Social Media Backlash Intensifies Towards Cafe Fest Singapore

Social media was up in arms and not because of the latest Stomp scandal.

Cafe Fest SG, a cafe-hopping event Saturday that transformed the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade into a street festival consisting music acts and 12 local cafe stalls, was not spared from the wrath of hundreds of festivalgoers who took to social media and their blogs to air their frustrations towards the event.

Most of those who shared visible anger were VIP ticket holders who paid some $30 in the hopes of enjoying the perks of the festival, as promised by organisers Tell Great Little Stories (TGLS). VIP perks included a tote bag filled with items worth $25, discounted items from the stalls, Uber rides and an exclusive VIP area to enjoy food and beverages whilst watching the musical performances.

More than 160 comments were left on an apology note on Cafe Fest SG’s Facebook page as of press time criticising the organisers for lax practices and not living up to expectations. Commenter Kelly Lau noted that in Cafe Fest SG’s frequently asked questions website page, the event had made clear that the purchase of food was only for pass holders and not for the public, which happened to be the case on Day 1 of the two-day event.

In the apology note, the organisers cited them being “too caught up with preparations”, highlighting that they created “this festival with the best of intentions, and we’re extremely disappointed we fell short of your expectations”. This did little to placate festivalgoers, even though an avenue was opened up for pass holders to seek refunds.

Criticism came in for the manner in which passes were offered. Instagram page @cafeconfestsg slammed the implementation of the “Just In Time” festival pass mere weeks before the event, which gave out a 3-month premium membership to Spotify worth $29. Normal and VIP pass holders were not accorded this privilege. Popspoken earlier reported that Spotify premium membership codes would be given out as lucky draw prizes instead.

The Instagram page also highlighted the disparity in goodie bag offerings on the second day of the festival, after the dismal offerings on the first day. Added items included a 20% discount voucher from Fred Perry and a $60 discount voucher for Momentum headphones from Sennheiser.


Others also complained of the paltry $1 discounts in food and beverages for pass holders and the lack of express queues for VIP holders, resulting in many stalls selling out their wares to non-pass holders. Mark Chua wrote on The Shutterwhale that he would have to drink 30 cups of coffee to recoup his VIP pass prices.

Although security was tighter on the second day to the VIP sheltered tent, that did not deter many who came on the first day from highlighting that there were no security personnel or volunteers controlling entry to the VIP section, nor was such a section clearly demarcated. Qianling Ang also highlighted that the promo code for the free Uber ride could have spread across non-pass holders and the promised welcome drink was poured into “little paper cups” instead. Erliana Zaid also blogged on how the social media campaign made participants type out three long hashtags, which is considered a no-no in a social world of brevity.

An article on national daily Today quoted the organisers as saying that the decision to make the event open to public was one that was reached “halfway” through the preparation to the event. In response, commenter Carolyn Wong noted that the event company was still pushing for tickets to be sold only two days before the festival.

Some of the cafes that took part.
Some of the cafes that took part.

Organisers Sarah Lek and Gabriel Tan both have prior experience in the fields of public relations before setting up TGLS. Sarah was working for top PR firm Ogilvy Public Relations and local stalwart Word Of Mouth Communications, while Gabriel plied his trade at Weber Shandwick before moving to Ogilvy to do public relations.


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