PETALING JAYA - Hundreds of people crowded a supermarket in the Johor town of Pontian on Thursday (April 12) after hearing that Johor's Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim was coming over to pay for their groceries, according to Malaysian media reports.
The prince had on Wednesday forked out over RM1 million (S$338,000) on groceries for shoppers at the Aeon Tebrau supermarket in Johor Baru.
Though told through public announcements at the Econsave Pontian supermarket that the news was fake, about 1,000 shoppers crowded the place as early as 10am on Thursday. Pontian is located to the south-west of Johor state.
Many people rushed to fill their shopping carts in the supermarket, Sinar Harian newspaper reported.
Pictures shown on social media showed dozens of people outside Econsave and many more crowding inside.
Outside the building, police were called in to help control heavy traffic.
Meanwhile, Sin Chew Daily News reported that at another supermarket - this time in the central Johor town of Kluang - dozens of people crowded into a supermarket following rumours that the prince was coming and would be paying for their groceries.
Sin Chew said it observed over 100 customers gathering at Aeon Big Kluang at around 2pm, with some of them filling up their trolleys with goods. Others joined in after hearing of the rumour.
Econsave manager in Pontian, Mas Imran Adam, said about 300 shopping carts filled with goods were abandoned after people learnt the prince was not coming, Sinar said.
She said management had called the police at midnight to confirm if the news of Tunku Ismail's visit was true and were told that it was not.
"Many items were damaged and we have a big job of clearing it up," Mas Imran said, adding that it caused a lot of trouble for staff.
"To make matters worse, many refused to believe that Tunku Ismail was not coming despite multiple announcements that the news was fake," she told Sinar.
She was quoted as saying by New Straits Times newspaper: "We suffered a bit of loss today but it's okay. What saddened us was that some of the people who came were disabled people and senior citizens who did not want to miss out on the free shopping frenzy."
The crowds were excited by a voice message by an unknown man saying that Tunku Ismail would be visiting every district in Johor to treat the people to groceries. The message had gone viral over WhatsApp.
The voice claimed that the prince would be spending approximately RM100,000 (S$33,828) at the Pontian supermarket at 12pm on Thursday and would give RM200 (S$67.70) to every family present.
There was pandemonium on Wednesday in Tebrau, JB, when Tunku Ismail turned up unexpectedly and offered to foot up to RM3,000 in groceries for every shopper.
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Most shoppers were seen taking up to three trolleys each. The mall had to increase their security due to overwhelming crowds.
The prince made the supermarket visit just days after he was heavily criticised on social media for his comments on the Facebook account of his football team that appeared to support the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. Many people pushed back to say that he should stay out of politics, and that he might not be able to feel the pain felt by many Malaysians due to the high cost of living, including the rising prices of daily goods.
Cost of living issues, which many blame on the government's imposition of the 6 per cent goods and services tax from April 2015, is a key campaign issue as Malaysia heads towards polling day on May 9.