It's a common practice in the heartland.
A customer orders his food to go and then leaves, before returning some time later to pick up his meal. No deposit is asked and often, none given.
That's how it has always been.
But that honour system was seriously tested for Mr Chai Kok Sing when a man fooled him into preparing a big order of chicken rice and lending him money.
For a man who sells around 300 plates of chicken rice a day, an extra order of 150 packets is a nice bonus.
So when a "decent" looking man made the order, Mr Chai, who runs Ah Boy Chicken Rice at Block 678A, Choa Chu Kang Crescent, prepared them.
The chicken rice sold at the stall was praised last year by Celebrity Chef Eric Teo for being one of the best he has tasted in Singapore.
Mr Chai, 40, also agreed to give the man a discount - $2.80 per packet instead of the usual $3. But he did not collect a deposit for the $420 order.
To make matters worse, he lent the man $52.80. The customer never returned and he ended up giving away the packets of chicken rice.
A visibly disappointed Mr Chai said: "I was preparing to close the shop and I didn't want the chicken rice to go to waste. I am not very angry but I feel the man shouldn't have taken advantage of my kindness."
He told The New Paper that the man in his 30s approached his stall at around 5pm on April 3 and ordered 100 packets of chicken rice.
"He asked for the chicken meat to be cut into smaller pieces and the skin to be removed.
"He also asked me for a discount so I charged him $2.80 for a packet, which usually costs $3.
"He said he wanted to order the chicken rice for his children at home."
After placing his order, the man walked to the AI M28 Minimart, a provision shop next to the coffee shop.
He returned about 10 minutes later and asked to borrow $50 from Mr Chai.
"He said he wanted to buy drinks for his wife's company party but was short of money," said Mr Chai.
"Customers whom I have lent up to $20 before repaid me, plus this man looked honest, so I wasn't worried he would cheat me," said Mr Chai, who has been running the stall for seven years.
With $50 in hand, the man headed to the provision shop and returned.
This time, he claimed to be short of $2.80 and asked to borrow from Mr Chai, who was busy preparing the chicken rice.
After ordering another 50 packets of chicken rice, he walked back to the provision shop.
Said Mr Chai: "I was happy when I heard the additional order since I usually only receive orders of up to 80."
He saw him about 15 minutes later.
"I was busy preparing his orders and another customer's when I saw him. He was relaxed, sitting at a table and waiting."
At 7pm, the man left and never returned.
"He told me he would collect the chicken rice at 9pm but I never saw him again," said Mr Chai, who explained that it was not just about the money.
"I spent an hour preparing the food.
"After this episode, I will ask for deposits from customers with orders of more than 50 packets of chicken rice."
Mr Chai said he is more disappointed than angry. But he called the police the next day after other stall owners persuaded him to.
"It is natural to serve customers what they want, and such orders are built on trust and are not illegal," he said.
Mr Yu Cheng Long, 28, a sales assistant at the provision shop, said: "He said he was here to collect drinks for a party. He wanted to buy 20 boxes of assorted packet drinks."
Mr Yu placed the boxes of drinks at the counter, but the man walked away without buying.
"He said his wife would be picking him up in her car," Mr Yu said, adding that the man walked in a second time but only looked around.
This article was published on April 9 in The New Paper.
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