Recently NTUC Fairprice supermarkets implemented a priority queue system for pioneers.
Customers who belong to the pioneer generation of Singapore are supposed to be able to move to the front of the queue when paying for their groceries.
Just today, a post appeared on local blog FiveStarsAndAMoon where a reader submitted a letter lamenting that young Singaporeans were abusing the priority queue.
The reader provided photographs, taken by his uncle who is someone from the pioneer generation, depicting a priority queue filled with younger Singaporeans. He goes on to say that no one gave way to his uncle.
He added, "So if the pioneers were standing behind those youngsters or at the tail end of the long queue, are they supposed to excuse their way to the front? Some might be thick-skinned enough to do it but what about those who belong to the silent majority and decide to go with the flow instead?"
Not a user problem
I would contend that not many people understand what the priority queue system is about.
The instructions are ambiguous in the sense that there are still many Singaporeans who do not know what a 'pioneer' constitutes. So they may not know who they are supposed to give way to.
And for 'Give Way', many people may not know that it essentially means 'Cut queue'.
No one's enforcing this queue system.
If nobody starts giving way to pioneers and no one enforces the system, it's going to be business as usual - quite like how the MRT reserve seat situation has been for many years until the threat of being STOMPed improved the 'graciousness' of people.
Singaporeans, in general, tend to keep social interactions with strangers down to a minimal. That includes asking strangers - like pioneers - to move to the front of the queue.
Singaporeans also have the fear of rejection and the fear of not knowing how to survive a socially-awkward situation when an old person goes 'No need lah, no need! Why? You think uncle very old is it?'
And I'm not sure how many of our pioneer generation Singaporeans understand the system as well, let alone being thick-skinned enough to jump the entire queue.
A simple solution
Bless those nice SMRT personnel who go aboard trains to manage the crowd flow. They also help those who need seats more to secure them. These personnel reduce the awkwardness and social interaction Singaporeans have to endure on the train ride.
This system can be similarly translated into the NTUC priority queues. All it takes is for an alert cashier to call out to pioneers who are stuck behind a long queue to move up.
Before long, younger Singaporeans in the queue unfamiliar with this priority queue system will start to learn that older folks get to move up front and will learn to give way.
Problem solved. No need for STOMP shaming.
Top photo from here.