The Flip Side of Social Media – A First hand experience

I had the first taste of the cost of social media during my recent trip to Singapore. I reached my hotel around 8pm on one evening and wanted to have a quick dinner as I was hungry. I didn’t have the patience to pick and choose a restaurant  nor did I have the time to travel to go to a place where Indian food is available. The hotel I stayed was in a place called Clark Quay Riverside, obviously a place meant for upwardly mobile Singaporeans. Nevertheless I decided to explore the place in search of an eating place. I walked around the Riverside which was great and refreshing but I had to cut it short as hunger pangs hit me hard. I looked around for an Italian restaurant and soon found one. I settled down in a cozy corner and waited for the waiter. The waiter came and gave me a menu card. I scanned through the card but needed some advice from the waiter.  ‘Firstly’, I told the waiter, ‘please understand I’m a vegetarian’ and added by way of abundant caution that I don’t even take eggs’. Strangely in many foreign countries egg is not considered as a non-vegetarian. The waiter nodded his head in appreciation and offered to bring pizza as his first option. But then I came to know  pizza size was too big for one person. I was, therefore, advised to take Pasta instead since the portions were small enough for one person. I settled for Pasta and started relaxing. Just then I heard a ping from my smart phone and I was curious to know who it could be from among my whats up groups. In retrospect, this was the beginning of my problem. Here’s how it unfolded.

I opened my What’s up chat groups and found that my family group was indeed active. I joined the group instantly to announce my arrival in Singapore. Just then the waiter came and asked me for my suggestions for toppings to Pasta. I said: put green vegetables liberally. I asked him to give me a list of vegetables available in the menu card. He said: Onions, sir. I said: fine and went back to my chat group. I texted a message to my daughter and son-in-law proudly announcing that my dinner had been ordered and it’s pasta in an Italian restaurant. The waiter in the meanwhile asked: Any other vegetable, sir?. I responded saying ‘Tomatoes’. As he noted down, I went back to my chat to reply to two comments already made – a wow from my daughter and one from my son-in-law with a hint of sarcasm. He said: yes, deep-fried pasta with a creamy cheese on top is indeed yummy! Defending myself feebly, I said: No, I’m told they only use virgin Olive Oil and returned to attend to my waiter’s next question on vegetables – do you want brocoli, Olives, cabbage and Brussels Sprouts too, sir?. I said: Yes, of course and went back to Whatsup chat.This time my daughter came to my rescue saying : Appa, don’t you worry. The vegetables and pasta are normally boiled in water for making pasta – not deep fried. My sister joined the chat and reprimanded my son-in-law saying: why don’t you allow him to have his dinner without feeling guilty about fat content or creamy layer and to encourage me added : Jamai meaning go ahead and enjoy!. As the light-hearted banter continued on what’s up, my waiter brought hot steaming pasta and I settled down to eat. The waiter wanted to know whether I cared for some drink. I ordered sparkling water which is nothing but our native good old soda. He promptly brought one huge bottle of my preferred drink. I ate and drank to my satisfaction. Pasta wasn’t all that great although I seemed to enjoy it as I was very hungry. I asked for the bill and the waiter came back with one. I was startled to see a huge bill for 45 Singapore dollars for a mere pasta dinner. I felt ripped off and asked the waiter to explain since I clearly remembered seeing a price of 17.9 Singapore dollars in the menu card. He brought the menu card and showed me how it all added up to 45 dollars. 17.9 dollars was for basic pasta with just tomato sauce. Each vegetable topping costs anywhere between 2 to 5 dollars each and the giant-sized sparkling water is also expensive at 8 dollars. Add taxes including GST and you have the final unbelievable figure of 45. What a scandalous dinner? I tried to reason without any merit or substance on my part, paid off and walked away. Not reading the fine print in the menu card was my fault after all! How can I hold anyone else responsible? I can, of course, blame it all on the ubiquitous Social Media – what’s up, FB etc for what it’s worth.

On the following day I shared my experience with my friends as we drove to Little India for our dinner. Little India in Singapore is an area which is full of Indian shops and restaurants. . The taxi driver who also heard my story said: Sir, Singapore is very expensive. In comparison, Kaulalampore and even China are much cheaper. Our taxi driver, from China, was a very talkative and a funny guy too. He added with a touch of humour:  ”One cannot afford to fall sick in Singapore; one can afford to die, though”. Comparing with China, he said: In contrast, in China one can afford to fall sick but cannot afford to die. The cemetery space and the associated costs are too steep in China for a common man.

While I always maintained that the social media is a complete waste of time, I never realized it can rob your pocket of your money too.  Technology is great as long as we use it as an important communication tool. It’s indeed great to be able to chat with your people sitting in a restaurant thousands of miles away. But in the excitement of it all, we tend to get carried away and forget the present and this can be costly at times.

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Published in: on March 12, 2017 at 1:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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