Free desserts for returning trays

From ‘Give dessert voucher, free meal to encourage tray return’, 3 Feb 2018, ST Forum

(Dr Thomas Lee Hock Seng): The perennial problem of not cleaning after oneself in self-service hawker centres has stumped most civic-minded people.

So charging for trays is one example of a desperate hope to change the diehard habit of not bothering to clear one’s table after eating (Charging for trays can help change attitudes, by Miss Tan Lin Neo; Feb 1).

Singaporeans are familiar with the use of fines as disincentives to punish undesirable social habits.

We have earned our reputation as a “fine” city since the introduction of such measures a long time ago.

But we have failed most miserably with such measures.

Yet, there are still advocates who insist on using money as a disincentive to effect behavioural change.

I would suggest we reverse the equation: Use money as a reward or incentive for good social habits.

Instead of charging for the non-return of trays, give a voucher for a free meal or item, such as a dessert of one’s choice, for tray return. I suspect this would have more success.

Yes, it will be a success and there will be a surge of people returning trays. Just that these will be people who didn’t order a single thing from the hawker stalls because free ice kacang. Free diabetes too.

When it comes to rewards, some assholes will always try to take advantage of our intentions to make the world a better place. Take the Skillfutures fiasco for example.

So if you can’t beat Singaporeans into being kind and considerate, nor should one use shaming methods to ruin people’s lives, what made this writer reach the conclusion that giving rewards could make us better people? Do we want to issue National Day awards to Top Tray Returners as well?

We’ve been conditioned by enticements and penalties like lab rats since we were born. Don’t flush a toilet and you get slapped with a fine. Vote for the ruling party and you get GST vouchers. None of this made society any better for it. Courtesy is for free? Courtesy is for puiiii!

Here’s a better idea. Put sorry abandoned cat faces on trays. This is will make us return trays out of pure guilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tampines the most kiasu town in Singapore

From ‘Tampines most kiasu town in Singapore’, 25 Oct 2017, article in CNA

Tampines is the most “kiasu” town in Singapore, according to Giant Singapore.

…According to Oxford Dictionaries, kiasu refers to a person “very anxious not to miss an opportunity”.

The contest was conducted in the form of an online “kiasu assessment quiz” that ran for a month from Sep 25, and attracted more than 57,000 submissions. Each participant’s result was collated, based on their postal code, into an overall town scoreboard that showcased the top five kiasu towns in Singapore, the company explained.

Based on the results, Giant concluded that nearly half of Tampines residents would press the traffic light button repeatedly in the hope that it would make the light turn green faster. They are also twice as likely to “rush and eat all the food in a buffet before others can get to it”, as well as reserve, or “chope”, seats at coffee shop with tissue packets, umbrella or a bag.

“One in three Tampines residents would accept free concert tickets, despite not being a fan, so that they could resell them on Carousell,” the company added.

For winning the contest, residents will get to enjoy a one-day-only “mega giveaway” on Saturday at the Giant Tampines hypermarket, the company said – “where kiasu residents and supporters alike can queue to their hearts’ content”.

Winning the ‘most kiasu town’ award is like winning the Ugliest Dog competition.

As a Tampines resident I may vouch that the people of Tampines are as kiasu as the average Singaporean. One storey of Tampines Mall is dedicated to tuition centres. We have a heritage walk that takes after the one in Queenstown. We have street names numbered up to 93. We have 5 MPs in our GRC like any other large constituency.

The label ‘kiasu’ is not something to be proud of, for sure. Defenders of kiasuism say it’s part of our competitive DNA whether we like it or not, the drive that makes us excel in various aspects of this dog-eat-dog life, whether it’s being among the first to get the latest iPhone or acing our PSLE scores. Kiasu has become anthropomorphised in the form of the Mr Kiasu comic and TV series, or branded and commercialised as the Kiasuparents portal.  There was even a coffee joint named Kiasu Espresso (now closed – apparently not kiasu enough to survive).

