Friday, December 28, 2012

Singtel happy to know about Fara's good work

Singtel has acknowledged my friend Lulin Reutens' feedback -- through this blog -- on the wonderful service that she had received from one of its counter staff.
     In an email yesterday, Ms Lina Yap, the telco's Associate Director, Customer Management, Consumer Operations, said:
     "Thank you for taking the time to give us your positive feedback     "We are pleased that Ms Fara has served you well by delivering quality customer service to valued customers like yourself.
     "We appreciate your feedback as it allows us to reward and motivate our staff to achieve even higher standards.
     "Your appreciation has been conveyed to her and she will be recognized for her efforts. We are certain that your words will inspire her towards maintaining and achieving even higher levels in customer experience.
     "We thank you for your continued support of SingTel and look forward to being of service to you always.''

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thumbs up for Fara of Singtel

        Lulin Reutens wrote to me today to sing the praises of a Singtel employee whom she encountered recently.
       "Whoever is the supervisor of Fara, a Singtel counter staff at ComCentre, should give her at least a big Christmas bonus if not a big increment!" Lulin says.
       "Fara was patient and meticulous in helping my husband and me to upgrade our service to the new fibre optic system, and renewed my husband's phone contract with a free new phone.
       "My phone was not due for renewal for another two months but a quick word with her manager and I got an iPhone5 without paying the penalty for early cancellation of the old contract.
       "Throughout the two-hour-long process, Ms Fara was friendly, cheerful and patient in explaining the different options and waiting for us to make our choices, as well as explaining the many documents I had to sign.
       "Not once did her smile droop, and it was a genuine smile, too! And she had started at her job just four months earlier! She knew her stuff well and spoke good, clear English without a hint of frustration, impatience or annoyance.
       "Serving us caused her to miss lunch with her colleagues when they came to find out if she could leave.
       "I apologised for making her miss her appointment but she brushed it off good-naturedly, as though I am doing her a favour by being at her counter."
       Lulin says Ms Fara, who hails from the Philippines, is the kind of foreign talent Singapore needs badly.
       "She should train Singapore sales staff on the meaning of good service -- how to keep a smiling, cheerful demeanour so the experience is a pleasant one for the customer, even when dealing with annoying paper work and bureaucracy.
       "Thank you, Ms Fara."
       Wow, that's something coming from my old friend Lulin who, I know, was a strict supervisor while she was working with me many  years ago and did not lavish  unnecessary praises on undeserving subordinates when it came to staff appraisals.


Friday, December 14, 2012

StarHub springs a surprise -- go reconfigure yourself!

It's been awhile since I have blogged about StarHub and its deteriorating service. My friend, Irene Hoe, who had numerous exchanges with the telco, is totally exasperated and has given up complaining.

My last feedback to the telco about its unfriendly website a few months ago, did not get response. I had wanted to use my points to offset my monthly subscription fee but could not find a telephone number to call despite scrutinising its website.

I wrote an email to its corporate communications people to give them the feedback, but they did not have the courtesy to acknowledge and reply.

Today, after returning home from lunch, I had a big surprise from the telco informing me that it was doing something which an IT-deficient person like me did not quite understand.

This following is part of the message that flashed on my screen when I logged on to the system...

Auto DNS Configuration

"Dear Customer,

Your PC/router DNS settings is currently configured to link to our decommissioned DNS server, and thus being re-directed to this webapge.

Please note that as your PC/router has been set to manual DNS settings, your internet access will be affected and must be re-configured to automatic DNS selection in order to restore normal internet access to your computer.

If you are not using a router or gateway in your home, please skip to the steps on configuring automatic DNS settings on your computer.

If you are using a router or gateway in your home, please disconnect your computer from the router/gateway and connect directly to your cable-modem. Ensure that you follow-thru with a reboot of the modem.

If you are still not able to access the internet via direct connection to your cable-modem after the reboot, please go to steps to configure automatic DNS settings on your computer.

If you are able to access the internet via direct connection to your cable-modem, your computer is already setup with automatic DNS settings.

However, if you are still unable to access the internet after reconnecting back the router, you will need to re-configure your router from manual to automatic DNS settings: usually by logging into the router's web configuration/management page.

