Gooey raclette cheese is what keeps people coming back to The Western Co. for more — but a significant portion of folks are not fans after claiming to be turned off by the café’s allegedly poor service standards.
The western food joint recently had to close down their cosy stall at Foch Road Kopitiam, but reopened at 35 Tyrwhitt Road as a full-fledged café, still going strong with melted raclette cheese, generous food portions and an even bigger space to boot. There was however, no NETS payment system.
The lack of a NETS machine seemed to have sparked a big hullaballoo recently, according to upset patron Andy Wong. Recounting his experience on Facebook in a long rant, Wong claimed to have faced “one hell of a horrible experience” at The Western Co. with his group of friends.
It all started over a typo really — Wong had received a confirmation text of his table reservation with a “We only accept NETS”. Turning up at the café without cash, he enquired about the text message he got, to which the “lady over the counter” said that they could only accept cash.
Wong got upset about the whole thing and admitted that he grumbled about the situation to his friends at the table, even after having the cashier explain where the nearest ATM was. “No voice raised, no gestures or whatsoever,” Wong stated.
According to him, the lady — who turned out to be The Western Co. founder Larissa Yang — suddenly confronted him and asked his group to leave. Wong was shocked; he claimed to have been civil when talking to her at the counter with no voices raised at all.
“If I scolded you and/or used profanities and triggered that kinda reaction, ok I understand and will apologise immediately on the spot yesterday. But none of that happened. Totally blown away.”
Wong alleged that Yang was persistent in getting them to leave despite his friends’ attempts to calm her down and an intervention by her colleague. Nonetheless, the group got a refund, and Wong was left supremely irked by it all.
“He is out to hurt the establishment.”
Of course, that’s only one side of the story. Yang states that Wong actually reacted with extreme hostility — extreme enough that left her no choice but to ask him to leave.
“He is out to hurt the establishment. What more can I say?” said Yang to Coconuts Singapore. “Do you really think we opened a business to chase customers out? We need a living. I have seven staff members to pay. I have rent to pay. Why would I ask him to leave for no good reason?”
She admits that she had accidentally typed “we only accept NETs” in a text message confirmation for Wong. Though he claimed to have been a little upset by the miscommunication in his story, Yang alleges that he “flared up”, even after apologising for the typo.
He was said to have hurled vulgarities at her and continued acting pretty hostile even after being told that the ATM was just around the corner. According to her, he kept on harping about her mistyped message and ignored her apologies.
“We had no choice, but to ask the table to leave,” Yang explained. “This escalated very quickly, and we reserve all rights to refuse to serve customers who don’t offer minimal respect. We also refunded his friends their payment as they weren’t able to dine here.”
Regarding how she reacted, Yang admitted that she could have handled the situation better, but believes that he didn’t have to get so upset at her.
“What is done is done. Causative reaction; if he behaved like other customers — order first and paying later — it will be fine. We do that for some customers too.”
Gooey melted public relations
Regardless of whose side of the story is the truth, the damage has already been done for The Western Co.’s reputation. Many sided with Wong after claiming to have experienced for themselves how the café might have lacked in social media decorum in the past.
One user even pointed out an example of Yang’s blunt response to his critique of their dish:
“Yeah this was uncalled for,” says The Western Co. owner. “I don’t deny this”.
She clarifies that all the complaints have been from when they just started, and that haters will just keep bringing up the past.
Asserting that whatever Wong has posted about her café is untrue, she states that she’ll just continue striving to keep The Western Co. up and running.
“People are watching me; they want me to fail. But if I really do, I don’t think its a shame. I have learnt.”