The Wolves of Sim Lim Square

Not in the same league as The Wolf of Wall Street of course.  But while The Wolf has steered his career to more proper pathways after his spell of Breaking Bad, these wolves of Sim Lim Square are still baring their fangs.

Sim Lim Square
Sim Lim Square

The case of Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai - the latest victim who got bitten - highlights the plight of consumers when they unwittingly fall into the trap of dubious sales personnel who employ scam tactics.  Despite the intervention of CASE (Consumers Association of Singapore), he was unable to obtain satisfactory restitution.

In general, shoppers in Singapore find it tough to obtain refunds from smaller shops.  At best, you would be lucky to negotiate for an exchange.

This contrasts with our experience in Hawaii where we bought several handbags on impulse from a shop, only to regret it the next day.  We took it back to the shop asking if we could perhaps exchange it for something else.  We were surprised to be offered a full refund with no questions asked.  Retail sales are not bound by law to provide mandatory returns or refunds.  Consumers would definitely flock to a store that allows returns especially if goods are unopened or in mint condition as when it left the shop.

In Singapore, big stores like Challenger, Courts, Harvey Norman, Gain City, Ikea and supermarkets like NTUC Fairprice, Cold Storage, Sheng Siong, and such allows refunds or returns of a wide range of products, within a period that they specify on their policy.  For this reason, where product is available, we prefer to purchase from these stores even if the price is higher.

Shopping for items like electronics or hand phones can be more complicated than buyer fashion products or groceries because the various specifications and fee subscriptions require more research before purchase.  Not many has that kind of time or ability to research, and would tend to rely on the trustworthiness of the retailers.  This, added to a lack of familiarity especially when it comes to new product release, is when even savvy shoppers get caught by sales misrepresentation which can occur in so many forms.

Product or service has been mis-sold to you when:-

  • The service provider / shop sells you a contract that is misleading,  with wrong information or omissions.

  • Aggressive sales pressure prevents proper decision-making process.

  • Bait-and-switch tactics applied on unsuspecting customers.

  • Goods does not match the description.

  • Fraudulent practices has been resorted to, to influence or effect the sale.

Recently, we purchase a prepaid-SIM card Nokia hand phone from a shop at ION.  As it was meant to be a gift, we did not require the phone to be checked, especially since it already came with warranty from Nokia.  However, in a bid to prevent us from obtaining a refund, the shop insisted on "breaking the seal" and proceeded to unwrap the plastic around the box.. thus denying the receiver of the gift the delight of doing so herself.   We soon realize that SingPost nearby at Jewellery Street was selling the same phone for much less.  The errant shop rejected any request for refund for the exact reason that they had broken the original plastic wrap and seal on the box.  However, that was broken by them at their own insistence, not by the buyer.  Surely, Nokia should take back such units from the shops.

In terms of best practice and ethics, we wish to highlight a super-hero in terms of helping consumers seek redress.  He is none other than Ryan Lee, the co-founder and CEO of XMI, the company behind the X-mini range of portable Capsule Speakers.

Ryan Lee, CEO, XMI

In 2009, we had an incident where our buyer ended up with an X-mini capsule - when he had asked specifically for stereo speakers for PC - no thanks to misrepresentation by a shop situated in .. (oops) .. Sim Lim Square.

It was even the wrong color to boot.

The item was below a $100 so we didn't bother to hassle it out at the shop as they don't stock the regular PC speakers anyway and is unlikely to entertain refunds.

Instead, we wrote to the supplier Xm-i Pte Ltd asking if we could at least change the color.  Ryan Lee personally emailed his apologies though it was not the fault of XMI the manufacturer.  Senior manager Frederick Yeo couriered a new red X-mini to our place.  There was no need for us to return the one we didn't like.

From that first experience with X-mini, instead of that being the last, we have subsequently purchase many more capsules - green ones, orange ones.. the works.  They make for fantastic gifts and versatile travel accessories.  More competing brands came on the market, but there will always be a place in our lives for the X-minis, owing to the good vibes churned out by the CEO & company.

So it is not only legislators, but also manufacturers and suppliers, who  can lead the course for retailers to allow returns for exchange  or refund within a period of time.   The "free look clause" in insurance policy purchase - a consumer protection clause that allows the consumer a period of time to review their purchase - is one such legislation that now lessens the number of disputes arising from sales misrepresentation.

One rotten tree does not represent a whole forest so tourists and locals alike will still troop to bargain places like Sim Lim Square.

However, the significant stream of complaints against errant vendors indicates that speed in consumer redress is of importance these days.  Vendors dare to resort to dubious acts because of the time it takes for small claims to be filed and attended to.  We recall  a case where by the time the claim was awarded, the shop had closed down - possibly to reopen under a new name.  The consumer won the case - but it is a paper win as the owner declared bankrupt to evade monies owing.

