Sim Lim shops running scams on customers

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.

80 Comments on this Post

  1. Yeah, don’t buy from Sim Lim anymore. Got scammed too with my iPad 3 with that “unlock” technique. Then to give me consolation, they gave me lots of accessories like the cover, screen protector, usb conenctor, stylus etc. I then went back the next day to get a refund because I told them they overcharged me. When we calculated the excess charges, it amounted to around 400 SGD. I asked him to refund that amount to me and then he went on to charging the “free” accessories he gave me amounting to 300+SGD. Hence, he will only give me back around 100 SGD.

    I even asked for help from the “anti-scam” police in charge that time to help me get my money back. HE DIDN’T HELP AT ALL. He just listened to our conversation and told me to just accept whatever the owner will give me. USELESS.

  2. nexusboy

    We buy their gadgets at higher price, no SMILE. we ask how much their gadgets and not buy because it’s overpriced, still no SMILE. they even get mad. those people over there are really stupid! they want our money, but they won’t just get it that easy. kala siguro nila saten walang alam. ano sila, sinuswerte? LOL!

  3. nexusboy

    to be fair with Singapore, Scammers are everywhere. we all just have to be cautious and do some research. we have scammers in our own backyard too. the point is, let this be a lesson to Filipino tourists. we have been acknowledged to be one of huge contributors of tourism economy in Singapore and Hong Kong. hating the whole singapore is unjustifiable. again, tell everyone to avoid SIM LIM, and enjoy the rest of Singapore to the fullest! ^__^

    • Charles Rivera

      I think you misunderstood the article. No one was saying anything negative about Singapore. It is the opposite idea in the article: we have come to accept and expect SG to be a place where honesty is the general norm, where one an leave a bag behind by mistake and no one will steal it.

  4. These scams have been around way before you visited. I got a galaxy tab 7+, and the guy was talking to me in the worst possible “singlish” about this SG$54 fee for “activation”. He then presented a form and pointed out important points. It seems legit, so I handed my card. After 10 minutes of “activation”, he presented to us tge receipt, and the price shot up from SG$370 to SG$1080. Then, he pointed out that the SG$54 thing was MONTHLY!!! I didn’t want to argue because the guy would say s*** like, “it’s your f***ing responsibility to check the form.” I then found out that there is really no “activation” required!! That SG$700+ would all go to the owners. If you want to buy gadgets, go to HK (there’s a really nice sgore there whose owner gives big discounts if you’re a regular customer) or if you’re in SG, check out Courts along Orchard.

  5. i guess the surprise and disappointment with the scams at sim lim is because we know singapore to be a city without corruption, a city with honest people. we trust that we won’t be gypped.

    in the philippines, we are aware that scammers abound, so we are on guard.

    sad, that this is allowed to persist, esp since tourists purposely go to singapore/sim lim to buy electronic gadgets.

    thanks for the warning!

  6. Hi,

    yes, there are a lot of scams at Sim Lim.

    My advise to you and to other shoppers at Sim Lim is look for stores that are Star Retailer members.

    They are the stores that has the “Star” logo of star retailer hanging inside their store.

    Star Retailers are known to have very good business ethics. But their prices are a little high. I guess higher prices are better than stores owners fooling their customers

    You can also inquire from the reception /or information booth of Sim Lim for the list of Star Retailer stores

    Thank you

    • I would like to up this post. :)
      My dad works in Singapore and this is what he told me. Look for the STAR logo :D

  7. The best way is not to buy a gadget when it’s still “hot”. They really tend to overprice due to the supply and demand effect.

  8. Lulu Sta Barbara

    We were also victims of the scammers at Sim Lim Square. We submitted a formal complaint to the Singapore Tourism Board unfortunately nothing was done. No investigation was initiated. Beware!!!!

