Refer to our latest open letter to our Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, https://vendshare.net/5vs200/
Rice Media Pte Ltd
27 Ann Siang Rd,
Attn: Mr. Ivan K. Wu
YOUR ARTICLE “THESE SINGAPOREANS LOST MONEY IN A FINANCIAL SCHEME. WHAT CAN THEY ACTUALLY DO ABOUT IT?” PUBLISHED ON 18 MARCH 2021 (“your Article”)
1. I write with reference to your Article and wish to make certain observations relating thereto.
2. As a preliminary note, I am of the opinion that your Article does not conform to several codes of conduct expected of professional journalists. In these regards, I point you to the four ethical principles in the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Code of Ethics:
(a) seek truth and report it;
(b) minimize harm;
(c) act independently; and
(d) be accountable
3. The relevance of the foregoing principles in the local context has been recognised by the Nanyang Technological University in its article “Changing Views on Media Ethics and Societal Functions Among Students in Singapore” Detenber, B. H., & Rosenthal, S. (2014). Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 29(2), 108125.
4. Under the heading of “seek truth and report it”, you are obliged, inter alia, to
(a) take responsibility for the accuracy of your work;
(b) verify information before releasing it;
(c) Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story;
(d) Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources;
(e) Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted; and
(f) Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
5. While not following through what is required of journalism ethics you have concluded that my business is a “financial scheme”; have urged your readers to make more police reports against me; have rallied franchisees to write in to the franchisees who have spoken to you (the “dissatisfied franchisees”), although you acknowledge that these number in the minority of franchisees; you have implied that people who have signed up for my business have not taken any action because they are afraid to be perceived as “gullible or stupid”, etc, without even having first reached out to me to allow my side of the story to be told. You have sought in no way to “minimise harm” to me and have believed wholesale what the small “fraction” of franchisees have discussed with you, and have further allowed them to make all these statements under the cloak of anonymity without even seeking to explain why such anonymity is needed. If you are confident enough to open your company up to allegations of defamation by publishing their untruths, why are you not confident enough to publish their names by assuring them that they would be protected by the defence of justification if they indeed have spoken nothing but the truth?
6. The general tenor of your Article, and numerous statements therein are defamatory of me and my business and I am presently taking legal advice in relation to the same. In the meantime, let me correct some of the glaring mistakes made by you by way of this open letter:
(a) You claim that “Raymond has collected deposits from over 200 Singaporeans under the Vendshare scheme”.
This is entirely untrue. My business is not a financial scheme or investment scheme. It is a franchise programme, like so many other franchised businesses in Singapore. For example, during the COVID lockdown period, many franchisees, including F&B franchisees, have lost revenue. By extension of your point of view, have all of these F&B franchisees been involved in a “financial scheme” which had cost them money for which they need to make police reports about? F&B franchisees obtain licensing rights over certain brands of food and beverage which they independently exploit for revenue under the brand guidelines of the franchisors. In my case, my franchisees are purchasing rights to vending machines and the rights to use certain trade marks within a period of time within a territory under guidelines which have been established. If the vending machines make money, they make money. If the vending machines don’t make money they don’t make money. In the age of COVID-19, where so many office locations previously procured by us have become dramatically less busy due to the circuit breaker measures, some of our franchisees have not done well and have been deprived of revenue which would have been due to them if the vending machines performed better.
In light of COVID-19 we sought the buy-in from franchisees and pivoted the business by shifting the vending machines in the otherwise busy CBD areas to hospital venues which worked hard to procure, in the belief that on top of the fact that hospitals would never be locked down in a medical crisis, it would also provide front-liners comfort to defend our country against the COVID19 pandemic. So far, we have provided more than 30,000 cups of coffee to the frontline fighters against COVID19. In an effort to increase goodwill in the brand for the benefit of the brand and the franchise, we had even organised the first ever online Zoom-Facebook event interviewing the founder of Food Bank – their mission is to bring food to those families or individuals most affected by the circuit breaker. Many of them are low-income families which may have problems with even basic meal requirements.
We also absorbed the losses of many locations affected by COVID19 for 1 year. Although we could legally have asked the franchisees to top up to pay for the operating losses, we had chosen not to exercise our legal rights at this time, given that some of our franchisees have lost their jobs and are facing financial difficulties as well.
(b) You claim that “complaints about Raymond’s company Candle Consulting Pte Ltd have also been published on a website called Scamsg.com, where one reviewer alleges that Vendshare is ‘a complete scam’.”