Please refer below for the contact details of some popular router vendors' technical helpdesk, who can assist you in the re-configuration..."

This last paragraph really took the cake -- StarHub is asking me to contact the router vendor for help to reconfigure my computer settings!!!

After I read the notice, I tried to stay calm as I knew that blowing my top over a bunch of morons would not help me access my Internet.

I tried as best as I could to digest and understand what the telco was asking me to do. I decided to give it try and managed to finish every bit of the things that I was asked to do, ending with "flushing your DNS resolver cache."

But, unfortunately, it did not work. So I called up 1633 reluctantly. It took sometime before I got to speak to "WQ", who helpful and pleasant.

He got me to repeat what I had just done -- plus a little more. But it was without any success.

WQ decided it would have to do a 'house call' before the problem could be resolved.

When the StarHub technician, Anuar, came at 7 pm, he had no clue what I was telling him because no one had briefed him about the problem.

He was surprised to see the notification on my computer screen. Apparently, the telco had sent it out to its customers without first infoming its own staff about the reconfiguration plan.

To Anuar's credit, he did some tests on my router while, at the same time, rang headquarters to find out how to resolve the snag.

Soon, he realised that he had to plug into the router to do the reconfiguration. With detailed instructions from HQ, he managed to complete his job successfully,

Although I am happy to get my internet connections back after a few hours, I am not pleased with StarHub management and would like them the following questions:

1. Before they cut the internet connections, why weren't its customers given notice about its decommissioned server and the need to reconfigure the settings?

2. Why does it take its customers for granted by assuming that they would be able to perform the settings themselves?

3. Again, why does it take its customers for granted by asking them to contact the router vendors for technical assistance? Surely, this is the job of the telco?

4. Why did it not brief its technicians about its reconfiguration plans so that they would be better informed and thus be able to cope with the task ahead?

I hope Montefiore and his mighty men (and women) will have the courtesy, this time, to give us a response!!!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

UOB imposes $150 annual fee for Overdraft Line

United Overseas Bank (UOB) has decided it will charge customers who use its Overline Line of credit an annual fee of $150.

Although I have an arrangement to use this credit, I have not done so for
donkey years.  However, I still object to this arbitrary imposition of a fee that simply has no justification whatsoever.

Why should there be an annual fee when the bank already charges interest on customers who activates the credit line?  There is absolutely no service involved, so what is the rationale for having such a fee.

I think it is clearly a case of having its cake and eating it, too!!!

I called DBS Bank today to enquire whether it imposes such a fee and was told that it does not.  What's more annoying was that the prime rate-plus
interest quoted by DBS was lower than that UOB is charging me.

In its letter to me, UOB says: "This fee will be debited from your account in June each year for as long as the Bank continues to extend ths Overdraft Line of credit.

"In the event of insufficient funds in your debiting account, the annual fee will be charged against your line of credit and the amount subject to interest."

Wow! I think it is time to start looking for another bank.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Poor service at La Nonna

     My friend, Aloysius, was totally peeved by the service of an Italian restaurant recently as it totally spoilt a happy occasion for him and his family.
     I encouraged him to write to me.  The following is his account of the incident:

