From ‘Overnight queue for Singapore’s first H&M store opening’, 3 Sept 2011, article by Feng Zengkun, ST
SINGAPORE’S first H&M clothing store will throw open its doors only at 11am on Saturday, but by Friday evening there was already a queue outside the Orchard Road store. At 9.45pm on Friday night, about 15 people were patiently sitting outside the store at the Orchard Building across from Cineleisure Orchard.
Some were fans of the Scandinavian brand but others were there for the freebies – the first five to enter the store today will each get a $250 gift card, with the next 300 receiving $20 cards. Singapore permanent resident Rita Nguyen, 28, was at the head of the 20-strong queue that had formed by 7.30pm on Friday
Forget planking, Singaporeans are undoubtedly the masters of queue endurance, a national trend matched only by magician David Blaine’s ‘locked in a box for days” performances. The opening of a flagship store isn’t exactly the launch of a revolutionary gadget like the iPad, or the last Harry Potter novel, but pull a gimmick like gift cards for ‘first five customers’ and you’ll have excited fans preparing for store entrance camp as they would a jungle expedition in search for the Holy Grail.
Merchandisers can draw this level of anticipation whether they’re selling novelty books (free bookmarks!), movies (free popcorn!) groceries (Free vouchers!), or even fast food (free side garden salad!), and sad to say Singaporeans have become hardwired to rush and wait out what we would perceive to be a good deal. This meme has penetrated our psyche to the extent that we use the long queue as an indicator of how good a hawker or restaurant is, and I’m certain most of those in the H&M line were roped in by sheer instinct, like migratory salmon heeding nature’s call to spawn.
Queues pique our interest like a mangled car would attract motorists on the highway, only because they signal to us there’s something out there worth waiting for, regardless of whether we need it or not. The wait itself makes the object desirable, whether it’s a gift card, a coffee mug or woolly earmuffs. Or you could just call us kiasu, cheapstake, ugly Singaporeans who would cut off an arm or a leg to get hold of limited edition collectibles as long as we’re among the first in line, even if these trophies are, for all practical purposes, rather useless. This is phenomenal patience gone untapped, and despite all the pent-up energy and short attention spans of our people today, imagine the world of good we could accomplish if we applied this inexhaustible knack for queuing to things normal people do for a living.
I took a brief look into the history of the ‘overnight queue’, a trend which I speculate to have evolved from 70′s primary school registration, giving rise to the kiasu parent syndrome. It does make evolutionary sense; parents who were kiasu by nature had the advantage of putting their kids successfully into schools of choice, who themselves grow up to produce kiasu children. Here’s a list of the things we Singaporeans are willing to spend more than 12 hours waiting for, and you can see how the kiasu syndrome has spilled over from life-changing events like education, housing and marriage to Hello Kitty toys and marathons. Personally, queuing up for marathon registration is a more punishing ordeal than running the marathon itself, and why people would pay money to suffer twice is beyond me.
- Carpark season tickets (1961)
- Primary school registration(1970)
- Getting married (1973)
- Malaysia Cup tickets (1979)
- University lockers (1986)
- HDB flats (1987)
- Nursery school registration (1990)
- Condominiums (1991)
- NDP tickets (1999)
- Hello Kitty (2000)
- Singapore Idol auditions (2004)
- Travel fairs (2005)
- Creative Jukebox Zen Xtra for $10 (2006)
- Stanchart marathon registration (2011)
- World Cup qualifier tickets (2011)
- Discontinued HP TouchPads for $99 (2011)
- H&M opening (2011)