We urge you to understand that the said website presents an opportunity to anyone who wishes to publish their points of view to publish it, without any verification as to underlying facts. Aside from the “complete scam” statement made on the site, there have been several other statements such as the following,
“Hi, as a franchisee and staff myself, i just like to share my own understanding
1) I have gotten 3 payout from profitable locations
2) Non-profitable locations has nothing to pay out, so hence people don’t get payout because their location is not profitable.
3) Free shares of vending machine has been given out of goodwill.
2020-12-01 14:16:08 – P.K.Tan”.
Is there a reason why you have selectively published only one derogatory statement? Have you reached a conclusion internally on the matter and are you only looking to present arguments that would advance your conclusion with no regard for the ultimate truth?
(c) Your disregard for the truth extends further still. To quote, you state, “according to franchisees who went to the police, SPF declined to investigate further, explaining that there was currently “not enough evidence”, and “not enough police reports” being filed….Finally, in ‘law and order’ Singapore, how many police reports need to be filed against one individual/business for SPF to take action?”
Would it be difficult for you to understand that perhaps the police are doing their jobs and have simply found the absence of a case in what has been presented by the dissatisfied franchisees? Or would the police force have to take your instructions now or else be perceived as not doing their jobs?
(d) You claim to be quoting from a “Winston” when you said “the returns he was promising — $200 per month per lot — sounded quite reasonable. It didn’t feel like a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme.”
You are put to strict proof that promises of payment were ever made.
(e) You claim, in the case of Peter that “before he left the station, the IO told Peter not to respond to these investment schemes in the future. “But he’s already taken my money!” exclaimed Peter.”
You are put to strict proof that the IO had indeed made such a statement.
(f) You claim that “despite the fact that there are numerous allegations against Raymond which appear to provide reasonable grounds for investigating or inquiring into Vendshare’s operations, it is unclear whether investigations are ongoing, or what actions are being taken to look into Raymond’s conduct.”
You are challenged to lay down your “reasonable grounds”. Have you read the Franchise Agreement yourself? Have you spoken to other franchisees other than those who have been readily available to you because they are dissatisfied and wish for a member of the press, any member of the press to publish something bad against me so that they can feel vindication for their inability to increase revenue in light of the pandemic?
For your Article to be fair, you would note that some of the VendShare vending franchises are making money and the franchisees are making money in those locations. Many of these locations have very responsible franchisees who bring customers to the machines. On the whole, VendShare is still making operating profits and some franchisees are making profits. The dissatisfied franchisees who are making a big fuss over their involvement in this business are still in the minority. In fact, as a result of the recent arguments and behaviour of the dissatisfied franchisees, we had allowed for our franchisees to vote on how many of them have wish to protect themselves from the bad press the dissatisfied franchisees seem to out to get to bring down the entire franchise scheme because they have lost money. For your information, Rice Media was not the first media these persons have reached out to, but remains the only one who has run the story. The previous press members have reached out to me and I have provided them with evidence of our case and they have not followed up any further. Was there a reason you did not reach out to us for our side of the story?
Franchisees were asked to fill up this form in Dec 2020 about how to deal with other dissatisfied franchisees. 4 choices were given –
1.”I want to take active step to protect my interest – including paying for legal fees, if applicable”,
2. “I want to take active step to protect my interest – including providing data/evidence, if applicable”,
3. “I don’t wish to take action against the offending party – I am fine if I personally suffer financial damages”
4. “I abstain – I am fine if I personally suffer financial damages”
https://form.123formbuilder.com/sfnew2.php?redirect=true&action=showreports&s=5739263&rid=0 (to see the graphs close up).
A total of 70 franchisees had voted to take active steps to protect their interest against those dissatisfied franchisees.
Your Article painted a picture where all franchisees are hurt or misrepresented, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of franchisees who are against the conduct and misbehaviour of the dissatisfied franchisees.
7. Most disappointing to me is the last portion of your Article with the heading “Catch Me If You Can”
In a singular unjustified fell swoop you have concluded that I and other traders who market their services over the Internet are “unethical and shady businessmen.”
Although I slightly admire your self-illusory positioning as the hero protecting the rights of “stupid and gullible” investors of internet fraud schemes, you should have perhaps done more research before cavalierly categorising my business as such.
8. You are invited to TAKE DOWN your Article before the end of the day of 19 March 2021, failing which we shall take all appropriate action to protect our good name.
Refer to our latest open letter to our Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, https://vendshare.net/5vs200/