A heated argument between a customer and a cai png (vegetable & rice) stall owner escalated into physical violence on the evening of 28 May 2023 at the Bedok Interchange cooked food centre. 

The incident, which occurred around 7 pm, led to the involvement of the police and attracted a crowd of onlookers.

Enthusiastic witnesses at the scene promptly reported the fight, sharing a video that captured the altercation. 

According to reports, the customer had allegedly assaulted the cai png storeowner as he was dissatisfied that the owner gave him too little chicken for his meal.

Customer Unsatisfied With Small Portion Sizes in Meal

Image: Lianhe Zaobao

In the footage uploaded by citizens, a middle-aged uncle, the unnamed culprit, was seen seated barefoot on the floor with a pair of slippers strewn nearby. 

Meanwhile, the stall owner, dressed in black and accompanied by a white-clad assistant, could be observed in another corner. 

Police officers were observed to have arrived swiftly to investigate the matter while curious members of the public gathered to witness the unfolding events.

According to Mr Cai Jiangxing, the 55-year-old vegetable and rice stall owner, the uncle and his wife had visited the stall in the evening, ordering various dishes, including curry chicken. 

However, they expressed dissatisfaction with the portion of chicken provided and confronted Mr Cai about it.

According to Mr Cai, the uncle had gotten irrationally angry at the small portion size and questioned Mr Cai if he thought he couldn’t afford to pay for a more significant portion of chicken.

In response, Mr Cai explained that he tried to appease the uncle by calmly offering to add more chicken to the dish.

However, he did inform the uncle that there would be an additional charge for the extra meat. 

Following this exchange, the uncle promptly left the stall after requesting the additional chicken.

Things should end here, but things only took a turn for the worst.

Ambushed Cai Png Store Owner While He Was On the Way To The Bathroom

To Mr Cai’s surprise, when he went to the bathroom later, he suddenly felt a forceful grip on his head from behind.

According to him, the assailant, who was later revealed to be the uncle, had forcefully slammed his head against the wall twice before vanishing.

Mr Cai stated that the uncle had also punched him in the face, prompting him to call the police. 

Image: Lianhe Zaobao

This resulted in him sustaining significant injuries, with blood still trickling from the gap between his teeth when he responded to Lianhe Zaobao’s reporters, who had visited the area.

Furthermore, when he was interviewed, he had to wipe the persistent bleeding with a tissue repeatedly, but the bleeding continued.

He expressed his frustration regarding the incident, stating that he didn’t see the need for violence over such a minor matter.

Moreover, he emphasised that the uncle could have communicated his request civilly if he had wanted more chicken. 

Meanwhile, despite sustaining injuries, Mr Cai decided not to seek immediate medical attention. 

He continued to manage his stall, emphasising his commitment to his responsibilities and explaining that he couldn’t leave the stall as he still had to take care of the day’s business.

Police Investigations Are Ongoing

After receiving Mr Cai’s report, the police quickly arrived at the food centre. 

They verified that his injuries did not require hospitalisation, and he could still tend to his store if he insisted.

Meanwhile, the 47-year-old uncle involved in the incident is cooperating with the police in their investigation.

The decision on what actions to take against the uncle is still pending as the authorities aim to understand better the circumstances surrounding the altercation.

However, he could face charges under section 352 of the Penal Code.

It is worth mentioning that the uncle assaulted the store owner without him displaying any significant or sudden provocation. 

Consequently, if found guilty, the uncle could be sentenced to a maximum of three months in prison, a fine of up to $1,500, or both.

Regrettably, abuse targeting food and beverage (F&B) stall owners are all too common.

While F&B owners already face numerous challenges, including escalating food costs, demanding customers, and managing long queues, customers like the unruly uncle mentioned earlier only exacerbate an already difficult situation.

Similarly, in March 2022, two diners at the Fat Po restaurant at Tebing Lane caused extensive damage to the establishment’s property. 

They went even further by making threats of physical harm towards the staff and a fellow customer who had called them out for smoking in the non-smoking establishment.

Instances of abuse are not limited to physical acts alone. 

There have been numerous instances of demanding customers, such as the man caught on video verbally abusing a staff member at the Oasis Terraces McDonald’s outlet in Punggol in July 2021, contributing to the problem as well.

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