If there is one thing I learnt this weekend, it is that the power of Singapore’s online justice brigade is frighteningly effective.
After all, it was just on Saturday when Facebook user Kelly Yeo wrote a post to Caltex Singapore to recount an incident where she witnessed a customer allegedly declining to pay $135 for his petrol. The customer claimed that he had asked the pump attendant to fill up only $10 worth.
The pump attendant, who Ms Yeo estimated to be “in his early 60s”, explained that he thought the man had asked him to fill a full tank of petrol.
However, with the customer refusing to budge and pay for a full tank, the attendant eventually offered to absorb the extra cost of $125.
Ms Yeo’s post promptly went viral – it has garnered more than 1,300 shares since – and within hours, irate netizens had tracked down the identity of the customer in question.
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By Sunday, the alleged customer’s personal details, such as the company he works for and even his contact number, were being widely shared online. Updates on the whereabouts of the customer’s car are also being posted regularly.
Really, when it comes to leaking personal data, even Cambridge Analytica can’t compare to a fired-up Singapore online justice brigade.
But, let’s put all that aside for the moment. I would like to focus on and applaud those who stepped up and offered to cover the $125 for the pump attendant.
Do you know how hard it can be to get Singaporeans to part with their hard-earned money?
So, it was heartening to see how several netizens readily offered to right an injustice by putting their money where their mouth was – and offering to pay the $125 on behalf of the pump attendant.
Caltex Singapore has since issued a statement to assure everyone that the pump attendant will not “bear any financial obligation” from the incident. The statement also acknowledged the “solidarity and care shown towards our team at Caltex Tampines”, and thanked everyone for their “kindness and concern”.
The reaction to this incident has also made it clear that people in Singapore are more than willing to lend a helping hand whenever they perceive injustice has occurred.
But – and here’s the catch – it seems that this case of injustice must first go viral before we do anything about it.
There are many others in need in Singapore who could use our help – financially or otherwise – but may not have the opportunity, or social media presence, to be able to voice out their plight.
Look around you – the elderly cleaner, the disabled tissue-seller, or even the animals at a shelter. I’m sure any one of them could use your help.
And, at an even more basic level, acts of kindness and graciousness can be performed anywhere, at any time. Not just after it has been blown up on social media.
A final point to note regarding this incident – is it time for some establishments to look at their policies regarding mistakes?
While in my opinion, Caltex Singapore did the right thing in absolving their attendant from the need to pay the $125, there are several other establishments which aren’t as forgiving towards their employees’ mistakes.
How many times have you heard of a service staff having their pay deducted because they accidentally broke a plate, or mixed up an order?
So, while we as individuals work on being kinder to one another, perhaps it is also time for some companies to be kinder to their employees and recognise that everyone makes honest mistakes sometimes.
Just remember: kindness begets kindness. Unkind behaviour, on the other hand, can beget the terrifying ire of Singapore’s online justice brigade.
And trust me, you don’t want to fuel their anger.