Will you unplug?

Will you unplug?
The box has not only been functional, but is also so attractive that customers ask to take it home.

Among the condiments on the table at The Manhattan Fish Market's United Square outlet stands a cute-looking cardboard box that reads Unplug Box.

If diners were to put their phones in the box and finish their meal without touching it, they would be rewarded with a $5 dining voucher.

This is part of a campaign that The Manhattan Fish Market rolled out in mid-January to change the obsession that Singaporeans have with their smartphones and encourage them to connect with their friends and family.

The campaign was to coincide with Chinese New Year and a total of 10,000 boxes were produced and distributed to the various outlets for the one-month long "Unplug" campaign.

It was brought back for Mother's Day and Father's Day because of the good reception.

The campaign is over at most of its outlets as they have run out of the boxes, which are given to customers on request. The United Square outlet is continuing as they have 200 left.

A spokesman said the campaign was very successful during the Chinese New Year period and more than 70 per cent of customers took up the challenge.

She said: "We noticed that a lot of our guests are connected to their phones during meal time. So we wanted to encourage people to disconnect and engage in conversation with their family."

She also said that the restaurant has had tourists writing in to request for the box, students asking for general advice on how to carry out a similar project, and a lot of people commenting positively on their Facebook page.

Since there was such a positive reception, the spokesman said they would consider the possibility of bringing the campaign back again.


When asked if there is a permanent solution to change Singaporeans' gadget obsessions, she said: "I think this campaign is quite a good start. At least it allows people to be aware that something is wrong, gets them to think about their eating habits, and gives them some tips and tools to re-connect."

The United Square outlet's supervisor, who gave his name as Maung, 24, said: "A lot of people participated in the campaign when it first started, but the take-up rate is not as high nowadays.

"Many people said they need their phones to take photos or that they are waiting for someone when we told them about the campaign."

When TNP went down to the outlet at about 3pm on a weekday, none of the four tables with about 15 diners in total took up the challenge in the thirty minutes that we were there.

Of these, five were using their phones while the rest were chatting away.

Those on their phones were so engrossed with social media like Instagram and Twitter that they would look up and chat for a while before going back to their phones again.

Two ladies in their late 30s chatted and used their phones at the same time.

Mr Heng Chia Ang, manager at the Bugis+ outlet, said that as a lot of his customers are office executives during the lunch hour rush, most of them "won't even take notice of the box".

He said those approached gave the same reasons Mr Maung was told.

Some, like the group of seven at the United Square outlet, did not even know what the box is for.

When told, a man in his 50s said he could have easily won the voucher, then pointed to the younger ones in the group and said: "But I don't know about them."

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