Saturday, June 07, 2008

Lessons about Discrimination from the Book of St James

Hi Friends,


Would you go to an entertainment joint eg St Jude Nuclear Station, that :

1.Allows people of certain race in for free but not for others ? Eg All Greens free but Chinese/Malays/Indians/Caucasians etc have to pay

2.Allows certain nationalities in for free but charges the rest? Eg Singoopooleans free but non-Singoopooleans like Malaysians, Indians,Singaporeans,Americans etc have to pay

3.Allows certain occupations in for free but not for others ? Eg Air Line pilots free but PAP ministers, doctors, students etc have to pay.

4.Allows free entry on certain nights for people of certain sexual orientations ? Eg Heterosexuals free but homosexuals and bisexuals and others have to pay.

5.Allows entry for those who pay but not for those who will not ? Duh!

I think most of you get the idea by now.

There are discriminations and there are discriminations

Most clubs already have some discriminatory entry policies such as all women nights or free entry for airline crew or even beautiful people of the “glam” circuit etc.

Most patrons find these acceptable but not when St James Power Station allowed in for free foreign tertiary students whilst charging their local counterparts.

This controversial move by St James ( before the U-turn) triggered some raw and mangled nerves. It would be instructive for everyone to know why. Why is it that certain discriminations are acceptable market practice whereas others could lead to boycotts and uproars ?

Acceptable discriminations in Singapore

My personal take is that Singapore society prides itself for its meritocracy and feels perfectly at home with discriminations based on wealth and ability. Most feel that if one does well academically or have talents in special skill-sets (music/creative industry), society would reward them with not just higher pay packets but also higher status.

But try telling these same Singaporeans that even if you are a tertiary student of a solid university (with GPA 4.0 no less), that they will be treated as second class just because their identity cards showed that they are not foreigners, they will not take it lying down! I further postulate that the uproar would be less loud if all tertiary students who are on the dean’s list got entry fee waivers. This is because one can work towards a dean’s listing or get a certain bank’s "tritalinium" credit care but one generally cannot help being a citizen of one’s nation.

If St Jude wants to charge a premium for entry? Good! I will earn that money and you let me in! If Singapore Island Country Club's membership costs $250000? Good! I will show you the money and you let me play golf on the signature championship Bukit course! (NB I will tell you how LKY forced open the white-only “race barrier” at SICC at another occasion).

Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) is also discriminatory but it has not started any riots! You want to use the road, pay lah!

Whatever it is, don’t tell me that even if I am willing to pay the sky-high price and work to be the best of the best that I am barred because I am not Green or not Singoopoolean!

So how, Dennis?

So Dennis Foo, why did you "nearly (fall) off (your) chair" when you read about the uproar over the controversial policy in the newspaper? I am surprised that you are surprised!

How about trying free entry for Dean’s list scholars or for Mensa members?

Guaranteed that there will be less uproar! But then who wants to be part of a crowd of nerds, right? Ha ha.

Back to the drawing board?!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

St James does a U-turn

The S'pore nightspot's reversal comes after the press reported local students were upset that their foreign counterparts got in free while they had to pay a cover charge.

Fri, Jun 06, 2008AsiaOne

Local nightspot St James Power Station has decided to drop its unpopular door policy of waiving club entry fees for foreign tertiary students while imposing a cover charge on local ones.

The reverse in policy comes following a My Paper article on Wednesday that reported local students being upset at such a policy, which they protested as unfair and discriminatory.

Powerhouse, the nightspot's main dance room, had a sign at its door stating the policy, but it still came as a surprise to Mr Matthew Rao, 25, a National University of Singapore student, who had flashed his identity card at the door of the popular nightclub and was asked to pay the $20 cover charge. His foriegn friends, who were with him, got in for free.

"I thought the IC was for age verification, but the bouncers said I had to pay because it was proof I was Singaporean," recalled Mr Rao in the My Paper report.

"Why should foreign students get different treatment? If they live here, why shouldn't they pay as well?"

In an interview with The Strait Times Life! on Wednesday night, St James chief executive Dennis Foo said that he "nearly fell off his chair" when he read about the uproar over the controversial policy in the newspaper.

Acknowledging that "St James has erred", an apologetic Mr Foo announced that all tertiary students over 18, both local and foreign , will get in free before 11pm to its main dance club, Powerhouse, if they produce a valid student pass.

Powerhouse is opened on Wednedays, Fridays and Saturdays.

On why such a policy was introduced in the first place, Mr Foo explained: "Powerhouse, being a dance club, targets the younger set, some of whom are tertiary students.""But there are so many tertiary instituitions here. We can't offer it to all, so we chose foreign students to start with. It was also to give the place a more cosmopolitan feel."

Other nightspots

A check with other popular nightspots such as Zouk and Ministry of Sound (MOS) reveals that they do not have such nationality-specific policies in place.

Zouk, however, does offer free entry for certain credit card-holders on some nights and has industry nights such as Aircrew Night on Saturday when aircrew get free entry and 40 per cent discount on drinks.

There are no entry benefits for students there.

Over at Ministry of Sound, local students do have something to cheer about as both local and foreign students are granted free entry before 11pm on Wednesday and Thursday. MOS also offers free entry to air crew, who also get discounts on drinks at the club's Sky Lounge.As for St James' U-turn, it remains to be seen whether local students will continue frequenting the club.


patiala pataka said...

Everyone makes so much noise on this but forget that the discrimination has been going on for years. What about "ladies night"? Discrimination based on gender!

nofearSingapore said...

Hi p.p.
Yes, I think discrimination for special days eg Fourth of July for Americans or on parts of day which are considered generally off-peak (early afternoon) are slightly acceptable and considered normal market practice.

But to discriminate at the peak times of the night and based on race/nationalities is a no-no!

Some males also think that the Women's Charter protects women too much at the expense of men ( but these are generally my men friends who had bad experience from divorce).

SHIMURE said...

Well ladies' night concept was to allow more gals to go clubbing and to attract more guys to go.

so the gender discrimination factor is less as compared to a marketing factor.

anyways, i feel that guys normally go to clubs to pick up gals.

Women's charter is not always unfair. it depends on the judge and the factors on a divorce. there was an incident whereby the wife had an affair and the judge ruled in favor of the husband.

just 2 cents worth

Anonymous said...


So if it's marketing it's OK? Guess all the discrimination spoken about above is sort of based on marketing..
Who wouldn't want to go to a bar full of fit airline crew? Or can people not be attracted by a more "cosmopolitan" atmosphere? I'm not saying it's OK and I do feel ripped off paying at ladies night. But don't say accepted discrimination is not discrimination.

Good luck, I'll have a try at the Powerhouse soon, hope foreigners still go for free..

BTW ever wondered how many girls go out to pick up a guy?