Pizza lovers have in recent months been feeling misled by "legal issues" that have arisen from a change in management at a popular pizza brand.
For a number of months, two Sarpino's Pizzeria websites existed in Singapore, except that the hotline listed on one of them leads to another company known as Pezzo Pizza.
Just on Tuesday morning, editor Adrienne Lee and her colleagues dialled in to what she thought was the Sarpino's pizza delivery hotline.
"My other colleague who placed the order simply thought that the company was rebranding, so no one thought too much of it," she told Yahoo Singapore. She said they initially asked about a pizza called Ranch Style Chicken, which was in her view unique and sold fairly well, but were dismissed by the telephone operator, who told them there was "no more".
Nonetheless, they ordered two regular pizzas under the one-for-one deal. She said the order took one and a half hours to arrive, even though they had initially said it would take an hour.
"I became suspicious when I saw the box (when the pizzas arrived) — it said Pezzo, when we were sure we ordered from Sarpino's," she continued. After a check on the Sarpino's Singapore Facebook page, however, she saw a notice posted that said the website she ordered from was "fake".
'Fake' Sarpino's website?
That status, posted on Tuesday afternoon, linked to a post on STOMP dated 27 August, where a contributor claimed his friend placed an order for pizza that never arrived. After calling the same number, staff at the other end said the deliveryman had left and did not have a phone to call the customer.
The company removed the post on Tuesday evening, however. Sarpino's old website URL, www.sarpinos.com.sg, was also subsequently found to be replaced with a page with a maintenance graphic.
Checks on the Sarpino's Singapore Facebook page showed multiple customers posting on its wall with similar complaints of delayed delivery, getting redirected to Pezzo Pizza and receiving pizza from Pezzo instead of Sarpino's. The earliest posts appeared in early June.
Responses from Sarpino's administrators were varied — the first said a store patronised by a customer in the East Coast area was "not part of our system and is operating illegally", while subsequent posts were peppered with phrases like "technical issues", issues that needed to be sorted out by their legal team, and from early August, they assured customers that an old, "inaccurate" website at www.sarpinos.com.sg "will be taken down shortly".
In comments on a photo post on its page dated 17 June, it told one of its fans that its management changed hands "due to customer complaints". In subsequent replies to comments, it also said the company has "undergone some changes to make improvements to (its) system".
Pezzo had Sarpino's customer details
Sarpino's previously operated from www.sarpinos.com.sg, a website bearing the hotline 6262-6767, one that Yahoo Singapore understands was used since Sarpino's opened its first franchises here.
Undergraduate Goh Wei Choon, 24, confirmed this, having saved the number on his phone after ordering pizzas from Sarpino's over the past two years.
His experience was especially peculiar, relating that he made a call to the same hotline on 23 August, where Pezzo Pizza staff answered the phone.
"I called up and was told that it was Pezzo Pizzeria on the phone," he said. "I asked what happened to Sarpino's and the staff was not very willing to tell me exactly what happened, and why Pezzo is now possessing the line."
What startled him most, however, was the fact that Pezzo had his address based on the phone number he dialled from even though he had never heard of the company before, much less given them his address. They also charged an additional four dollars for delivery, but he, like the STOMP complainant, never received his pizza.
On the advice of Sarpino's administrators — after he wrote a post on its Facebook wall relating his experience — Goh approached CASE with his concerns about information sharing, but was told that what businesses did with their customers' information did not fall within its purview.
He was also assured by Sarpino's that the two companies are not affiliated, but questions remained on his mind.
"It's a strange practice for Pezzo to jump on the old number and take the orders of confused Sarpino's customers," he said. "Why doesn't Sarpino's take that down? Why is Sarpino's still allowing that website to be up with their old number, directing customers to Pezzo?"
The status posted on Tuesday by Sarpino's Facebook administrators directed users to www.sarpinos.sg instead, with its new hotline listed as 6636-3636. This was also reflected in its photo post in June announcing its new management, as well as subsequent responses to questions about the change.
When contacted about the matter, a representative from Pezzo declined comment, citing "private and confidential discussions on-going".
Yahoo Singapore has also sought comments from Sarpino's and is awaiting their reply.