Out to shop, when prices drop

SINGAPORE - Free kueh, ketupat (Malay rice dumpling), which originally cost $3.50 each, going for 50 cents, and carpets at half price.

It was no wonder that at 4am on Thursday night, Geylang Serai was still packed with people doing last-minute shopping for Hari Raya Puasa.

Bargain hunters in their thousands made it so crowded that it took this reporter half an hour just to weave through the 500m stretch of stalls in Geylang Serai.

At 4am, stall assistant Salim Sajim, 59, started giving away unsold cakes and kueh. They had cost $10 for three boxes originally.

And in less than five minutes, all 20 leftover boxes were snapped up.

But Mr Salim and his fellow stall assistants did not mind giving away food for free .

He said: "We had sold enough on Thursday night and business was okay.

"There is no point in keeping these leftover cakes, kueh and chocolate rolls. We can't keep and finish everything, so we might as well give them away."

Across the road, Ms Maya Nonis was also steadily reducing the prices of her 2,000 leftover ketupat.

"We started selling them at $3.50 each. As the night went on, we charged customers $10 for four and then 50 cents each," she said.

The remaining ketupat sat untouched on the counter until 5.30am. That was when she gave the green light for her stall assistants - who are her family members - to holler: "Free ketupat, free ketupat."

Almost at once, bargain hunters showed up and snapped up plastic bags full of the dumplings in an orderly manner.

Mastering the art of last-minute shopping did pay off after all for some, it seemed.

One last-minute shopper, who wanted to be known only as Ms Wann and is in her 40s, said she preferred going to the bazaar at about 5am.

"It's easier for me to move around, especially after I had a stroke a few years ago," explained Ms Wann, who was on a wheelchair.

"There are fewer people and the things sold at this time are cheaper."

Another bargain hunter, Mr Mohd Murshid, 45, said he is no stranger to these price slashings, having been a stall operator at the Geylang Serai bazaar seven years ago.

"I know that everything becomes cheap at the last hour and some hawkers even give away their leftover food for free," he said.

But he admitted that it would take patience to secure products at the desired price.

"My wife didn't want to wait for the ketupat to become cheaper at first, and just bought a huge packet (of 100) for $50. But now those are going at $10 (and eventually were given away for free)," he said.

"If we had been patient, we could have saved at least $40."

Business not as good

Stall operators who spoke to The New Paper on Thursday night all said that business had not been as good as last year.

Miss Fira, 25, who had helped her mum run a stall selling snacks such as pineapple tarts and crackers, said: "The crowd was not as good this year. Perhaps, this was because of similar bazaars opening up around Singapore."

Mr Zulhilmi Ahmad, 23, who manned a display flower stall, said the feeling of the old Geylang Serai Baazar was fading.

"It felt more like your normal pasar malam (night market) than a huge, crowded and bustling bazaar.

"The crowd was much smaller this year, about half of that of previous years," he said.

The Geylang Serai Hari Raya Puasa bazaar dates back to the 1970s and this year's edition had more than 1,700 stalls.



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