Majority of self-pay machines at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre faulty
Most of them at three-year-old hawker centre in Hougang have been down for 'a long time'; management declines comment
Ci Yuan Hawker Centre in Hougang was the first in Singapore to have a self-payment facility at every stall when it opened in August 2015.
But a year later, the machines started to break down, and some have been out of order since, said hawkers.
The machine has an LCD screen that displays the customer's orders.
The customer inserts cash into the machine, which will dispense change if needed, eliminating the need for hawkers to handle cash, improving hygiene.
The machines can take notes up to $50 and coins of denominations starting from 10 cents.
But today, many of the bright red self-payment machines at Ci Yuan have white pieces of paper plastered over them, informing customers that they are out of order.
Customers now pay hawkers directly.
When The New Paper went to the hawker centre on Monday morning, 29 out of the 40 stalls that were open had faulty machines.
Some hawkers told TNP the machines have been down for six months, with some claiming several machines had not been working for almost two years.
Even when the machines were working, they were prone to breakdowns, they added.
The hawker centre is run by the Fei Siong Group, which declined to comment when approached.
When the machines were introduced in 2015, The Straits Times reported that the management did not want to reveal their cost, but said they were a "significant investment".
Other places that have self-payment facilities include the two-storey hawker centre at Jurong West Street 61, and supermarkets, such as FairPrice.
TNP understands that the hawkers at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre are charged a monthly rent for the use of the machines.
Hawkers said the rent is up to $200 a month. But since the machines broke down, they have not been charged, they added.
Some hawkers also said the management told them that they did not have the spare parts for the machines, so they cannot be fixed.
A hawker, who did not want to be named, said: "My machine has been down for almost a year. They (management) said they were going to repair it soon, but we've been waiting and there have been no updates."
While many hawkers agree that the machines make it more hygienic as they do not have to handle money, their unreliability has been a bugbear.
A fish soup hawker, who wanted to be known only as Mr Wu, said: "I prefer not to use them because every time the customer puts in a folded note, the machine will get jammed and I have to call someone to come and fix it."
Another hawker, who wanted to be known only as Mr Zhang, said: "Since I took over the stall early this year, the machine has been down. The previous tenant told me it had not been working for a long time."
While a few hawkers said the machines are slated to be replaced by the end of this year, others said they had not been given any notice of when the machines would be replaced.
Mr Ben Low, 29, has been a customer at the hawker centre since 2015 as he lives in the area.
He said: "In the first few months, the machines were fine. But when they became faulty, it became a real pain.
"Now, the machines are down. It defeats the purpose if they are not fixed."