Last evening, few of us were at Blk 476 Tampines St 41 “Everyday Come” or “天天来” coffee shop. This is the first time I’ve been there. The lady proprietress, namely Mdm Bee of the Tze Char stall is a good friend of Freddie.
Mdm Bee currently runs three Tze Char outlets in different parts of Singapore. Freddie is one the many regular customers of this coffee shop Tze Char stall.
Since Freddie’s main hobby is to buy freshly caught fish from those fishermen in Changi Village, he would park some of the excess fish in Mdm Bee’s fridge. That’s after having generously distributed those fish, like Santa Claus to his siblings, relatives and friends. Whenever Freddie is in the mood for a drink, he would drop by Mdm Bee’s coffee shop and request that those fish parked inside the fridge to be cooked and consumed in the coffee shop. Of course, Freddie usually pays Mdm Bee for the fish and food preparation.
Four dishes were immediately whipped out from Mdm Bee’s kitchen – a huge fish brought here earlier by Freddie, a vegetable dish, black sauced pork leg and spring rolls. Freddie ordered half a dozen of beer for all of us.
The whole place is an open food court right in the middle between two blocks of HDB flats. Two big coffee shops – Chinese and Muslim coffee shops anchored at each opposite block of flats at the fringe of the open space facing each other. You could see all kinds of customers dinning there. We all got along fine with our own friends or family members enjoying a meal or beer nestled and hidden between two HDB block of flats. So much vibrancy and hive of activity in such a small compact place. You can’t see it from the main road until you walk into it. It’s so inconspicuous from the outside but so obvious as you walk nearer to that hidden food court.
In between her brisk business orders, Mdm Bee would drop by to chit chat with us. According to her, there is a famous local blogger – which I shall not mention here, demanded $8,000 to write a detailed blog about her Tze Char business. That blogger promises to write glowingly and promote Mdm Bee’s Tze Char stall if she is willing to pay $8,000. Wow, it’s equivalent to my 3 months pay!
I told Mdm Bee that I should blog full time on food and go around collecting thousands of dollars. No need to work 9 hours a day driving trains! KNN! That local blogger thought money drop from the sky is it? I assured Mdm Bee that I would blog her Tze Char stall for free. No need to pay me. I regretted saying that cuz when I wanted to pay for the food, Mdm Bee refused to accept any payment. Alamak! As friends, I do not wish to take advantage of her generosity. Sometimes, if we patronize friends’ shops, we just want better value for our money and not end up being over-charged, we would be very satisfied.
Later when the crowd thinned out, Mdm Bee sat down on our table to chit chat. It’s here that I learnt about her frustrations and challenges in running more than three Tze Char outlets. She virtually works her ass out sleeping only few hours a day with so much problems and nitty issues facing her. The pressure to bring in the minimum income or she would go bust paying her workers and coping with high rentals would really deter anyone from taking up her line. If she didn’t tell me some of her problems, I would have thought that money is easily made and her life is a bed of roses.
Mdm Bee is a typical Singaporean working very hard for her money. She is against all those new citizens pushing up property prices and causing so much social divide in our country. Of course, PM’s recent declaration of 6 million population and that retard’s statement on national TV widely reported in the local Chinese newspapers that $3,000 can’t find any local dishwasher were hot topics we discussed about.
Mdm Bee says that she would have to employ two locals if she were to get a Malaysian worker. She would need to employ 10 locals to get a PRC worker. On top of the quota, she would have to pay cash $500 (next month it’s $600) per foreign worker to MOM. So many locals and Malaysians are quoting the $3,000 a month dishwasher statement that she is having a hard time gettiing locals or foreigners to work for her. They demand the equivalent but not realising all the attached terms and conditions. That statement by that retard really hurt her business or ＂害死人＂so she says.
Mdm Bee says that if she and other Tze Char stall operators have to pay highly for her workers, the resulting high costs will be passed on to the consumers. Cooked food will not be that cheap anymore. She agrees that the government should allow lots of work permit workers but not approving so much new citizens. When we heard that, we counter Mdm Bee that the government wants her to employ more locals by increasing the foreign worker levy and quota. The government does not want you to employ more foreigners at the expense of locals.
Mdm Bee challenged us to get for her more local workers. But if every local comes to her demanding $3,000 salary, she would have to close shop! She quoted a normal Malaysian worker with work permit working for about 10 hours a day paid $1,300 plus $500 levy. That is about $1,800. Mdm Bee still has to provide housing accommodation which is not cheap due to high property prices and also food for that worker. Total costs are more than $2,000. Mdm Bee does not mind paying about $1,800 to a local – which is higher than the starting pay of train drivers or bus drivers. At least there is no paper work or foreign worker agency involved even though she will still need to pay CPF for that local worker. Foreign workers need not pay CPF.
Next month. the worker levy will go up to $600! Life is hard for her and hard times will be getting harder.
It seems that eking out a decent living in our globalized economy is a daily struggle. Wonder no more why bringing up more children is a challenge few would dare undertake.
PS: Freddie’s good friend, Leonard specially came down to meet me. He’s one of the many loyal followers of this blog. Nice meeting him.