SINGAPORE - DBS Bank has rolled out additional measures to reduce long queues outside its pop-up ATMs for new dollar notes ahead of the Chinese New Year.
These include putting up end-queue signage to cap queue numbers, deploying on-site safety ambassadors to enforce safe management measures, and updating the estimated waiting times for the various locations online on Google Maps.
The bank is also advising customers early to come back another day if they are unlikely to reach their turn by 10pm, DBS told The Straits Times on Tuesday evening (Jan 26).
Long queues of mostly elderly people have been forming outside the bank's ATMs which dispense new notes at 41 locations islandwide.
Many are rushing to get new notes for hongbao (red packets) to be given out during the Chinese New Year, which is less than three weeks away.
The queues continued throughout the day even as the Monetary Authority of Singapore advised the public to adopt e-hongbao.
Checks by ST on Tuesday evening showed the expected waiting time at 21 of the 41 DBS locations was more than two hours.
But some locations such as the POSB Toa Payoh North self-service branch had only five people in line when ST went there at 2pm.
Some customers in the queues at ATMs told ST they joined the lines after failing to secure a time slot on DBS' website to collect the new notes.
A housewife, who wanted to be known only as Ms Lee, said she had tried almost 10 times to book a slot when reservation for new notes opened on Jan 18.
DBS said in a statement that more than 80 per cent of online reservation slots have been taken up to date.
At the Toa Payoh Central Community Club pop-up ATM on Tuesday afternoon, there were about 40 people in the queue.
At one branch, DBS service staff said queues began forming as early as 7am, even though the branch officially opens at 10am.
For many Singaporeans, exchanging new notes is part of the Chinese New Year celebration.
"I would like to change to new notes because it's Chinese New Year, it's the tradition. Now I have only the hongbao packets and no new notes," said retiree Tjong Njie Tjhoen, 79.
Others who were queueing said they were unsure of how to make online reservations for the fresh notes.
Mr Lim Li Yang, 35, said he wanted the new notes for hongbao to give personally to older relatives and young children who have no access to e-hongbao.
"My parents are not so tech-savvy; they're more used to physical notes," said the civil servant.
Mr Han Ming Guang, 35, was also unable to book a time slot on the DBS website.
The executive, who works at an institute of higher learning, wrote to the ST Forum page to complain about his unsuccessful attempts at reserving new notes online.
He told ST that while he was trying to book a slot on Sunday, his computer screen froze after he selected the date and branch.
"If I can't do it, what about someone who is much older and not IT-savvy?" said Mr Han, who tried in vain for four hours to book a slot.
DBS said bank staff "will be happy to help customers to make online reservations if they're unfamiliar with the process".
To manage the crowds at its pop-up ATMs, DBS said its safety ambassadors are on site to enforce safe management measures. Customers were seen taking their temperatures and staying 1m apart from one another.
The bank also advised customers to check its enhanced Google Maps site, which shows the estimated waiting times at various locations to help them plan their journeys.
A time stamp at the bottom of the site indicates the last time the map was updated. Currently, the map is updated as and when crowd levels change.
Only customers who are aged 60 and older, or those with disabilities, can walk in to DBS branches to collect new notes. Customers have until Feb 10 to collect the notes reserved online. The pop-up ATMs will dispense new notes until 1pm on Feb 11.
To ensure that its branches do not exceed their capacity limits, DBS will be giving its customers queue tickets and stipulated timings.
"Customers can head off to wait in more comfortable areas before coming back for their turn," said DBS.
When each branch hits its capacity, safety ambassadors and DBS staff will advise customers to come back at the stipulated time, or redirect them to nearby ATMs that dispense new notes.