a particle visible by magnifying glass floating in it, and it must be slightly tepid at a temperature of exactly 32.7 degrees Celsius. If you’re lucky they may just give you Chinese tea for free as a peace offering.

Llao llao discriminating against non-Mandarin speaking woman

From ‘Yogurt chain to raise hiring standards after shunning woman for not speaking Mandarin’, 15 Jan 2015, article by Joanna Seow, ST

Frozen yogurt chain llaollao has promised to improve its hiring guidelines after a local woman was allegedly turned away from a job interview because she could not speak Mandarin.

Indian undergraduate Karishma Kaur, 22, applied for a part-time role at the company’s West Mall branch on Jan 7 but said she was not given an interview as the manager spoke only Mandarin and could not interview her in English.

After she posted about the matter on Facebook, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) received a complaint about it on Jan 12 and is looking into the issue.

Llaollao Singapore’s country manager Edwin Ferroa said he has been in talks with Tafep “to look into how we can better the way we employ”, and added: “We don’t condone such discriminatory behaviour based on race, language or religion.”

He said that the company had already begun probing the incident on Jan 10 and found that the woman who had spoken with Ms Kaur was the wife of the store’s owner who had been helping out. She was not an actual employee.

To date, there are no anti-discriminatory laws in Singapore. The Tafep, launched by Minister Tan Chuan Jin, makes ‘guidelines’, organises workshops to teach employers about ‘fair’ hiring and if necessary, slaps ‘demerit points’ on recalcitrant companies. Since then, the agency has shamed companies for wanting directors ‘aged around 30 years’, ‘Filipinos only’, ‘Malaysian PRs’ and ‘preferred Female Chinese’. Some companies are more specific on who would make ideal employees – people who recoil at the ‘thought of having kids’. Others, while not guilty of discriminatory advertising, may drop you during the interview if you have a barely noticeable baby bump, stutter, or are openly gay.

According to the Tripartite guidelines, you are discouraged from employing people based on age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability unless exempted by the nature of work. For obvious reasons, you need someone who’s fluent in Mandarin in order to be a tour guide for PRCs, or you’ll have to exclude Muslims if you’re dealing with Bee Cheng Hiang bakkwa. If you’re hiring masseurs, you’d have to say sorry to the guy missing both thumbs.

However, the guidelines do not say anything against hiring people based on their LOOKS. Which means Abercrombie and Fitch can get away with hiring ‘attractive’ people, Hooters can pick and choose employees with a ‘GREAT SMILE’, and our very own SIA can reject any lady below 1.58m tall. A ‘pleasant’ look, as everyone knows, is euphemism for ‘good-looking’. In my experience patronising hip ice-cream or yogurt joints, you’re more likely to be served by young women in shorts than, well, 40-ish uncles in khakis and crocs. Just look at this FB post, which claims that the company hires ‘Singaporeans or PRs only’. Apparently they missed out the ‘Speak no English OK’ requirement. According to Ms Kaur, she was told that the manager of the West Mall stall was ‘from China’. Well well, you’ve got some explaining to do, Llaollao!

LMAO

LMAO!

Another notable absence from the guide is discrimination against one’s ‘sexual orientation’. You’re unlikely to get a job as a Sunday school teacher if you’re a transgender, nor have we heard of openly gay colonels in the SAF. Goldman Sachs, however, has a team dedicated to hiring LGBT staff, which one could counter-argue to be discriminatory against heterosexuals. What about ‘political beliefs’? Just ask Cherian George. Or ‘dietary habits’, like say I only hire vegetarians for my Animal Rescue company because of my belief that anyone who loves animals shouldn’t be eating them as well?

As an employer, it’s easy to slide from ‘discerning’ to ‘discriminatory’. The harsh truth is no one who cares about the survival of their business is just going to hire any Tom, Dick or Harry willy-nilly for the sake of universal equality. If you want to publish a politically correct ad for a beer server in a kopitiam, for example, following the guidelines strictly would mean something like ‘Wanted: A human being (nope, even ‘waitress’ is frowned upon). With a working brain’. Which is a waste of not just your candidate’s time, but yours as well. As for the hugely popular frozen yogurt chain, I doubt this series of events would turn the business cold, though you may want to familiarise yourself with yogurt flavours in Chinese the next time you order.

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