SINGAPORE: More cashless payment options at hawker centres could be on the cards, as Singapore looks to drive up productivity among hawkers with a recently announced S$90 million fund.
NETS FlashPay first introduced the system at food centres in Beo Crescent and Clementi in 2014. The payment facility is now available at 15 hawker centres, with hawkers paying S$28 each month to use the FlashPay terminal.
Beo Crescent Food Centre hawker Joy Sim said fewer than ten customers daily use FlashPay. Of her total daily earnings of S$800 to S$1,000, Ms Sim's earnings via FlashPay amount to about S$20.
“The NETS system doesn't really help us. There are many buttons to press, and it holds the queue up when there are many customers. It slows our business down a little,” she said.
Other stall owners Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they have stopped using FlashPay as the electronic transactions occasionally do not go through or that the electronic device took up too much space in the stall.
In response, NETS said it engages hawkers in continuous discussions so that they are not left behind in adopting cashless payments.
"NETS welcomes the move by the Government to improve productivity within hawkers centres by facilitating cashless payments. We look forward to working with the various government agencies to implement cashless payments solutions to realise manpower and cost savings," it said.
GOING CASHLESS STILL HAS ITS BENEFITS
Still, other hawkers said going cashless has its benefits. "Using the NETS (terminal), from my experience, is much more convenient. We don't need to use coins, that's the main thing. When it comes to busy periods, there's no direct cash payments. It's more hygienic,” Patrick Sze, who runs Snow Mount at Clementi 448 Market and Food Centre, told Channel NewsAsia.
Another player – local firm Liquid Group – has rolled out its cashless Liquid Pay system in 33 hawker centres, with about 15 to 20 hawkers at each centre taking it up on average.
To pay, customers scan a QR code and key in the amount owed on the mobile application. This is then confirmed by the hawker, who receives an app notification. After the payment is made digitally, the users have to show their phone to the hawker for acknowledgement.
At Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre, where Liquid Group did a pilot programme of its system between August and October 2016, response has also been mixed.
Mr Loh Chao Kiat, the owner of Soylicious, said that it was good that Liquid Pay was app-based. "If there was a machine, I wouldn't use it as it takes up too much space, and each hawker stall already does not have much space," he said.
On the other hand, Chin Teck Chuan, who runs Penang Signature at the market, said it is troublesome for hawkers to check their phone for payment notifications. "If I don't, I can't verify that payment was made," Mr Chin said.
The group's founder Jeremy Tan said the entire payment process speeds up service, but noted that the general population could be apprehensive towards new technology as "we are creatures of habit".
"It's a function of trust as well. If you look at it, people who use payments by cash, they feel the cash, they feel the coins. So if we are moving to cashless (payments), we actually have to take very seriously how hawkers feel in terms of trust, trust in the system, trust in the operator," he said.
Liquid Group plans to expand its payment facilities to all hawkers centres by the end of the year.