  9. One tip also if you are planning to buy again to this kind of people in Singapore. Since I had worked in Singapore for 6 months one local taught me to ask for the “NET PRICE”. My friend that time shows it off to me when we buy a phone in Sim Lim. It is like a corncob put in their mouth for their aggressiveness in price changes. It is their word that lets you caught, so catch them also by your own words WenYong told me. LOL hindi nila alam mas magulang ang ibang pinoy LOL! Great site sir Abe,

  10. Sim Lim Square is now infamous. Safer to shop at Funan IT Mall. Or else if you are in time for one of the 4 annual IT shows at Suntec City or Expo, buy from those. The prices you see are the prices you get. No problems with scammers.

  11. Dr. Joseph Cabantog

    Same thing happened to me a few days ago in Lucky Chinatown. Good thing I told them I did not have enough money.

  12. Red Estrada

    It is far worse that a friend of mine bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 from the infamous Filipino dwelling shop, the Lucky Plaza (E One Mobile Plus… to be exact) located beside McDonald’s on the basement floor.
    It was a real scam that he wasn’t able to get his money back but instead paid a whopping SGD1400 from the initial agreed price of SGD760 (the price of “unlocking” is almost SGD600!!!)
    He even called policemen to settle the issue but to his surprise, they just stood there and said that he should settle it alone with the seller because they reason out that their duty is just to avoid clashes… that somebody might get hurt. That’s pure stupidity of the police since Singapore is a shopping hub for most tourists, yet they witnessed face-face a huge scam and did nothing?!! Oh shit! This is really something that I never expected from them as I trust Singapore as one of the most honest nations. It will surely affects shopping tourism of this tiny island.
    At the end, my friend just paid and went home with a great feel of being cheated. A big lesson that surely be unforgettable to him.

    Personally, after this incident, I think of not buying any electronic gadget again from this place. One time for sure will be a pure regrettable depression.

  13. There are similar Scam tactics deployed by Bengs/Sengs (Salespersons who looks like crooks) in Chinatown when trying to purchase an IPad new for my bro in-law. There is “Activation Fee” from $80-$120, With or Without Warranty prices, GST “Unrefundable” prices too. So be a very careful and curious shopper in SLS or Chinatown. Always ask for the total costs, including Taxes and “hidden” fees for the item to be purchased.

  14. there is a reason why manufacturers put up stores in the malls, to avoid being scammed. moral of the story, dont buy one if cant afford one.

    • “dont buy one if cant afford one.” what the hell is this? haha

  15. Victims of SIM LIM Square ,Lets get together and push the police, the government, CASE , management of the shopping mall to take action!

    Pls contact me on

    Lets teach these buggers a lesson not to cheat on innocent people.

  16. i got scanned when i bought a fake apple phone for my friend or should i say my x friend. these people have no heart and yes there should be a complete investigation into the whole lot of them. they come at you with their sugar coated smiles, can i help you sir etc, but inside ready to rip you apart, singapore govt please take note. you should have like india tourist police who have powers to intervene in any such dispute. by the way one time i bought a fake watch in the same place and went directly to the singapore tourism main office. they phoned the guy up and suddenly he wants to give me a refund. ps now i just shop at mustafas, pay the price and take the item, end of story

  17. Deanna Tardio

    this is really their modus operandi. Other times they will convince you to buy another brand with add on features that will cost a lot. Even their screen protector is priced high to recover the low cost of the unit. Better in Funan ….Sim Lim is a big no-no for tourist. What keeps me surprised is that the SG government is not doing anything about it despite the numerous write ups and complaints. Even if you asked help from a police, they will only say that they have no knowledge of your agreement thus the police can do nothing :(

  18. In short: Don’t use a credit card!

  19. Rather than Sim Lim Square, go to Fu Nan Digital Center. Sim Lim Square is notorious for these scams.

  20. hmmmm...

    What if you ask to pay cash instead? Maybe I’m just used to preferring a cash transaction (to avoid debts). You can’t hand over 1000SGD if you agreed on only 400SGD. But sadly I guess this means you can’t really expect to return the item for any reason anymore, for warranty or otherwise.


Leave a Reply