Chope! Singaporeans not only ones reserving seats

Diners chope the table with a packet of tissue paper at the food centre at Our Tampines Hub.
Diners chope the table with a packet of tissue paper at the food centre at Our Tampines Hub.PHOTO: ST FILE

The thriving chope culture in Singapore's food centres, using tissue packets, umbrellas and other items to reserve seats, is in the spotlight again.

This comes after the Government announced last month that a $90-million fund will be set up to boost the hawker trade.

Some Singaporeans quickly zeroed in on the controversial habit, asking if something can be done to improve the situation.

But this practice is certainly not a uniquely Singaporean experience.

Here's a look at how people in other countries try to stop the hogging of spots:

1. Fine for those who occupy more than one seat on San Francisco train

A Bart train is seen near the Walnut Creek Station. PHOTO: SHAKATAGANAI VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS 

Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the public transport system serving the San Francisco Bay Area, enacted a measure in April 2016 to fine commuters caught occupying more than one seat.

First-time offenders will have to cough up US$100 (S$140), while second and repeat seat hoggers will incur penalties of US$200 and US$500 respectively. The measure is in force during the system's peak hours.

The new rule was mooted amid scenes of increasingly packed trains and inconsiderate commuters who use an empty seat for a backpack or luggage, or to stretch out.

Only those whose size or medical condition requires them to occupy more than a single seat are exempted.

2. Pay up for those grabbing free coffee and hogging seats at Shanghai's Ikea

Elderly Shanghai residents at the Ikea restaurant in Xuhui district in 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

Swedish furniture retailer Ikea's restaurant in Shanghai is popular not only among families, but also with older Chinese looking for love over a free cup of coffee.

But the situation became so bad that the restaurant, which at times resembled a makeshift singles club, declared a policy to chase away these lonely hearts: No pay, no stay.

It put up a notice in October 2016, accusing a "a matchmaking group" of "occupying Ikea restaurant's cosy dining environment" for long hours and behaving badly.

The phenomenon is a reflection of the plight of the elderly in China, who lack family support due to the country's one-child policy.

3. Fine for those reserving best spots on Italian beaches

Beach-goers on the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy. PHOTO: GOH HWEE LENG

Italy's famous beaches, from the coasts of Tuscany to Sardinia, had a long-standing problem: tourists who used their towels, deckchairs and umbrellas to reserve the best spots.

When the authorities decided that enough was enough, fines of €200 (S$298) were introduced in August 2016 to deal with errant holidaymakers.

The Italian coastguard, which called the move Operation Safe Sea, said the problem was widespread and unfair to those who follow the rules.

It also triggered a wave of similar crackdowns across Europe which was dubbed the "Umbrella Wars" by the media.