We no longer take ‘kiasu’ as an insult, but something that we simply have to be sometimes in order to survive in this society, to the point that it transgresses basic human decency. As for pounding the green man button, that says nothing about kiasuism. It just means Tampines pedestrians are goddamn idiots who have no idea how buttons work, whether they’re for traffic lights or lifts, like lab rats hooked on cocaine pressing the lever of an empty cannister again and again.  Re-selling free tickets on Carousell, again, is more about being a cheap unethical scalper than a kiasu Singaporean. The truly kiasu Singaporean will get and keep anything as long as it’s free, even if they don’t need it, whether it’s a potato peeler or movie tickets to yet another Ah Boys to Men sequel.

But therein lies the problem. We don’t know how to define classic kiasuism anymore without getting into socio-ethical arguments if it overlaps with expected, even normal, behaviour. Like camping by your laptop to book online Ed Sheeran tickets for example, or taking a day off just to queue for Lobster Nasi Lemak at Lawa Bintang.

Now excuse me while I prepare for my stay-over before the mega giveaway at Giant Tampines this Saturday. For whatever they’re giving away.

 

SSO concert audience not applauding

From ‘Address audience behaviour at concerts’, 17 July 2017, ST Forum

(Margaret S Gremli Dr): I have been a regular attendee at Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) concerts since 1979, when the orchestra was founded.

It has gone from strength to strength, and the calibre of its invited artists is outstanding and much appreciated by serious and loyal concertgoers.

However, I am horrified by the behaviour of some members of the audience at SSO concerts. For example, there are many latecomers – a group that is almost non-existent in other concert halls around the world.

These latecomers clatter down the steps of the concert hall and disturb other seated members of the audience as they shuffle to their seats.

The obvious remedy is for concertgoers to plan to arrive early. Some people also fail to show their appreciation of the performances by not applauding. This is ungracious.

Even worse is the behaviour of some members of the audience who leave the concert hall the minute the conductor lowers his baton. There is a stream of people heading for the exits even as the orchestra and invited artists take their bow.

This is blatantly disrespectful and especially insulting to invited soloists. I suggest a rigorous programme to educate concertgoers.

This can be done by handing fliers to latecomers and those people who leave early. Ushers should also not permit people to leave until the concert is actually over.

I have attended concerts in almost every continent in the world and have not encountered the type of behaviour I see in Singapore. The orchestra and the visiting artists give their best, and deserve due respect and recognition.

To be fair, some people refrain from applause not because they lack an appreciation for a concert performance, but because they don’t want to be scrutinised by experienced concert-goers like the writer for not ‘clapping in a dignified manner’. Like so.

Another reason for not clapping is you’re not sure if you’re doing it between the movements, which betrays a lack of ‘musical education’. 

Clapping etiquette aside, attending a orchestral concert is traditionally not meant to be a place for you to ‘let it all hang out’. You need to dress appropriately, stash your phone away, refrain from eating or drinking, hold your bladder, and find a place in your jacket to keep your opera glasses.

In the eighties, concert-goers complained about ‘howling’ kids and suggested that they be banned, not just because they were running around making a nuisance of themselves, but also ‘clapping in time to the music’. Yes, children are not allowed to enjoy themselves. They basically have to behave like their adult parents. The same complainant called for a ban on keropok because of the munching noises. Sit next to someone like this and be prepared to be stared at should you even need to gulp your saliva.

Singaporeans today may play with phones during a movie or throw bikes down flats and into canals, but such inconsiderate assholes still form the minority in society. To label Singaporeans the soccer hooligans of concerts, suggesting that we’re among the worst in the world however, seems a bit of a stretch. Furthermore, to propose a ‘rigourous’ campaign against disgusting behaviour would only deter laymen from supporting the arts.  Though that could be the intention of avid concert-goers all along, that it would be a niche activity dedicated to only those who’re ‘culturally aware’ – posh – enough, as exclusive and ‘invitation-only’ as an elite bacchanalia in the basement of someone’s mansion.

