Asia Singapore Is the automated tray return system in hawker centres just a façade?

Is the automated tray return system in hawker centres just a façade?

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Linked-In user says patrons of hawker centres must not be fooled by the screen and the voice recording of the automated tray return system in hawker centres.


Linked-In user Yee Chin Teo shared two pictures in his social media page showing how the automated tray return system in hawker centres is working. The pictures are from a hawker centre in Marine Parade Central and Bedok South. He said the system is but an attempt to put up a façade of automation with nothing high-tech about it.

Yee said he is always startled by the screen and the voice recording of the automated tray return system, but said patrons of hawker centres should not be fooled by it.

“There’s nothing high-tech about this set up. All the crockeries crash into a big tub on the floor and a worker has to bend down, pick them up and sort them out again for washing.”

He added that the mess the system creates does not take into consideration the troubles a cleaner has to go through to clean it up and was not dignifying to them. Yee likened the system to be “more low-tech than the army cookhouse” and asked “what (is) wrong with the open-sided stainless steel shelves used previously.”

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said 2 years ago that new or recently-furbished hawker centres have been fitted with the automated tray return system and that this have helped get high average tray return rates of above 60 per cent.

One Linked-In user who responded to Yee said he does not think that the issue is one of masquerading automation.

“I don’t think this is an attempt at masquerading automation. The problem with open sided stainless steel shelves is the hygiene problem of birds/bird poop as birds get attracted to the shelves and immediate vicinity from leftover food on plates left unattended.
I believe this is to mitigate the bird issue given that the top of the structure is covered by a mesh, presumably to prevent birds from entering.”

Yee conceded that it was a valid point, but insisted that better solutions must be found.

Another user said the automated tray return system was a good initiative by the Government, but that it needed better follow-through.

“Another “good” initiative by our government is only to be failed by the follow-up and follow-through. New leaders just throw in their “ideas”, WITHOUT serious the complete process management. For they always brainstorm in the most ideal environment.”

Yet another user pointed out that the only ‘automated’ task the system does is “to return the 50 cents deposit” patrons used to pay stall holders when they use their tray to carry food purchased over to a table.

“Perhaps some research would have revealed more interesting facts regarding this “creative solution”. The only automated task it did was to return the 50 cents deposit you have to pay the stall holder when you use the tray when you buy from the stall to carry your food. This “seemingly creative solution” to ensure that people clear their tables after eating was bought by the authorities and implemented.

“It failed. The stall holders didn’t like the idea of having to collect the 50 cents deposit from their customers. Some customers will just say that they don’t need the tray as they can just carry their one bowl of noodles or one plate of rice to their table. Even better, some stall holders agree to waive this deposit if the customer promise to return the tray to them immediately after using it to bring their food to their tables which is just in front of their stall or just a couple of tables away!

“So what is the result? Since they don’t have to retrieve their 50 cents deposit and now find it “very troublesome” to carry their plates, bowls, etc to the return station, which is quite “far away”, most will just leave their utensils on the tables and the contractor will then have to get the cleaners to go round and collect them!”

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