Are coffee shops obliged to sell hot water to patrons?
This disgruntled customer who wrote to Lianhe Zaobao seems to think so.
"When I patronised coffee shops or food courts in the past, asking for a cup of hot water was free. But recently, several coffee shops have been charging for hot water. It used to be 10 cents, and gradually became 30 cents and then 50 cents.
"Over time, it became a norm to pay for hot water," he lamented.
The customer then shared that he has come across some coffee shops that have stopped selling hot water to customers altogether.
"The stall owners think that some customers will buy a cup of hot water and occupy a seat for a long period. Others even buy hot water and bring their own tea bags.
"However, I think these customers are a minority, and coffee shops shouldn't stop selling hot water because of these people," he lamented.
He added that hot water might even be a choice beverage for the health-conscious.
"There are many elderly people who can only drink hot water due to health reasons. I think it's unreasonable for coffee shops not to sell water, and there's no reason to force them to buy other drinks because they're already charging for hot water," he said.
In such cases, customers should have the right to boycott these stalls, he opined.
"On the flipside, there are some coffee shops where the owners are more forgiving. When I buy Chinese tea from them, the boss tell me I can come back for more hot water."
Although some netizens agreed with this diner, others felt that coffee shop stall owners have the right to protect their business interests.
One pointed out how some enterprising customers purchase a cup of hot water from the coffee shop and bring their own 3-in-1 instant coffee sachets to save on costs.