So today’s entry might sound a bit negative compared to all my other entries, but I believe in showing all sides of things—the good and the bad. So, here goes. Our experience, so far, with Singapore has been mixed. We have met many nice people and had some good food. By the same token, we have met some very not so nice people and had some pretty not so good food. The biggest difficulty, I think primarily for me being that I’m American, is that I have realized how spoiled America has me or rather how efficient and fair the U.S. is, when it comes to consumerism. Coming from the United States to a place like Singapore can be tough. Singapore presents with being the consumer nation that the U.S. is when looking from the outside in. So, when you arrive here, there are shops galore and it seems that the only thing that people do is shop. Feels and looks just like home! There are big malls, the stores are open until late every night, they sell a variety of items, and they advertise tons of sales everywhere. But, that’s where the similarities end. Once you begin shopping, you notice the differences, such as: return policies being much stricter than in the U.S., false advertising, and prices being negotiable or flexible depending on who you are. I’ll give you a few examples:
1) The other day I went to a place to do my eyebrows. They had a “special” and the lady told me that I could go get a pedicure at their partner nail salon with this “special” but that I had to pay in advance and then I could go there at any time and redeem my pedicure. I went ahead and purchased the package, since I’m always quick to buy a bargain when it comes to beauty. So yesterday, I went ahead to the nail place to redeem my “special” pedicure. I walked in, told the lady at the front desk that I had prepaid for my pedicure. She then recommended to me that I pay an extra $5 for a foot dip. An extra $5? I asked her what this was for and reminded her that I had already paid for my pedicure. She then informed me that it was to ensure that the bacteria was washed away from the bin that she was going to use and for my feet and that it is more hygienic this way. Oh well, in that case, then definitely charge me the extra $5! She then looked at my paid receipt and proceeded to tell the nail technician that I had paid for a Classic pedicure. I sat there as the lady did my nails and I enjoyed watching their TV for about an hour(since we still don’t have a tv and I’ve realized how much I miss TV). The pedicure was nice. The color came out good, she took her time, and I felt relaxed. Little did I know, my relaxation was quickly going to become major frustration! I got up ready to leave (in my naïve little head I had already paid, so all I had to do was give her the stupid $5 for the hygiene thingy—which, by the way, I still don’t understand what it was for). Anyways, she told me I could not leave yet and got on the phone and was talking to someone (I suspected the lady from the eyebrow place) for about 10 minutes in a language that I don’t understand. She then got off the phone and told me that I owed an extra $14 on top of the money I had already paid and on top of the $5. “For what?” I asked. In very broken English, she proceeded to tell me that I had only paid for an Express pedicure and she gave me the Classic pedicure. I went ahead and showed her the little receipt I had from the eyebrow lady that clearly said “Classic” pedicure and paid. Well, this lady was not budging. I got into a back and forth with her, got tired, and finally gave her the $14 because I was too tired of fighting with someone whom I could not understand and whom could not understand me. Then, as I walked out, Tariq saw the frustration in my face and came to my rescue. He insisted that we go back to the eyebrow place and continue to fight for our rights! So that’s what we did. We asked for a manager and after much fighting, we were finally informed that their employee had incorrectly written Classic on my receipt when, in fact, I had only paid for the Express. Well, Tariq (being the stubborn business man that he is) started to tell them that this was not my fault but rather their employee’s fault and that if they did not reimburse me for the extra $14, that he would be contacting the credit card company to reverse all of the charges. Well, this seemed to do the trick, as they reimbursed me for the $14 and apologized for all of the confusion. But, seriously it became a whole different approach once a man became involved.
2) That same night, we went to look for a TV. Buying a TV here has been a true mission! It takes us about an hour to get to the stores to look for the TV, by the time we wait for the bus, take the bus, and walk to wherever it is we are walking to. Anyhow, after our 1 hour journey, we finally get to the store and search for the TV. You would think that TVs are cheaper here… after all, we are in Asia (isn’t that where Samsung and Toshiba are from??) but WRONG! TVs are so expensive here and there is no such thing as Costco! So, we finally find one that is affordable and tell the sales guy that we want that one. “Oh no” he says, “Can’t give you that one, but I have this LED one, if you’d like, much better!”. To which we replied, “no thank you, we don’t need LED, we just need a cheap TV”. He then says “No stock no stock” At this point, we have no idea what is going on.. so we ask him “but can we order this one?” He then tells us in a louder voice “no stock no stock on that one, no advice why you don’t buy LED! Its better!” (but mind you the one he is trying to sell us is about triple the price of the other one and this guy has not made any attempts to check his so-called stock, as he hasn’t looked into a computer or asked anyone..he’s just standing there yelling at us to buy the LED). We, again, now even more frustrated tell him we don’t want your LED, we want this price! We then ask him can we take the display one and again he replies “No cannot sell”. All the while, there was no smile, no “sorry sir”, no “let me check a second” from this guy. So, we left, empty handed and extremely frustrated, as they have this great TV on display for a good price that supposedly, does not exist and if it does, it cannot be bought! Tariq reminds me that this is called “bait and switch” to which I reply, “no this is false advertisement and this is illegal in my country!” Take me home!