“Despite numerous security measures and education efforts, many people just do not return the trolleys after shopping at FairPrice supermarkets” (FairPrice Rolls Out “Trolley Enforcement Officers”, Felicia Choo).
We seem to have tried everything: security and awareness campaigns, crowdsourcing applications, and now “trolley enforcement officers”, who are in-house security officers educating “members of the public about returning trolleys by talking to them or handing them leaflets” (ST, Sept. 3). Yet supermarket trolleys continue to be wheeled away or abandoned, even though these are arts of theft – not just irresponsibility – for which perpetrators can be punished for. In other words, how difficult is it for shoppers to return their trolleys to one of the many return bays around the supermarket or the shopping malls, and why should these acts be condoned?
It may be true in Singapore, that punitive measures – as opposed to incentives for instance – are often the preferred tools when transgressions are dealt with. This penchant is not always healthy, but it must be frustrating to deal with missing trolleys every day. In this vein, most should be in favour of tougher and more active sanctions against those who wilfully wheel trolleys away. Such an endeavour, however, should be backed with more information revealing the extent of the problem: the total trolleys lost (and eventually retrieved), the additional costs involved in this work, and the number of police reports already made in the past (and how effective they may have been, based on aggregated figures thus far).
These acts bring to mind personal incidents I have experienced, in the college hostel where residents helped themselves to the foodstuffs of others from the communal refrigerators, and on occasion at the workplace where co-workers swiped stationeries or items which do not belong to them. Good behaviour we value and are trying to shape – such as the return of trays at hawker centres and standing in orderly fashion on escalators or at the train platforms – can be encouraged, though there should be little to no tolerance for clear wrongdoings, especially recurrent ones.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.