Elderly cleaner allegedly coerced to spend S$13,180 at Suntec City beauty salon during 5-hour sales pitch

A police report has been lodged.

Joshua Lee | September 10, 2020, 06:15 PM

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Update: Opatra London reached out to Mothership to inform us that the salon is operated by a franchisee, and it is not directly owned by them. Opatra also said that the refund was made on Sept. 7. Lim confirmed with Mothership that the refund had been made.

Madam Tay, a 63-year-old office cleaner at Suntec City, was allegedly coerced by sales personnel at Opatra, a beauty salon also at Suntec City, into spending S$13,180 on beauty products and equipment.

Madam Tay's son, Lim TC, wrote to Mothership in a tip-off about the "aggressive and unethical" sales tactics that were employed by three Opatra personnel in particular.

Opatra salon at Suntec City is owned by a franchisee, and it is not directly operated by Opatra London.

Three staff allegedly invited the woman to view products

The incident happened on Sept. 4 at 1pm after Madam Tay's work shift.

According to the police report that Lim provided to Mothership, Madam Tay was walking past Opatra when a sales staff invited her in to look at some products. The staff were apparently "very aggressive" in her invitation.

There were three Opatra staff who were part of this "aggressive and unethical sales tactic" said Lim. He identified them as an employee, a manager, and a beautician.

The former two are Malaysian Chinese, while the latter is a Filipino, according to Lim.

Spent five hours in store

Lim said that the staff bought food for his mother and did a complimentary facial for the elderly cleaner.

In total, Madam Tay spent five hours in the store.

The staff first convinced her to buy S$1,180 worth of beauty products. These were paid for via two NETS payments.

Later, Madam Tay was convinced again to buy another set of equipment and facial products which cost S$12,000.

According to the police report, Madam Tay was made to believe that the products were of value to her.

This time, she could only use her debit card to pay S$2,000.

Products bought

An itemised receipt for the S$2,000 spent showed the products that Madam Tay was made to believe were of value to her.

The items included a facial scrub, a body scrub, a body butter, a day cream, and a night cream.

Facial equipment that she bought include a wrinkle reducer and device for the eyes.

Image by Lim TC.

Told to withdraw cash from bank

For the remaining S$10,000, Madam Tay was told to withdraw cash.

Lim said that the staff even followed Madam Tay to a DBS branch to withdraw the amount.

Over at the bank, a teller noticed that there were two women waiting for Madam Tay and tried to warn her about scams which target the elderly.

However, his mother was "too confused and caved in", wrote Lim.

"She was intimidated by their persistence and did what was told from the staff after the long five hours."

Told son about incident

Madam Tay went home with the products and told her son about the incident. They lodged a police report on Sept. 6.

Lim then headed down to Opatra with his girlfriend and mother on Sept. 7 to ask for a refund. The staff's boss also went down for the meeting.

The products that Madam Tay was allegedly coerced in to buying. Image by Lim TC.

Low-wage worker

Opatra initially insisted on their no-refund policy and claimed that Madam Tay was fully aware of her purchase.

To this, however, Lim wrote:

"My mother is a low wage worker who is illiterate in English, she does not read or understand English furthermore understand the complicated fine print of their invoice."

Lim and his mother meeting the staff (in black) for a refund. Opatra refused to refund the amount. Image by Lim TC.

The meeting ended after the boss told Lim that that she wanted to settle the dispute outside of her company on another day.

Refunded on Sept. 7

According to a DBS transfer receipt that a personnel from Opatra London provided, the money was refunded on Sept. 7. Lim confirmed with Mothership that the money was refunded.

The personnel from Opatra London also said that the staff in question have been ordered to a disciplinary hearing and the brand will decide if there was any wrongdoing and if further action needs to be taken.

Lim said that he plans to pursue the report with the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE).

He said that by sharing his story, he hopes public will be aware of such sales tactics that the elderly might be more vulnerable towards.

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Top images courtesy of Lim TC.