Just a few days ago, a student was captured hogging a McDonalds’ table to study with a rude message telling others to go and fly a kite.
This incident ignited some fury among the public about students “choping” cafes and restaurants, which are conventionally used just for dining purposes.
“Why don’t you study at home or a library?”
Many students, however, might agree with what netizen Wong says:
Lim, a year 3 student at NTU, said, “I prefer to study outside, because home is a relaxing place. I’m willing to spend a bit for a few hours of quality studying.”
F&B outlets have become preferred places to work and read, with free access to the internet, dramatic soundtracks, comfy sofas, availability of food and drinks to fill a hungry tummy, with some even offering extended 24/7 operating hours.
Libraries are also always filled first. They do not only attract self-studying goers, they also attract children, elderly and more. Some students also pointed out that libraries enforce strict rules, such as no food and drinks, no discussions etc.
Former teacher Kamala Malar, who is not a stranger to marking assignments and test papers at Starbucks, said that cafes are “socially comforting”, because the environment “removes the pain” of work and study.
So why is it a problem?
After all, studying sounds like a legitimate reason for students to occupy food outlets, as long as tthey purchase items from the outlet.
Methods like this that allow students to reportedly study more productively are what may have contributed to Singapore students topping the recent Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) international benchmarking test, a study to measure how well students use their knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems.
During peak hours, long waiting lines are expected at F&B outlets. However, students are seen to be oblivious, not fond of the idea of giving up seats.
When asked why, one student said: “We’re also customers here. Some pay to chitchat, while we pay to study. I find it discriminating.”
Further, this habit does not seem to be too problematic in some other countries. Cafes in South Korea are known to provide a cordial atmosphere and warm services, making them highly attractive to studious cafe lovers. Same goes to Europe, where a cup of aromatic coffee can typically satisfy someone’s entire afternoon.
Singapore is different, people are said to be more likely to label a student who refuses to give up his seat “selfish” and “unempathetic”.
What seems to be burgeoning here is the lack of availability of such mugging paradises.
As a result, it could be argued that restaurants are earning less since they have to strike a balance between regular diners and students. The latter are usually kicked out first, to make way for traditional diners.
Students hogging eateries – boon or bane?
While some cafes see seat hogging as a problem, family-run D’zerts Cafe in Bedok North calls out to students and adults to work and study there.
They even entice these potential customers with power points for their laptops and free Wi-Fi. One of the owners, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tay, said these customers mean good business. He said: “They come in the morning, they have a drink. Then they have lunch, and then dinner. We feed them the whole day.”
Mcdonald’s has even redesigned many of its restaurants to cater to this group of customers, by making space for more tables and chairs.
Ms Carolyn Khiu, director of Corporate Communications at McDonald’s, said, however, that many outlets have signs to “gently remind” students that while they may study, they need to be considerate to other customers during peak periods. Their peak periods are at all meal times.
“For example, if needed, we do ask students if they could share tables with customers,” she said.
Starbucks also designate certain study spots, such as long tables facing the window, making way for such student diners.
Just another aspect of “choping” culture?
When one thinks about it, “choping” or hogging seats is nothing new to Singaporeans.
Singaporeans are noted to have a habit of reserving seats in food centres – which have free seating – by putting items such as name cards, tissue packets, umbrellas, staff passes or plastic bags on them.
So why make so much fuss over poor students?