 

 

 

Hello Kitty runners selling finisher medals online

From ‘Claws come out after first Hello Kitty Run in Singapore’, 1 Nov 2014, article in CNA

Hello Kitty celebrated her 40th birthday with much fanfare on Saturday (Nov 1), as 17,000 participants showed up for the first Hello Kitty Run held at Sentosa….However heavy rain marred part of the run, and some participants said there was a mess at the medal collection area. A Facebook page created for the event was flooded with complaints. Some took issue with the lack of a wet weather plan, noting that many families with young children were soaked, while organisers themselves were equipped with ponchos.

Others pointed to “chaos” and “confusion” in the medal collection area. One participant told Channel NewsAsia that the original designated medal collection point was “massively” jammed. The organisers then announced a new medal collection in a more spacious area, and said they would only give out medals to participants who queued up and showed them their race bibs. Some said the announcement that there may not be medals for all caused a rush on the medals.

A few people alleged that the shortage of medals was due to runners who may have taken more than one. A check on online trading site Carousell found people selling their medals.

Participant Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia that the lack of organisation at the finish line led to people “taking advantage of the situation”. “I saw quite a few people taking extra medals, and some even took whole boxes of the food and drinks,” he said. “The medals were just in open boxes and even the organisers there were very confused about whether to give them out or not.”

Meow-rathon

The Hello Kitty event, with its $75 registration fee, is one of the most expensive stretch of 5km you’ll ever run in your life, and to complete it without the coveted finisher medal would be as disappointing as queuing up for hours at McDonalds only to realise the Singing Bone Kitty has run out of stock. The object of desire here is probably the wimpiest trophy ever in the history of races, and you can even get it for less than half the registration fee online without even dashing, queuing or breaking a single drop of sweat for it. A 42.95km finisher T shirt on your back is nothing compared to wearing one that says THE POWER OF SWEET.

The medal’s selling price may skyrocket since I believe they’re people out there who’re willing to pay more than twice the registration fee to get their hands on this limited edition birthday collectible. Not only did they run for the medal, they had to go through hell queuing for the goodie bag prior to the race as well. Never underestimate the endurance and tenacity of Singaporean Kitty fans. You could put a box of rare Hello Kitty merchandise on a volcano and they would risk life or limb racing to the summit, even if it means burning off both feet in streams of flaming molten lava, not to mention run a ’40km marathon’. They ain’t pussies, you know.

Contrast this with a ‘fun run’ involving another cartoon feline, Garfield, at $58 for a standard 3km stroll, which is ironic because Garfield is a grumpy, lazy, fat recluse who only occasionally dashes to the refrigerator for lasagna. Here’s a list of other physical activities that Hello Kitty partakes in which may qualify as actual exercise, and maybe future fun events too:

1) Tour de Kitty

2) Hello Kitty Yoga-thon

3)Hello Kitty Ballet-thon

4) Hello Kitty Ice-Skate-athon.

I can imagine the chaos if the inaugural Hello Kitty theme cafe ever opens in Singapore. Kiasu fans pitching lines of tents before opening day, breaking doors and windows while jostling their way in, crashing Instagram with their Kitty cafe posts, or stealing Hello Kitty teaspoons and napkins to sell online. Hello Kitty Riot.

Still, it’s somewhat refreshing that instead of launching another series of birthday plush toys at McDonalds, the Kitty empire decided to make Singaporeans put on their jogging shoes and get some exercise without eating Happy Meals. Maybe organisers should all learn from this unhappy episode and bring the SAF Volunteer Corps in as crowd control and help out with a fairer system of medal distribution for future races, to spare our Police the effort of intervening when people start fighting over medals as if they were rations during a famine.

SMRT giving away Care stickers to needy passengers

From ‘ SMRT rolls out stickers and special queues to promote better travel etiquette’, 25 July 2014, article in CNA

Transport operator SMRT has rolled out two schemes to create a better travel experience for commuters who require special attention: Priority queues and care stickers.