From experience, when a retailer means to defraud, even caveat emptor by the buyer gets defeated.  More responsive consumer laws would therefore be of benefit both to consumers, as well as to the honest traders and shopkeepers who may have the misfortune of being sited in the same locale as the errant ones.

The Wolf of Wall Street

At a recent financial event, a group of participants started talking about the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leo Dicaprio.

Dicaprio in Wolf of Wall Street

"Oh, yeah," I said.  "The Wolf was here in July, giving his speech at the Resorts World Sentosa."

"What?!  The real Wolf?  Not Dicaprio?"

"Yeah," I laughed.  "The real McCoy, he was here."

Apparently, not everyone who saw the movie realize that Jordon Belfort a.k.a. The Wolf, is now a motivational speaker, after having served 22 months in prison and making monetary restitution for fraudulent activities conducted during his time as CEO of his own brokerage Stratton Oakmont.

Love him or hate him, this is one guy who has lived a life of excesses - and survive to tell it.

It is always interesting to see how the other half lives, and to hear their powerful story in person but for those who miss his live event, you can catch a glimpse through his bestselling memoirs The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, and of course through the motion picture.

He told of his struggles to commit his own story into writing way back during jail time:  "The date was November 1, 2005, and I was scared as all hell.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I think most people write out of inspiration or desperation.  In my case, it was desperation all the way.  I had an unspeakable past and an uncertain future, and no way to reconcile the two."

Judging from his subsequent streaks of successes, I'd say he managed to reconcile the two quite well.


From the event promotionals . .

Jordan Belfort Live

Did you know that Jordan…

  • Made more than $50 Million/year in his mid-twenties

  • Had over 1,000 stockbrokers working for him, all trained in his sales techniques

  • Raised over $1.5 Billion in venture capital, kickstarting multiple companies from scratch

  • Held controlling stakes in more than thirty of them

  • Acted as a consultant to more than fifty public companies

The Wolf of Wall Street_Book Cover

Catching The Wolf of Wall Street_Cover

The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, have been published in 40 countries and translated into 18 languages.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013 film) was released on December 25, 2013.

Wolf of Wall Street2013 Film poster

STGCC 2014

Event :  STGCC 2014
Date :  06 - 07 September 2014
Venue :  Sands Expo and Convention Center, Marina Bay Sands
Organizer :  Reed Exhibitions

Stgcc 2014 logo

In its seventh edition, this year's STGCC 2014 puts up its best ever show, with one of the most comprehensive collection of toys, games and comics on display, amidst a kaleidoscope of activities, product launches and events happening at every corner of its Marina Bay Sands venue.

Fans get the opportunity to meet their favorite artists and pop culture personalities who fly in specially for the event, or pose besides Optimus Prime (Transformers) and other photo-worthy characters.

We spied the figurine of Jean-Claude Van Damme, of the Epic Split video (Volvo Trucks), one of the most parodied youtube videos that has garnered 75 million views at last count :

Epic-Split-IMG_5165 (Large)

Epic-Split-DSCF1113 (Large)

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy statue that recently stood at the Shaw Lido made an appearance at STGCC.

Groot-Shaw-Lido-20140711_124842 (Large)
Groot & Rocket at Shaw Lido IMAX

Groot-STGCC-2014-09-0-DSCF1003 (Large)
Groot & Rocket comes to STGCC!

5 Guardian-IMG_5111 (Large)
Groot, Rocket, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax The Destroyer

A small selection of characters from the worlds of superheroes, villains and realms of fantasy, captured on Day One of the show..





Chinese Figurines
Toys Zhao Yun from Romance of the Three Kingdoms / Qing Emperor Kangxi



Magneto on Sentinel Throne (XMen)





Star Wars
Star Wars

Star Wars
Star Wars

Thanatos (Avengers)


Turtle (Pokemon)
Turtle (Pokémon)

Comics (Thor)
Comics (Thor)

Comics (Superman)
Comics (Superman)

STGCC Stage Show
STGCC Stage Show


Hawkeye: Be On Target!
Hawkeye: Be On Target!

How Shinta Mani Clinch the Sale

Not everyone has the luxury of booking their trips early.   The travel industry should be no stranger to last minute bookings yet from our recent experience, many operators in the industry are not able to cope when spontaneity is called for.

As a result, during the summer of June 2014, our original plan to tour Japan, turned into Korea, and finally to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Despite being new to Siem Reap, we decided to formulate our own tour programme in order to accommodate more flexibility.

We had to coordinate the airline booking with the hotel availability because although it was off-peak season in Siem Reap, one or two odd dates in the hotel stay had been blocked off by the hotels, possibly by group tours.

When it comes to hotel bookings, it is an online world, with a plethora of hotels and hotel booking sites (with Groupon also in to the game) throwing out their best deals.  While combing through the sites, we decided to also write directly to the sales division of various hotels in the 5-star category that we are familiar with.

