Suddenly there’s a face at your car window and you’re a bit startled. Don’t worry, this is not a Singapore mugging. The only kind of ‘mugging’ done here is by kids from elite schools, heads buried in text-books.
The person at your window waves, frazzled. “Sorry, just ran out of parking coupons. Can you spare one please?”
Not placing a coupon on your dashboard could mean a S$300 fine if it’s your unlucky day. Unless there is a kind soul willing to sell you a coupon, as luck would have it, there are usually no places nearby to buy one.
Most Singaporeans are wary of the parking attendant. Occasionally you see people fleeing coffee shops to plead with attendants not to give them a ticket. Often they get a heads up from the coffee shop staff who yells out that the attendant is coming. It’s the usual Singapore drill which can be comical, but only when you’re not the one sprinting. The pleading or arguing usually fails as the parking attendant is motivated to ticket you. I suspect they get a commission on each ticket. Anyway it’s a hard job to be so vilified, and having to work in the scorching hot sun as well. I don’t think they get paid much anyway. The lady attendants sometimes wear huge white floppy hats. I managed to sneak a shot of them at Ann Siang Hill today.
We could park in the malls, but Singaporeans like a good deal and the public lots are the cheapest option at 50 cents for half an hour (purple coupon, that I took a photo of today). In town the price could be $1 for half an hour. The coupons come in larger denominations. An orange coupon is a dollar and the blue one is two dollars. If you’ve just arrived here, you could stock up on these at any of the NTUC Fairprice supermarkets or 7-Eleven outlets. Here’s more information.
OK this part is the secret ‘Singapore Actually’ bit. We all cheat on these coupons by 5 or 10 minutes depending on how much risk we want to take. Some people go higher. If you’re unlucky and a parking attendant who has been ‘hiding’ (this is what most people suspect), pops up a minute after you’ve walked away, you can expect a fine of S$10. It’s a bit of a penny wise pound foolish situation, but we all do it. As I said we love a good deal. Oh yes, and gambling as well – but that’s a whole other post.
The nicest thing that a Singaporean can do in a car park, (Singlish for Parking Garage or Parking Lot) is to give you a coupon that still has time left on it. My mum always does this and because of karma, I think, she gets loads of unused coupons too.