Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hermes fails Kelvin and Orchard Road shop goes to his rescue for only $8

The brand Hermes is supposed to represent quality and good quality control. But Kelvin Kok's recent online purchase of a S$1,400 + bracelet from Hermes USA website has left him with a totally different impression.

In his first email to me last week, he said: "In a nutshell, the bracelet arrived but it's totally unwearable. Just imagine a bag without any handles." He wanted to know his rights as a consumer and what was the best course of action to take.

When he contacted Hermes USA after receiving the unwearable bracelet, he was asked to courier it back to them "as they do not ship outside USA so i've to bear the courier fees."

He was also asked to seek the help of Hermes in Singapore. So off he went to two of the outlets -- DFS and Liat Tower.

He said: "DFS's reply was they will take a picture and send it to Paris, HQ for evaluation and may take up to 6 months for a replacement. "However, Liat Tower refused to take the bracelet as I had bought it through their US online site and have to go through the US. So basically they pushed me back to US.

"Liat Tower also said if US refused to help, I will have to bring the item to Liat Tower and they will send it to Paris which will take up to 6 months for the wait. So I spoke to US that same night and they asked me to send it back to them...

"I feel that I should not be limited to whatever rights I have as an overseas buyer as this is clearly a huge oversight on Hermes' QC. They pride themselves as a luxury brand that produces high quality leather goods but this is truly unacceptable. They have bags costing more than 10K and you can imagine what would happen if it came without any handles."

As Kelvin did not explain why the bracelet was not wearable, I was curious. So I emailed him to find out.

When he replied, he surprised me by saying that he had solved the problem -- without the help of either Hermes USA or Singapore.

And the person who came to his rescue? The owner of a leather shop, 310 Woodland, located at the Heeren.

Kelvin said: "He was nice enough to help me out for a measly amount of $8. Being the pro that he is, he managed to knock out a hole in my bracelet in less than 10 mins. Now I'm finally a proud owner of a wearable bracelet."

As to why the bracelet was not wearable, Kelvin said he did not know how to explain the mechanics of the bracelet "as it is pretty complex to wear it". Instead he sent pictures to help me understand.

The first picture below shows the closeup of the metal plate with 4 slots. They were supposed to be punched through so that the pointy thing on left(second picture) can go through it. Kelvin says basically it came as a flat leather and "if you inspect closely, the 4 slots were punched but only halfway into the leather so I suspect it is done using machine."

Hermes has fallen short in its service to Kelvin. It did a lousy QC job in the production of the bracelet and was not very helpful when it was pointed out.

For those of you still interested in the bracelet, Kelvin says it is called "Collier de Chien" and is said to be "the Holy Grail of all fashion bracelets with its price starting from SGD$1400 to SGD$3000."

Well, I am not sure whether Kelvin will be buying another product from Hermes anytime soon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Anne fires another Canon at Challenger

Here's a new development to the story of Anne Wong's complaint about the "misleading" Challenger's ad in the mainstream media (see earlier post, The Truth in Challenger's Ad), and she has written to inform Case about what she discovered yesterday when she was in Best Denki.

She told Ms Aringi Ng, an officer of Case who is looking into the matter: "I was at Best Denki in Takashimaya/Ngee Ann City yesterday (Sunday, March 20, 2011) on my way to meet my family for lunch and checked on all-in-one printers there.

"The Canon MX876 all-in-one advertised as $399 at the IT Show was selling at Best Denki for $459.

"When I went to Challenger on Friday, March 11, the price quoted to me by the salesman was $499 (the SAME price that the MX876 had been selling for at Challenger - and other stores - for the past few weeks even before the IT Show).

"Thus salt was added to the wound!"

Ms Ng has promised to bring the issue before the Case council. Meanwhile, I have also given the feedback to the Challenger management but so far have not received any acknowledgment.

Guess we will just have to wait....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bouquet for UOB trio

Although I have been a loyal customer of POSB-DBS right through my working life, I have also opened accounts with both OCBC and UOB because of housing loans and other businesses.

I have always believed that no matter what they say, there is really no outstanding bank that can claim to give consistently good service here. This is because one's relationship with one's bank depends very much on the person you have to deal with.

If you are fortunate, you meet up with a helpful chap. If not, you go away shortchanged.

Some will take the trouble to lodge a complain or even write to the media, including this blog, while others will simply bite their tongue and keep silent.

Some of you would have read my experiences with DBS, so I will not bore you with more stories.

However, I thought I should mention my happy experience with three officers from UOB last week when I encountered difficulties while trying my hand at business internet banking for the first time.