One name that we were not familiar with — the Shinta Mani Club and the Shinta Mani Resort — cropped up among the tops in popular hotels ranking.  So we wrote in to their sales too.

Shinta Mani isn't exactly a global hotel chain, which explains why it almost skipped our radar. And we were fully expecting the global hotel chains to be the first to reply.  Given the short timelines we have before our trip commences, we'd have to take the first offer that came along.

To our surprise, it was Shinta Mani who replied first — so fast that we did not even have the chance to take up one of the many offers online.  Steven (Phich Sokda), Senior Sales Manager of Shinta Mani — the quickest man on the draw — easily clinch the sale.  What's impressive is that his was a full-fledged offer with every essential items like breakfast inclusion, type of rooms, dates in and out, taxes and service fee clearly listed, and then totaled up.  We had to give up staying in a Disneyland hotel once when the items in the bundle offered were all jumbled and efforts to clarify leads to more confusion, with emails running into many pages.  This time around, we grace Steven's thoughtful response with a resounding "Yes" by accepting the offer with alacrity.  As we were to observe later, Steven wasn't exactly a free man.  In fact, he was everywhere at every place that matters, since it was the height of filming season at the picturesque Shinta Mani.

The next Siem Reap hotel offer that came was pretty good too, a popular 5-star hotel no doubt, but they were a day too late.  We had already accepted the first approach.

Speed and efficiency.

Always a killer combination when it comes to sales.

Shinta Mani Entrance
The Shinta Mani - a Bill Bensley-designed hotel

Shinta Mani Club Reception

Shinta Mani Club Reception Fountain

Shinta Mani Restaurant

Shinta Mani Club Swimming Pool

Shinta Mani Enquiries

ITB Asia 2014

Event : ITB Asia 2014
Date : 29 - 31 October 2014
Venue : Sands Expo and Convention Center, Marina Bay Sands
Organizer : Messe Berlin (Singapore) Pte Ltd

29-31 October

The event will feature hundreds of exhibiting companies from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, covering not only the leisure market, but also corporate and MICE travel. Exhibitors from every sector of the industry, including destinations, airlines and airports, hotels and resorts, theme parks and attractions, inbound tour operators, inbound DMCs, cruise lines, spas, venues, other meeting facilities and travel technology companies are all expected to attend.

WIT - 10th Edition

Event:  WIT 2014
Date:  27 to 29 October 2014
Venue:  Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands Singapore
Organizer:  Web In Travel (WIT)

WIT Logo, little big 10

WIT Editor Yeoh Siew Hoon's take on why WIT Conference, Oct 27-29, is the place to be this year:-

1.   It’s where global comes to Asia to plot their moves for the future.

2.   It’s where global meets Asia in their quest to understand its mysteries.

3.   It’s where Asia leads global in ways that will surprise you.

4.   It’s where the best of global meets the best of Asia in a free and open spirit.

5.   It’s where great minds gather to discuss the future.

6.   It’s where open minds learn the most.

7.   It’s where great friends made over the years gather to create great moments.

8.   It’s where new talent is discovered and new voices shared.

9.   It’s where there’s always something familiar, yet always something surprising.

10.   Heck, it’s our 10th edition and that should count for something.


Book Here

Haw Par Villa

Venue :  Haw Par Villa
Photography and Design by:  Bong Wen Jie

See the Ten Courts of Hell at the Tiger Balm Gardens (or Haw Par Villa), a theme park located at 262 Pasir Panjang Road.


Haw Par Villa, by Bong Wen Jie



Singapore Airlines Autumn Festival

Event:  Mid-Autumn Festival
Venue:  Takashimaya Square, Ngee Ann City, Singapore
Date:  07 August to 08 September 2014

For the first time ever, Singapore Airlines participates in Takashimaya's Mid-Autumn Festival — the place to be if you wish to sample mooncakes from all the favourite restaurants and bakeries.

We understand that this is the first time Singapore Airlines opens up the sale of their mooncakes to retail customers.  Previously, it was produced as corporate gifts to their select associates.

You can't miss their stand.  It is right at the front.  The iconic batik print of the Singapore Airlines Sarong Kebaya uniform is on the mooncake box that will house your selection of mooncakes.  It is a tough choice to pick, since every flavor carries a fine blend of interesting ingredients that tastes unusually good.

From the Singapore Airlines mooncake brochures..

Singapore Airlines Mooncakes

Singapore Airlines Mooncakes Takashimaya 1

Singapore Airlines Mooncakes Takashimaya 2

Singapore Airlines Mooncakes Takashimaya 3

Singapore Airlines Mooncakes Takashimaya 4

Orders can also be placed through:-
♢  In-flight (home delivery) - KrisShop
♢  Online -
♢  Changi Airport Terminals 2 - SIA SilverKris Lounge
♢  Changi Airport Terminals 3 - SIA KrisFlyer Gold Lounge