Complaints about free masks and cheap mobile plans

They sounded fed up. The Straits Times Facebook readers’ responses ranged from the passive-aggressive “Okay, sorry, give you free, okay? Everything free, okay?”, to the shouty all-caps “It’s FREE! Take it or leave it. Just don’t complain for the sake of complaining”.

They were frustrated with netizens trashing the free masks given to Singapore residents, as well as the mobile data plans that will cost as little as $5 a month for low-income seniors.

But don’t people have the right to give feedback even if the items are free or subsidised? Don’t the man in the street and the needy get to shape what society deems fit to give to them?

Here’s what is being given out and why it is riling up readers.

LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH

Singapore residents can each collect two free reusable antimicrobial masks, thanks to Temasek Foundation, until 11.59pm on July 12.

The mask distribution exercise follows three earlier ones by the Government.

The first was held in February, when all 1.3 million households in Singapore were each given a pack of four surgical masks. The second exercise in April saw residents receiving reusable masks. In the third exercise in late May, residents collected improved reusable masks with better protective qualities.

These mask giveaways looked good for many, on the face of it.

ST Facebook users like Linda Cheong said: “Thank you. My current one has been washed more than 30 times already. This giveaway is so timely.”

But others gave more scrutiny to the masks.

Tan Lai Chan said: “No point giving free masks that are uncomfortable to wear. Please purchase better quality masks, so that people… will wear them.”


A mask vending machine at Bishan Community Club. The latest mask distribution exercise follows three earlier ones by the Government. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Dennis Ng Lian Yee wrote: “Lousy mask. Worse than the first issue one.”

ST Facebook users like Chua Andy Tan said: “Relax, lah. It’s FREE. If you don’t want it, can don’t take it. Let others have it.” Khismet Tsuri said: “Give already complain. Don’t give also complain. You just can’t win with some people.”

NOTABLE TRENDS

WILDLIFE, THEME PARKS REOPENED: ST Facebook users were happy that attractions including the zoo and Universal Studios Singapore were reopened from last Wednesday. Natalie Ann Chin exclaimed: “YAAS! USS is opening! I’m happy but have no intention to go.” Now, how many people feel happy but wary about Covid-19 infections too?

TAIWAN FAKE FLIGHTS: When ST Facebook users read about a Taiwanese airport letting people check in, go through passport control and security, and board the aircraft without ever taking off, many wanted some of that too. Jackson Gan wrote: “Can we do that too? Say an one-hour flight, just take off fly somewhere without landing in other airports, then back to SG, just for the fun of it. Call it flycation. Yes it’s a boliao trip, but we are bored, aren’t we?”

Well, how can you win when some people find being given free things repeatedly unbearable.

Mellissa Halim exclaimed: “How many times do you want us to collect masks?!”

Zero, actually.

Nobody is holding a (thermometer) gun to anyone’s head to collect a freebie. Faraq Khan replied: “Mellissa Halim, you can choose not to collect. Duh?”

Simply cheering for the free mask exercises got some netizens making shady insinuations.

When Difuntorum Batrina Sonia wrote that “Singaporean residents are very lucky to get a free mask from their government. In other countries, you buy your own mask”, other readers like Isabel Kang said: “Nothing is free. Right pocket in, left pocket out.”

Philip Lim said: “Difuntorum Batrina Sonia, seriously, you think is free?”, while Zaini Salleh said: “Just a mask… You are easily bought.”

CHEAP PHONES

The other announcement which got some netizens grumbling was a subsidised mobile plan.

From this month, low-income seniors will be able to sign up for affordable one-year mobile data plans that cost as little as $5 per month for 5GB, as part of a national initiative to get them connected online.

Basic smartphones starting at $20 will be bundled with the mobile plans under the Mobile Access for Seniors scheme. There will also be no excess data charges, and surfing speeds will be throttled should seniors inadvertently exceed their data limits.

The plans will be offered by Singtel, StarHub, M1 and TPG Telecom. Seniors have to be aged 60 and above, and receiving Comcare assistance or be living in HDB Public Rental Scheme housing, to qualify for the scheme.

But Facebook users like Raja Kannappan said: “I guess seniors 60 and above have lived most of their lives without a mobile phone. They know how to communicate without a mobile phone. This plan is only going to increase their living cost.”

Freda Hashim said: “Please, you think most old people have the savings (for) the charges, the late payments. Please lah, you just make their life more difficult in this Covid-19 situation.”

Like in the case of people complaining about the free masks, other readers said, come on, take it or leave it.

Ihsahn Mohd wrote, “Freda Hashim, it’s not like they are forcing them to buy”, while Ge Song Liang said: “Give also wrong, don’t give also wrong. Got force you to buy, meh, the phone, and subscribe to the plan, meh?”

And like in the case of people making insinuations about the free masks, some online users are also thinking, beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Anak Sin said: “Pity the seniors with low/no income. Let the upselling begin.

“Enquire about $20 phone and $5/month plan, end up $50/month on a 2-year contract for $500 phone and $25/month data.”

Some were also suspicious about the timing. David Lee wondered: “Why only now?”

Huifen Ye said cryptically: “David Lee, you know I know they know.”

So philanthropists and the powers that be, now you know: Giving people free things could open a Pandora’s box of complaints and conspiracy theories.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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