Priority Queues for lifts in some train stations will ensure that passengers in need are able to access the lift more easily, SMRT said on Friday (July 25). The trial will see floor stickers pasted at the entrance to lifts at 12 selected MRT stations…

Care Stickers are meant to help SMRT staff and commuters identify those who may need help along their commute. Commuters may approach staff at all SMRT Passenger Service Centres along the North-South, East-West and Circle Lines, as well as SMRT Bus Interchanges (Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Sembawang, Woodlands and Yishun) for a Care Sticker that corresponds with their special needs.

SMRT said the measures are meant to help five groups of commuters who might require special care and attention: Expectant mothers, senior citizens, parents travelling with infants, commuters with mobility needs and unwell passengers. 

“Our bus and train services carry more than 2.5 million commuters every day and among them are some who might need some extra care. While passengers are generally courteous and are willing to offer seats to those in need, we feel that a sticker could help commuters identify and extend care more easily,” said Mr Alvin Kek, Vice-President of Rail Operations at SMRT Trains.

I'm wearing this because I want a seat

I’m wearing this because I want a seat

That we need priority badges to nudge commuters into giving up their seats is a worrying affirmation that we have a ‘compassion deficit’. I once saw a pregnant lady in the advanced stages of gestation sitting in the reserved seat with a ‘care sticker’ and my first thought was ‘WHY IS THIS THING EVEN NECESSARY?’, followed by ‘Where did she get that?’. Didn’t LTA already assure us that a staggering 94% of passengers will give up their seat to those that need them more?

Yes that is exactly how a needy person views the Reserved Seat

Yes that is exactly how a needy person views the Reserved Seat

As if queuing for the lifts, at the platform etc isn’t bad enough, now we have pregnant women queuing at the control stations to get a sticker so that HOPEFULLY someone would surrender their seat to them. Kinda useless if people are pretending to sleep isn’t it. What if no one gives up the seat still? Are expectant mothers going to charge SMRT for wasting their time? Besides, men, no matter how old and hobbly they are, are NEVER EVER going to paste on themselves a sticker depicting a grandmother carrying bags of groceries from Sheng Siong. If I just had an arm in a cast, I wouldn’t opt for a sticker that makes me look like a complete invalid. I foresee only the Pregnant sticker being the main sell here, which would be especially helpful if we can’t tell if a woman is carrying a baby or just fat, while the rest can jolly well end up in some quirky heritage section of the Philatelic Museum.

Of the 5 stickers, the one for the ‘unwell’ passenger (with the face mask) presents a somewhat ‘sticky’ situation. Are SMRT staff bloody DOCTORS? Can they TELL the difference between someone who’s ‘not feeling well’ vs someone who’s just faking a concussion to get a seat on the train? Did SMRT consider the potential abuse of this ‘privilege’ system? If I create a bootleg sticker or get someone to sell me his ‘Unwell’ badge, and I’m shameless enough to pretend to be sick, I can go around bugging people to surrender their seats, brandishing my privilege in their faces like a crappy employee flashing his MC to his boss.

Won’t this also mean additional time taken up by staff to hand out stickers instead of more important tasks like security or tending to REAL emergencies? Or making sure people don’t drink WATER for that matter. I may get so tied up ‘looking out’ for people with care stickers to ‘care’ about a suspicious bag in the corner with a disturbing ticking sound coming out of it. Maybe SMRT should get people carrying bulky bags to put stickers on them saying ‘Thanks for making sure I’m not a suicide bomber’.

This all seems like an elaborate charade to distract us all from SMRT’s real failing: actual service standards. Barely a week ago, the company was fined $1.65 million for disruptions, and now this sticker idea seems to be suggesting they still have money to spare, using the theme of ‘graciousness’ as a smokescreen for lapses in ‘efficiency’.  It started with some juvenile marketing of characters right out of a children’s book, where we had toons resembling pirated Minions like Stand-UP Stacey rapping about ‘the goodness in you’.

