You might think that now we have the Hong Kong government run by Hong Kong people they would at least be able to anticipate how people will react to their brilliant ideas.
They were apparently surprised when the concession on the DH levy prompted people to try to get more benefit than the government intended, and now it seems that they didn't realize what would happen when they waived charges for all government-run leisure facilities (for three months).
I expressed my concerns about the effect on swimming pools, but there are also the sports facilities such as squash courts that can be booked by the hour. If you don't have to pay, why not book a court on the off-chance, and who cares if you can't actually use it? Which turns out to be exactly what lots of people have being doing (No-shows at venues frustrate regular players - subscription required):
The bookings were full a month ago, but five of the 12 squash courts at the Hong Kong Park Sports Centre were empty late on a recent afternoon.
The receptionist said no-shows had become more prevalent since the Leisure and Cultural Services Department allowed the public to book its sports facilities free from last month. Declining to give his name, he said courts were frequently empty around midday as it had become a common practice for office-goers to make reservations for their lunch hours, play for a short time, then return to work.
The department said the overall rate of use at sports facilities was 80 per cent in July and that 63 per cent of them were taken up by people who booked in advance. That means that 37 per cent of people did not show up at the venues, which were taken up by walk-in users.
"In the past, once the reservation had been made, people showed up," said Wong Chi-lok, who plays squash at the complex every Thursday. "These days, it's harder to secure a court, and yet there are more empty courts."
But the department said it only started to compile the no-show figures after the scheme was introduced, so no comparison can be drawn.
Another regular squash player at the complex, Wong Kok-man, described himself as a "victim" of the abolition of fees.
"I'm a regular squash player and haven't had any problems with the government's online booking system before," he said. "Currently, because you can hold courts for free, people keep on making reservations online because there's no consequence. "This frustrates regular players like myself. Now even I press the `confirm' button unthinkingly - in the mornings, when I can't sleep, and whenever I'm free. Because it doesn't matter if you've booked a court and don't show up."
Unable to secure facilities amid a rising tide of irresponsible bookers, both players had resorted to showing up at the stadium without a reservation to try their luck at taking over empty courts. The practice of "picking up" empty courts has become so prevalent at Victoria Park's public sports facilities that a special booth has been set up for it.
Two of the four squash and table tennis courts at the park were empty at 3pm, despite being fully booked a month ago.
This would not come as any surprise to anyone who has observed what happens when anything is given away for free in Hong Kong.