Singapore’s rich hawker culture—consisting of food courts with permanent stalls that have replaced street hawkers—has been incentivised to enable cashless payments, but while around half now offer this option, the majority prefer cash for the speed and security it offers.
Singapore’s 18,000 hawkers were offered a $300 bonus (US$225/€185) for conducting at least 20 cashless transactions per month. Despite this, many have passed on the offer, insisting cash is still king. One hawker on Airport Road says it is a matter of convenience, since juggling both cash and an e-payment system would be ‘very troublesome’ during rush hours.
Another hawker, at Toa Payoh, feels it would waste time trying to handle an app when taking cash is quick and seamless. Given speed of service is a key element of street food culture, he notes: ‘Customers don’t want to be kept waiting as I slowly key in the amount.’
Another concern is the reliability of cashless payment systems. Some hawkers who are accepting them have lost revenue as a result of unscrupulous customers exploiting slow processes.
There is a lag time between [cashless] transactions going through and appearing on our end. People found ways to game the system. It results in money lost for us.”
Another method used by scammers is to show screenshots of genuine transactions they have previously made as proof of payment, or to quickly show hawkers the pre-payment page, then not actually approve the transaction.
While cashless payment options have been welcomed by some customers—fraudsters among them—it seems that when it comes to making quick, completely reliable payments, cash reigns supreme.
It really hurts our earnings and these things add up. Going cashless is convenient, but if there are consistent monetary losses, maybe we should stick to cash.”