I had assumed that I would have no problems as I have done online banking for my personal accounts with the various banks for many years.

But it was not to be. I had to find out the hard way what an administrator of a business online account can or cannot do, aside from my other role as a signatory of the account.

It took me three phone calls over two days before I finally managed to transmit some money to another UOB account to settle some outstanding invoices.

Although I did not quite catch her name, the lady at the UOB Transaction Banking section who answered my phone queries was extremely helpful. She gave me all the information I needed and I hung up feeling confident that I would succeed in my effort.

But I was wrong and had to eat humble pie by calling up the UOB Corporate Call Centre for more help. Again I was fortunate to be assisted by another patient officer who took me through, again, step by step.

After I finished taking his instructions, I logged on immediately as I did not want to forget what I had been told.

I felt pretty good when I finally filled up all that was to be done -- or so I thought. However, strangely, I felt something was still not right.

The next day, I called the person to whom I had transmitted the money to, to ask her whether her account had been credited. Her answer, you've guessed it, was "No".

So it was back to the call centre. Another patient officer told me that I had failed to do one last thing after I had validated the transaction form --- as the approving officer I had to give the go-ahead for the process to start.

It was indeed an eye-opener, but I appreciated the thoroughness of the whole process, plus of course the three helpful and patient UOB officers who gave this greenhorn a basic lesson in business online banking.

A bouquet for the trio!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The truth in Challenger's ad

Like many of us, Anne Wong believes in what is published in advertisements in the mainstream newspapers.

However, after her experience last week, she is now very sceptical. Here's her story:

"Last Thursday, March 10, both the Straits Times and TODAY featured a supplement on the IT SHOW.

"Within the body of the newspapers Challenger ran a prominent advertisement(pictured), touting that “We Match Show Pricing”.

"As I was toying with the idea of a new all-in-one from Canon, I visited the IT SHOW website (very disappointing) and the Canon website.

"To my delight, Canon showed what they were offering on various products at the show and I printed out the page in which I was interested.

"I took myself down to Funan Centre and approached the staff in the printer department who silently applied himself to a computer terminal. After a few minutes he turned to me and said that he could not match the Canon deal because it meant selling the printer below Challenger’s cost.

"I mentioned the big headline of their advertisement and another customer who was nearby remarked, “that’s misrepresentation”!

"On returning home I scoured our newspapers for the Challenger advertisement and sure enough, in small print there was a disclaimer under item 3: “ Challenger reserves the right to reject any price matching request at its discretion”.

"What a waste of my time and their money to trick people into their stores! Why even bother with such a ‘come on’ which is bound to turn customers off?

"How would a customer know whether the salesman’s story about the company’s cost is true or false? It could just be a ploy, like their advertisement.

"Besides, why should it be the customer’s responsibility to ensure that Challenger sells above cost?

"Did Challenger and its ad. agency think we Singaporeans have not heard of ‘bait and switch’?

"This can only happen where consumers have little protection. It would not happen in the USA where customers bring products back when a sale starts, return the products and buy them back again at the sale price.

"And often it even can be done in one seamless transaction at the register!

"I decided to stick with what we have – if it ain’t broke, no need to buy a new one.

"We’ll only be buying our next printer from Challenger IF they can match their competitors’ deals; why pay more? "

Wonder what the advertising regulatory body has to say!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Can we blame Dr Susan Lim?

A friend was horrified last week when she first read the story of Dr Susan Lim and details of the fees that she had charged a member of the Brunei royal family.

Yesterday, after she read what I had posted on my blog, she emailed me and seemed to have turned a little philosophical. She said:

"What I am amazed after reading the Sunday Times report is what some of the witnesses (all doctors) say are the "acceptable" rates a specialist can charge.

"No wonder so many doctors are driving around in flashy cars. I guess some may feel it is justified when young banking/financial industry officers earn so much money without having spent years acquiring the skills which specialists do.

"So sad that everyone has become so mercenary.

"I guess if we want to lay blame on someone, it is that this is the Singapore society that has been created when we started paying politicians in office the 'obscene' salaries, as otherwise they "will not be able to persuade" talented souls to serve the nation.

"So it is all about money.....................can we blame Susan Lim???"

Of course, there will be people who will agree or disagree with my friend's view. But the most amazing comment I have read on Facebook is one which says that Dr Lim is a victim of a witchhunt.

My own view is that it is simply a case that concerns a moral and ethical issue. Any reasonable person reading about the mind-boggling fees, I believe, would have come to just one conclusion.

That, obviously, is why the Health Ministry made the complaint of overcharging against Dr Lim to the Singapore Medical Council.