Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a trust system - can it work here?

some friends who have travelled overseas - seems like everyone has travelled to other countries - marvelled at the trust or honour system practised in some of the developed countries. the system could be used for payment of newspapers, farm produce or even to pay for train rides.

you help yourself to the day's newspaper and drop the payment into a container. in melbourne -where i visit quite often and am now at - for example, not all the train stations have turnstiles. this means that a person need not have a valid ticket to board the train. in some outlying, rural areas in australia, the farmers just leave their produce at an unmanned stall by the roadside. you pick up what you want, weigh the stuff and leave your money in the honesty box.

of course on the train, once in a while you have ticket inspectors boarding it to check your tickets but so far, i have encountered them once on my so many trips on the melbourne train. if you do not have a ticket or if you under-pay, then you will be slapped with a penalty.

come to think of it, the collection of baggage at most airports is also based on a trust system. although you have the tabs issued by the airline, these are seldom or never used to check against the stickers/tabs on your bags. very often, when waiting to collect my bags, i worry about them being mistakenly taken by someone else.

in singapore, some toilets at food centres, like the one at sembawang hills estate, has this sytem in place. a coin collection box is placed outside each of the entrances to the men's toilet and the women's toilet. i find it interesting to observe the users to find out if they will be honest enough to drop their 10 cents into the box when no one is around. it will also be interesting to find out if more men or women do the honest thing.

the other day, i stood outside the toilet at bukit timah 7th mile food centre to make my observations. for the ten minutes that i kept watch, about 8 persons used the toilets but none make any payment. some either did not see the tin or they did not see any person sitting at the table, behind the tin.

i asked a friend: do you drop money into the tin when no one is around to check on you? "sure," he said, "that small amount goes to the attendant's earning for keeping the toilets clean." obviously, a lot of people do not see it that way.

so, it does not seem that the trust system will work in singapore, yet.


Anonymous said...

In some parts of West Malaysia, there are unmanned stalls along quite stretches of roads as well.

Victor said...

Judging by the number of ways we could think of just to avoid paying 10 cents for using a public phone, I don't think it will work here.

yg said...

hi anonymous, you mean people actually take and pay or they take and run away.

PChew said...

At food centre stallholders pay a fixed amount per month. So they need not put a ten cents coin each time they go to the toilet. Those you see not paying could be food centre stallholders.

yg said...

victor, what is 10 cts to a big, faceless corporation like telecoms - not even kacang puteh! but, 10 cts may add up to something for the toilet attendant.

yg said...

mr chew, it is not difficult to tell the stallholders and other users apart. stallholders normally don't wear long sleeves shirt and shoes; also stallholders don't have young children in tow. at sembawang hills food centre, where i once made a casual observation, out of say, 10 users, maybe 3 or 4 will drop a coin into the tin.

fr said...

My feeling is that more than 70% of people are willing for pay the use of toilet. One possible reason could be that they don't have a 10-cent coin and they are unwilling to give a 20-cent or greater amount.

As for unmanned stalls I think it also depends on the location.

Ida said...

fr, some, especially those who are new to the place, may not have seen the collection tin. there are some people who feel that there should not be a charge for using the toilets; after all, the toilets in coffee shops are free.

peter said...

Did you observe a difference between a man and a woman over paying 10 cents for the toilet use? Who was most willing to pay?

nah said...

Here is a little story of a 10-cent toilet uncle. Some years ago, an ex-colleague’s uncle, under the social welfare scheme, manned a toilet at East Coast Park. Business was so good that he bought a sampan, hired someone else to look after the toilet, while he set sail in his sampan everyday to go fishing. I agree with you. 10 cents… not even kacang puteh, but may add up to something for a toilet attendant.

yg said...

peter, i see more men than women using the public toilets. i wonder why. as to which sex is more willing to pay, i have not be able to determine accurately from my casual observation. when this 'kaypoh' is sure, he will let you know.

Thimbuktu said...


Last week when I was at the Boon Lay MRT station and looking for a toilet to answer Nature's call, I discovered that I had a choice of whether to pay or not to pay to use the public toilet.

The toilet operated by SMRT is FOC whereas the SBS Bus Interchange toilet charges 10 cents per admission.

The most ironical part is that the 2 public toilets are located directly opposite one another.

Who would want to pay 10 cents to use the toilet if the free one is just a few steps away. Unless, of course, its an emergency at "tak boleh tahan" uncontrollable point.

Or is it because the paying toilet is cleaner and supplies free tissue paper?

Please check out these toilets if you happen to be in the Boon Lay area.

This is a tip for investigative blogging ; )

yg said...

james, where there is a choice, i will definitely go for the non-paying one. mrt toilets are all free. at seah imm, harbourfront, there is also a similar situation - at one end is the 10-cent per entry toilet, at the other end, the free toilet.

Thimbuktu said... looks like we're doing marketing research for free toilets in Singapore and sharing these info as a public service ;)

The paying toilets may find it more lucrative to relocate and not to face direct competition; where the customer's choice is clear. Why pay when you can use a free toilet just a few step away.

Have you heard this?

The "Limbo Rock" was invented by the guy who tried to enter a paying see how low he could go to get through the toilet gantry...FOC ; )

fr said...

Just last weekend at the Chinatown Food Complex I saw a man coming out from a toilet and giving the old woman attendant a $2-note. He said to her "give you drink tea".

I believe there are more people like him.

Haha, so actually there could be people, few maybe, who will use the pay toilet even if there is a free on.

yg said...

fr, it shows that there are still people who think and care for the poor.