'Choping' a more serious problem than we think

Mr Ronald Lee Yew Kee is right (Give hawker centre 'chope' culture the chop; March 20), but the choping of seats is much more serious and insidious than we think.

It does some harm to our tourist industry. I have seen tourists being brushed off by locals at our hawker centres.

Some of the good that the Singapore Tourism Board does is inevitably erased.

The image of Singaporeans being selfish and self-centred will be etched in the minds of some foreigners.

This choping may also pose a danger to other diners.

Imagine a poor diner balancing precariously a bowl of very hot noodles on his tray, trying to make his way between rows of seated diners in a crowded hawker centre and having much difficulty looking for a table because of the choped seats.

It just makes a mockery of our courtesy campaigns.

Finally, and worst of all, it dilutes the bonding and cohesion among ordinary Singaporeans in daily life which we have painstakingly built up.

Let us take a common-sense and practical approach to this.

The National Environment Agency and Housing Board should place notices strategically at all hawker centres stating: "No reservation of tables and seats".

If there are exceptions, the agencies can state so.

For instance, if a diner is carrying a heavy bag, then it is permissible for him to place his bag on a table or seat first before he goes off to buy his food.

But even with exceptional cases, there should not be more seats reserved than necessary, which is another common problem in hawker centres.

Ho Meng Hee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline ''Choping' a more serious problem than we think'. Print Edition | Subscribe