Our recent visit to Singapore over the week-end got us scouring around the shops of Sim Lim and Funan Digital IT Mall. Sim Lim has been a favorite gadget mall since a lot of stores carry new and interesting gadgets where you can haggle for discounts. Our recent visit was totally different though.
We headed off to Sim Lim Square on a Friday night of November 2 to look for the new iPad Mini that was released in Singapore that very same day. Most of the Apple Reseller stores in the city had ran out of stocks that same morning (local reports came that stocks of the iPad Mini ran out as early as 30 to 45 minutes from store opening).
We asked each and every store that look like they carry an Apple product for the iPad Mini and found about half a dozen of them still selling units. The prices they quoted us ranged from SGD$549 to SGD$599 for the 16GB model. That’s despite the fact that the same model only has a suggested retail price of SGD$448.
Understandably, these are re-purchased units bought at the base price then resold for a profit and landed in these stores to re-sell. Each time it is bought and re-sold, the price might be jacked up by SGD$50 to $SGD100. This is pretty normal and also applies with other iDevices, including the iPhone 5.
After walking around and scaling all 6 floors of the Sim Lim Square, we went back to the one that gave us the cheapest price only to discover that the first price they gave us wasn’t true and has changed to $600.
We were ready to walk out of there when a last ditch effort pointed us to a shop in the ground floor that offered it for SGD$480 (Php17k). We went inside and confirmed if it was really $480 and the Chinese owner confirmed. I thought it was a lucky break and since the shop was huge and manned by half a dozen people, I did not suspect anything. Since I was on Twitter at that time, a few other friends were also asking if I could buy them an iPad Mini as well.
I asked for the price of the other models and was quoted with a SGD$750 price for the 32GB (roughly Php26k). It was a little odd that the price difference between the 16GB and the 32GB was huge. I ended up confirming my order for a black 16GB and a white 16GB, repeatedly confirming the $480 price .
The store owner even tried to sell me a separate Lightning cable but I declined saying I already have a lot of them from my iPhone 5, iPod Touch and iPod Nano. After I handed him my credit card, he asked me if I wanted it unlocked. I was a bit confused about the “unlocked” but I said yes knowing that there’s no difference anyway for the WiFi model.
After swiping my card, the guy handed my the charge slip to sign. I discovered that the final amount was around SGD$1,440 (Php50k) for the 2 units. I was surprised since I thought it would only be SGD$960 (Php34k). I asked him to clarify and he said it was because I asked for the unlocked model. He then proceeded to show me the computation using his calculator (480 base price + 180 unlock price x 2 units x 10% CC charge = ~ 1,440).
I asked him to explain the unlock charge and he tried to confuse me saying the units came from the US and they had to pay an unlock price so it would work in Asia. After I said I don’t want the unlock and he should just give me a locked unit, he gave another explanation that in order for iTunes and the apps to work, I had to get it to unlock. After saying I didn’t want to use iTunes and any apps so I don’t need the unlock, he replied saying they already paid for the unlock so I should just sign the damn charge slip.
I argued that I did not want to buy it if there was an unlock charge and he didn’t even mention how much was the unlock charge before swiping my card. I added he could have made the unlock charge to $3,000 and I would have no way of knowing before he swiped my credit card.
The guy then tells me there are two models — the Singapore model that sells for SGD$620 and then the US model that sells for SGD$660 — and that I should just pick which one to get. I said I am no longer interested and asked them to reverse the charge.
The guy then suddenly yelled at me saying I am giving him trouble and that if I want to reverse it, he will charge me a 10% reversal fee. I said I will just call my credit card company and tell them to cancel it. We argued on and on for about 30 minutes and even if I said sorry, that this is all just a miscommunication and that I should instead go to the other stores and get the one at $599, he continued to berate me saying I am fooling him and he no longer wants me as a customer.
The guy is now angry, shouting at me, telling me to fuck off and shut up. I said I will shut up once he reverses my charge. After a very excruciating hour, we got out of the store in a hurry. Other customers are now looking at us.
We moved to another store to inquire before heading off to get a taxi back to our hotel. The other store owner conceded that a few stores in Sim Lim have that kind of modus operandi — giving inquiring customers really low prices and then charge them additional fees once the credit cards are swiped. It was a first time for me but fortunately, I was in the mood to argue and didn’t give in to the scam. I’ve been so used to Singapore as a really honest city, that you can leave your bag anywhere and no one would steal it so I did not expect store owners to be that scheming and lying thru their teeth.
Updated: Was able to get the reversal from them and upon checking the copy of the charge slips, I found the name of the store — Smart Connection – SI, Sim Lim Square #01-40, 1 Rochor Canal Road S188504.