More like Stand-Up-for-Stickers-Stacey now. If there’s one character they missed out it’s Bag-Down-Bala (to ensure ethnic mix). Because people with huge backpacks blocking the way and knocking people into a state such that they qualify for Unwell stickers are the worst.

Other than lift priority queues, SMRT also invited buskers to make the rush hour a more ‘pleasant’ platform experience as part of a 3 month trial. Then there are the ‘Lorong boys’ who go around carriages getting grumpy commuters in the mood for jitterbugging instead of staring at their damn phones. Which is all fine and sweet, but is really the equivalent of giving a kid a soothing lollipop while you’re pumping a stinging enema up his rectum.

Parents doing grassroots work for Primary 1 priority

From ‘Stricter Primary 1 priority rules for grassroots workers’, 12 June 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

PARENTS who become grassroots volunteers in the hope of getting priority for their children in the Primary 1 registration exercise will have to serve twice as long as before. They will have to do at least two years of grassroots work, not one, to qualify for the benefit. They will also be restricted to schools in the constituency where they live. Up to now, grassroots leaders could get priority for their children in schools near their homes as well as in the constituencies where they volunteered.

…The scheme qualifies active grassroots volunteers for Phase 2B of the Primary 1 registration exercise, which also includes parents who are school volunteers or have church or clan associations. Earlier phases of the registration are for siblings of current pupils or children of past pupils. About 400 children enrol in primary schools under the active community leaders scheme each year, less than 1 per cent of the Primary 1 cohort, according to a parliamentary reply by the Education Ministry last year.

But long-time grassroots leaders say it is not uncommon to see a surge in the number of people who apply to be community leaders a year before their child is due to register for Primary 1. Lawyer Kenneth Au-Yong, a member of the Ulu Pandan citizens’ consultative committee who is in his 50s, said: “When you have a popular school within the constituency, volunteers will come to you. You don’t have to look for them.” The Ulu Pandan division under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC has four popular primary schools: Henry Park Primary, Nanyang Primary, Methodist Girls’ School and Raffles Girls’ Primary School.

Mr Au-Yong said he has seen parents dropping out of activities and grassroots meetings once their children start school.

“We should not allow the system to be abused like this’.

When grassroots leader and RC chairman Lawrence Chong was caught fighting for free textbooks and shouting at teenage volunteers in 1995 like an Ugly Singaporean, he defended his right to freebies by saying that ‘grassroots leaders should be given priority’ to the books. In an interview, he said that his breed was ‘hard to come by’ and it would be a slight incentive to people willing to step up to do grassroots duty. He eventually resigned under pressure, but probably still lives in a 4 room flat plus private property till this day.

The benefits of RC affiliations extend down to kindergarten registration as well. Already in 1992, you’d stand a higher chance of scoring a place in your neighbourhood PCF if you’re a PAP grassroots leader living in the ward. Housing is another perk of the job. From 1990-1994, a total of 745 grassroots leaders were given priority allocation for HDB flats. And once you’ve earned the flat, you also get free parking between 7 am and 11pm at HDB carparks within your constituency. Not forgetting the occasional National Day Award. You also stand a higher chance of taking a selfie with PM Lee than the man on the street.

The nature of school and housing incentives for grassroots leaders tends to draw gut-level ire from ordinary folk because of the relative scarcity of these ‘privileges’. If grassroots leaders were given tax breaks, NTUC discounts or free daily entry into the Istana, few would complain. It’s the queue-jumping that gets people crying foul. Aren’t these people supposed to have a flaming ‘passion for servant leadership’? ‘Servants’ don’t go around asking for free kopi, or demand to be first in line for preschool registration, do they? Shouldn’t they be painting banners or holding car doors open for MPs or something? If parents quit their jobs to commit to volunteering full-time in schools for priority placing, we call them kiasu. If a grassroots leader does it, we feel cheated and accuse the PA of breeding a class of selfish bourgeois lackeys who’re in it only to get their kids into branded schools.

