Sim Lim Square shop Mobile Air has once again made it into the papers in spectacular fashion.
According to Lianhe Zaobao, Nov. 4, 2014, a Vietnamese tourist wanted to purchase an iPhone 6 as a birthday present for his girlfriend and after some research, he got to know that Sim Lim Square had stock for the phone.
The tourist, surnamed Bành, said that he is a factory worker with a monthly income of $200 and it took him several months to save up for the phone. He was on a holiday with his girlfriend.
The first shop he visited in Sim Lim Square was Mobile Air. He was quoted $950 for the phone which he paid for readily. Thinking that Singapore was a safe place to shop, he signed an invoice without scrutinizing it.
When he was about to leave with the phone, people from Mobile Air stopped him and asked if he wanted a warranty package of one or two years. He agreed to a one-year package thinking it was complimentary.
His nightmare began when he was asked to pay another $1,500 for the warranty package or he would not be able to get the phone. He then asked for his money to be refunded but the people from Mobile Air did not do so.
Bành subsequently got on his knees tearfully, put his hands together, and begged for a refund. He said that the people in Mobile Air were laughing at him and other bystanders did not help him.
His girlfriend got him to stand up and Mobile Air said they would refund him $600. His girlfriend refused to walk away empty-handed and $350 poorer.
She said that the people Mobile Air told her that they would retract their $600 refund offer if she got the police involved. Nevertheless, she called the police. When the police arrived, Mobile Air showed them the signed invoice and then offered to refund the couple $70.
CASE officers were called in subsequently and the couple got back $400. Bành said he accepted the refund because he had to return to Vietnam in two days and was not sure whether CASE could help him get back his full refund.
Let's hope that Bành can get his refund in full as he was made to sign a contract worded in English which is not his first language.
Mobile Air was in the news previously for refunding a woman with over 18 kg worth of $1 coins and they also used the example of chicken rice to explain their high prices.
Rogue shops a danger to Singapore's reputation
While many people will say that shoppers should practise Caveat emptor, or buyers beware, the tactics employed by rogue shops can be quite sophisticated.
High-pressure tactics along with bait-and-switches can potentially fool the savviest of shoppers. Coupled with the fact that Singapore has been actively promoting itself as a safe tourist destination, rogue shops in touristy areas such as Lucky Plaza, People's Park Centre and Sim Lim Square can cause severe damage to our reputation. All it takes is one very viral article or video picked up by a major media outlet.
Top photo screenshot from Zaobao Facebook page.