There are a couple of issues in the national consciousness these few days that are regularly showing up in the local newspapers. For instance, there’s the increasing level of anxiety about Singapore citizenship and permanent residency. That issue has been burning enough in a lot of persons’ minds to the point that the most important leaders of the country including Senior Minister Lee KY have had to address it in public forums.
If you’re a follower of any one of the socio-political blogs or of online discussion forums, you’d be able to gauge for yourself the tenor of voices among the online crowd on this issue – and it’s not kind.
My reflection today though isn’t about Singapore Citizenship vs. permanent residency. It’s about a more localized incident that showed up the last weekend. Here’s what it’s about, extracted from ChannelnewsAsia and reformatted to save space:
Special deal at Shell petrol stations attracts queues, triggers traffic jams
SINGAPORE : Drivers turned up in droves at some Shell petrol stations to snap up a special one-day deal. The petrol company was offering its new FuelSave petrol at S$1 per litre on Saturday. But the overwhelming response triggered traffic jams in some areas.
Queues started forming at some Shell stations from 10am. At one station along Toa Payoh Lorong 1, drivers said the prospect of having to wait did not deter them as they wanted to realise some 45 per cent worth of cost-savings.
It didn’t take long for the affected i.e. those caught in the jam to write in, all clearly very, very pissed. A sample of letters’ excerpts from The Straits Times forum:
Nice Saturday turned into a day of stress (26 Oct)
I AM writing to protest against Shell’s $1 per litre petrol promotion ‘to educate motorists about fuel economy’ last Saturday. The promotion caused traffic jams across the island, turning a nice Saturday – when most residents take a break – into a day of stress and grief.
Not a care for commuters (26 Oct)
This is an obvious case where commercial success has been achieved at the expense of public interest. Not only are the aggregate savings of both fuel and money much smaller when we factor in the aggregate waste and pollution last Saturday, but also many roads became unnecessarily congested for everyone who drove or commuted that day.
Enough, don’t do it a third time, Shell (27 Oct)
ONCE bitten, twice shy. Please do not try it a third time, Shell (‘Long and winding queues…for cheap petrol’, Sunday). No amount of traffic control by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) or Traffic Police can justify the inconvenience and time lost to other road users.
To Shell’s credit, I believe they did learn from the first time round they did this little cheap-petrol exercise and took up measures to coordinate traffic flow. That said, what I don’t understand is why at this juncture Shell still hasn’t fully appreciate the two important nuances of the Singapore psyche:
- That Singaporeans love cheap things.
- That Singaporeans love to queue.
And mind you – both aren’t mutually exclusive. If the first is given an opportunity to manifest, and there’s queuing involved i.e. the second nuance is also given a window to show up, what you get is an armageddon, Singapore-styled. It doesn’t matter if it’s cheap petrol. It could be Hello Kitty. Or new BTO HDB launches. Or new condos. Or even Bak Kwa. But put the two together, some people will get the cheap (or free) stuff, but for everybody else tempers and complaints will fly.
Here’s the funniest thing: I knew about Shell’s offer but the thought of queuing up for cheap petrol wasn’t on the radar even though there’s a Shell station near where we stay at The Rivervale. Ling has no problem queuing I think – she’s far more patient than I am. There’s been occasions when she’d wait patiently for me after work (before delivery) if I’m called to a last minute meeting.
For me, the notion of being to save $20 on petrol for a full tank that isn’t commensurate with spending 2 hours of my time queuing up just doesn’t make sense. OK, so every penny counts in hard times (?), but I could do a lot in 2 hours of a weekend that would give me returns that far outweigh a $20 value. Like wake Hannah up from her afternoon nap and play with or take more video and pictures of her. Or load up one of the many movies we’ve got at home on blu-ray, close the curtains and spend 2 hours in a near-theatrical home viewing experience. Or spend 2 hours writing up another 4-5 blog entries and queue them all up for the coming week. Or just pig out and nap.
Either way, I’m guessing Shell won’t be repeating their cheapo petrol offer anytime soon, not after suffering two public backlashes in a row for implementing what I’m assuming to be helpful gestures on their part to their customers. Which is sort of sad. I think it’s great for companies to discharge some level of corporate responsibility through exercises like this, especially in view of rising costs of living.