Lifestyle The Frugal Handbook

TFH #16: Calling For Help

In today’s online world, just about anything and everything is digitised.

As a result, when we need to get things done, we often turn to mobile apps and websites for solutions.

However, there are times when an older form of technology – phone calls – may be able to provide us with better solutions.

Even though everyone carries at least 1 phone with them wherever they go, many people don’t seem to like using their phones to make calls anymore.

Here are some examples of situations where making a simple phone call might be more effective than relying on digital solutions.

Placing Hawker Orders

Eating hawker food is something that almost everyone in Singapore enjoys.

Queueing for hawker food, though, is quite the opposite – because who really likes queueing up for anything?

Regardless of how good a hawker’s food might be, if you queue too long for it, you probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

The longest I’ve ever queued for hawker food was when I stood in line for a dreadful 3h at ABC Brickworks’ Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Mee.

That was the day when I learned about this life hack and it changed my life.

The thing that puzzled me was that I had already come early (before they opened) and the queue wasn’t even that long – so how did I end up waiting for 3h to reach the front of the queue?

Well, it turns out that there were many more people in front of me other than those standing in line, but I couldn’t see them – people who had called the stall auntie to place their pickup order.

Phone orders were prioritised over the walk-in orders because phone orders were set for a specific time and walk-in orders weren’t.

And it didn’t help that the stall uncle was the only one preparing the orders and everyone ordered multiple servings.

I remember that even when I was at the front of the queue, I still had to wait for several phone orders to be fulfilled before my order was finally ready.

When I saw the stack of business cards with their phone number on it sitting at the front of the stall, I kept one, and to this date, I haven’t spent another minute queueing in line for their hokkien mee.

While an increasing number of hawker stalls are now available on food delivery apps like GrabFood and foodpanda that allow you to place orders online either for delivery or self-pickup, many stalls still aren’t.

And those that are on these online platforms tend to have their prices marked up by 20 – 30%, probably to offset the platform fee and other fees involved.

Many hawker stalls accept phone orders and you don’t have to pay a premium, which gives you the best of both worlds – saving both time and money.

Now, whenever I come across good hawker food, I make it a point to ask if they accept phone orders so I have the option of returning knowing that I won’t have to queue.

Making Reservations

There are many apps and websites that allow us to make reservations at restaurants online.

When we see that there are no more reservation slots online, we think that the restaurant must be full at that time, and either opt for a different day or restaurant.

However, the restaurant may not really be fully booked – it may just be fully booked for online reservations and have more tables set aside.

For a couple of times now, I’ve successfully made phone reservations by calling the restaurant directly just to try my luck even when it says online that they’re fully booked.

Of course, this doesn’t work every time, but it’s worth a shot.

Clarifying Information

Even though information does, for the most part, lie around somewhere on the internet, it may not be quickly found or understandable by the masses.

Detailed information may only be provided in the terms & conditions and no one really wants to go through pages of text trying to sieve out which information is or isn’t important.

And even when you do find the information you need, there may still be other things that you require clarification on.

At times like this, instead of scrambling through the internet, it might be easier to drop a call to customer service.

Getting information directly from the source will provide assurance that you have accurate information and you will be able to clarify any doubts with them.

Also, in the event that you encounter issues or discrepancies in the future, you can say that you got such information from their customer service, which may increase the chances of you getting some form of compensation, if applicable.

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