All prickly over pricey prawns

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IDENTIFY this scenario: An exorbitant amount of money is paid to several employees because it is a sum contractually owed to them, even if many people feel they do not deserve it. This is followed by a very public protest and a flustered attempt to get the money back, by legal means if necessary.

Answer: If you're thinking of AIG, think again. We're talking about the exorbitant amount of money paid by a group of American tourists to the workers of stall 43 at Newton Hawker Centre for eight debatably large prawns. And the subsequent calls for them to get their money back and restore Singapore's reputation as Asia's competitively priced grilled seafood hub.

Indeed, not many are privy to the secret hearing that was assembled and here's what transpired:

Panel leader: 'What makes you think that your eight tiger prawns are worth the $239 that you expected the American tourists to pay?'

Stallowner: 'Hello, my prawns are very big, do you think you can find such big ones in your local wet market? I put up the price very clearly at my stall. $8 per 100gm. You eat, you pay up. If you don't want to pay, then you talk to my cashier. Ya, that's the one with the very big muscles and the tattoo of a giant crayfish on each bicep.'

Panel leader: 'Yes, contractually speaking, they are obliged to pay. But it is morally irresponsible to overcharge them the way you did. Especially with the current economic situation.'

Stallowner: 'The prices were set before the recession. My workers' commissions were negotiated before the recession. We have been overcharging, I mean, selling at these prices way before the recession. How can I change just because some people say it's not fair?'

Panel leader: 'You're incorrigible! How can you jeopardise our reputation for fair pricing?'

Stallowner: 'You don't have to order prawns, you know. You can eat BBQ stingray, baby squid. Small chicken.'

Panel leader: 'Because of people like you, tourists will be afraid of coming to Singapore because they will think that all hawkers tout and have scary-looking tattoos. This will have a negative effect on our tourism industry and you do not show any remorse!'

Stallowner: 'But I never hear anyone complain that my prawns are not delicious.'

Panel leader: 'That's it. We are going to recommend that you are slapped with the heaviest penalty possible - your stall will be closed for three months, and your, uh, cashier, cannot work for you for one year until he learns to be more diplomatic about the way he collects money.'

Stallowner: 'What?! Then what am I going to do for money?'

Panel leader: 'Well, you could learn new skills like everybody else. Maybe you could try selling something else, like motor insurance?'


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