Sunday, May 29, 2011

A uniquely Singapore system based on first come, first served principle

May 29, 2011
Your letters

I am irked by people who question our uniquely Singaporean seat reservation system at hawker centres and foodcourts.

[And I am irked by your stupid letter and lack of comprehension.]

These places operate on a first come, first served basis.

[Ya, so I come first, see an empty space, go buy my food, come back and see packets of tissues "choping" the seats by people who came later than me.]

The people who find tissue packs placed on tables to reserve the seats are facing a fact: They have got there later than others. However, these latecomers refuse to accept this fact and, instead, start a flood of discussions and classify this seat-reserving behaviour as an embarrassment.

[So will you give up our tissue-choped seats to someone with a tray of food? Obviously if they have a tray of food, they were here earlier than you. Except that you plonked your tissue on the table first.]

In my experience, this tissue pack reservation system operates only in crowded places where there are insufficient seats available, such as in Shenton Way food centres during peak hours.

I seldom come across the practice in heartland areas like Ang Mo Kio.

I do not know if placing a 'reserved' card issued by the hawker centre will be any more acceptable to people who are against a reservation system. If they disagree with first come, first served as a principle, nothing will make them any happier - be it a card, umbrella, book or even bodies.

The tissue pack system is the cheapest to operate.

[But inherently rude and inefficient. If people got their food then look for their seat, there would be less space waste. As it is you see "empty" tables occupied by tissue packs while people with hot food unable to find a seat wander desperately about. This kiasu, kiaboh mentality is inconsiderate. But you don't see it, cos you are inconsiderate.]

If we decide that a First World country cannot practise such an 'unseemly' system and deem this an embarrassment, let's design one which includes issuing seat numbers and having a crowd manager. Then voila, we have a system resembling a restaurant.

Then my fishball noodles may cost $5 instead of $3.50.

But seriously, people should just live and let live, and let peace prevail.

Lam Wen-li (Ms)

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