Most grassroots workers, PAP or otherwise, serve out of pure goodwill and generally like being around neighbours, have a fetish for organising events, or love meeting new people without personal ambitions of getting ahead in life like the typical kiasu Singaporean. They’re usually not PAP ‘runners’, bodyguards or elite cronies throwing their weight around. But extension of grassroots service alone isn’t going to filter out those with ulterior motives. What’s needed is a more robust screening process and a penalty for those seeking to abuse the system for personal gain, like the public shaming of freeloading black sheep like book-grabbing Lawrence Chong. After all, you may get thrown into jail for lying about where you live when applying for priority placing. Putting on an elaborate act for the sake of tangible benefits for a year or two is just prolonged, inconspicuous lying.

Perhaps the grass is greener as a RC volunteer, only because of all the shit that’s fed into it.

Singaporean making Police report over spicy Nasi Goreng

From ‘Singaporean files police report over spicy fried rice in Johor Bahru’, 7 May 2014, article in ST

A Singaporean has filed a police report because the nasi goreng kampung, or local fried rice, he ate in Johor Baru was too spicy, local media reported. The matter took social media by storm on Monday night after a copy of the police report found its way to the Internet, news website The Rakyat Post reported.

According to The Rakyat Post, the man, who is from Taman Jurong, had eaten the fried rice at a shop along Jalan Bukit Timbalan.

“Around 9pm on 30 April, I went to eat at a shop which I can’t recall the name. After I ordered the nasi goreng kampung and warm water, I had my meal, I found that it was extremely hot and too spicy. “Until today (May 1) I can still taste the spiciness from the rice I ate yesterday. I suspect that they cooked the rice with too much chilli.

“The reason why I am making this report is because I am very unhappy with the rice I ate and wish to go to a hospital for a checkup,” the man stated in the police report.

Johor Baru (South) deputy police chief Supt Abdul Samad Salleh, when contacted by The Rakyat Post confirmed receiving the report. However, he declined to elaborate further on whether or not they will pursue the matter.

Some weeks back, a Singaporean man lit himself on fire at a JB petrol station and died soon after. Today, one appears to have his mouth and tongue burned to bloody crisp by Nasi Goreng Kampung. This is surprising considering Singaporeans are renown for their love for spicy food, and most of us would stop eating, at WORST ask for a refund, if we couldn’t take the heat. Now that hawkers in JB know how weak some of us really are, you probably can’t order chilli there anymore without first signing a disclaimer that says should you suffer from bloody diarrhoea or lose your sense of taste for several days, it’s not their fault. Or they could lace it with something far deadlier to shut you up for good.

JB has a reputation and history of violent crimes against Singaporeans, but judging by the way our countrymen are flocking there in droves to guzzle cheap petrol and show off our luxury bags and cars, it’s probably not surprising that a Nasi Goreng seller would want to incinerate us from within with unusually toxic fried rice. Instead of resorting to more, well, primitive modes of execution or attack on the Singaporean visitor, such as:

1) Getting slashed and hacked to pieces.

2) Dragged along the road by a motorcycle.

3) Smashed into a wall by a car while on a SOFA.

4) Having CURRY powder thrown in your face in a robbery attempt.

5) Kicked and whacked with poles.

So thanks to our fellow Singaporean, the JB police have been alerted to the threat of a more discreet weapon of choice by Malaysians to incapacitate Singaporeans into surrendering their money. Sir, your inflamed tongue and throat, your dogged sense of justice at the risk of public humiliation, all will not be in vain, because Singaporeans who venture to JB will now keep an eye out not just for parangs, gun-totters on bikes, or dangerous drivers, but steaming hot plates of Nasi Goreng, or should I say Mati Goreng, spiked with poison embers plucked straight out from the depths of Hell.