    "If anyone is thinking of having a meal at the La Nonna Italian restaurant in Namly Place, he/she had better think twice.
     I was there on 30 Nov for lunch and could not believe how any respectable restaurant could give such shitty service and hope to get away with it.
     It was my younger daughter's birthday celebration and she was hosting the lunch.
    Altogether there were 10 people. We scheduled lunch at 1.00 pm as some could not make it earlier. When we arrived, only four or five tables were occupied and some had already finished their meals.
     There was only one waitress going about her job and there was a guy whom I presumed was the superviser or manager. We sat there for a while and tried to attract the waitress' attention to come and take our orders. But it was not too successful!
     We waited for another while before she finally came.  Eight of us ordered from the a la carte menu while two decided to have the set lunch.
     The first course came and, after a long interval when most of
us got our main course, my son who ordered a risotto had to send it back to the kitchen twice  -- the first one was salty but the second one was worse. It was only the third one that was satisfactory.
     Meanwhile,  my elder daughter who had ordered a pizza from the set menu for her main course, sat waiting patiently. Everyone else was finishing their food and here she was still waiting
for her pizza.
      She called the waitress no less than three times to see what was happening and each time she came back to say that it was coming but it never came.
      By this time, everyone had finished his/her food. My daughter was furious and decided to go into the kitchen to see what was the cause of the delay. 
     To her dismay, she saw an uncooked pizza on the kitchen table
which was supposed to have gone into the oven a long time ago.The chef did not even acknowledge that there was a screw-up.
     When the pizza finally came, she decided to send it back to the
kitchen as she was no longer hungry, being in a very bad mood.
     My younger daughter, the host, was thoroughly embarrassed that someone she invited had to be put through such an ordeal and on her birthday of all days.
     We all left without ordering dessert or coffee. We made sure that one set lunch was not included in the bill.
     Walking out of the restaurant, I passed the guy whom I had presumed was the supervisor. He looked at me arrogantly without a word of apology as if saying “you had lousy service, so what?”
      It was past 2.30 pm when we left the restaurant. In fact, the restaurant was empty except for our table at around 2 o'├žlock.
      I believe this restaurant is a member of the Senso Restaurant group in Club Street, a restaurant with a fine reputation and which I had dined there on a number of occasions in the past.
     I hope the Senso management  knows what this little restaurant in the suburbs is doing to kill their reputation."


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Shionge offers to help

    Since I posted the item on Fun's Florist (see  post below), I have had no response from Case.  I guess they do not have an opinion on overcharging. Or, maybe they have one but are unwilling or unprepared to air it in public.
   Well, we consumers will just have to more wary and look out for retailers who are out to make a fast buck.
   I am happy, though, when I received a message from my blog follower, Shionge, today offering to help.
   She suggested that I send her a picture of the plastic roller that I needed and she would check with her office contrator whether they are able to get it from the hardware store.
  Thank you very much, Shionge.  Here's a picture that I snapped with my


Monday, October 1, 2012

No fun at Fun's Florist

It's no fun doing business with Fun's Florist in Thomson Road. And I am not talking about flowers but garden sheds which it probably has a monopoly.

Last week, I enquired about a replacement part -- a tiny plastic door roller -- for my garden shed which has cracked and broken into pieces.

The woman who answered the phone said that they are not sold individually but in a packet of four. She asked whether I wanted it to be fixed by their workers but I said I would do it myself.

Then I asked for the price -- and got a shock. She said the price for the four tiny plastic rollers was $45.

I was tempted to ask her whether the rollers had gold linings but I controlled myself.

It was obviously a case of "take it or leave it because I've got you by the balls". (sorry, couldn't resist it).

This is yet another case of retailers in Singapore who overcharge for parts which they know you have no choice but to buy from them.

Readers, do let me know if you have such an experience. We consumers need to expose such unhealthy business practices.

Wonder what Case has to say about this!!! I will ask them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

No Signboard's 'crabby' service

A double birthday celebration at the No Signboard Seafood restaurant in the East Coast two days ago has left Ryan Khan terribly unhappy. He said he would not want to go back there again.
         Here's his story:   "I was there with my family to celebrate my mum's and uncle's birthday. There were eight of us. We were told each small crab was estimated to be 1.1 - 1.2 kg. and medium crabs were 1.6 kg to 1.8kg.
         "So we decided on two small chilli crabs and two small butter crabs among other dishes. The other dishes were alright despite not being up to previous standards.
        "When it came to the crabs, we were only served the chilli crabs. We thought the others would come awhile later. So we got into conversations and were enjoying out chilli crab for at least a good 40 minutes.
        "We were done with the chilli crabs and (still) the butter crabs did not come. So I went to the ask for the bill and to inform that the butter crabs had not come and I want the order cancelled.
        "About five minutes later, the waiter came up with the butter crabs and the bill.  We had all washed up and I informed the staff that I had already cancelled the crab.
        "I was told 'cannot cancel' as the crabs (were) already cooked. I was forced into paying. I did not want to create a scene to spoil the occassion. I asked them to packed the crabs.
        "I paid with my Mastercard and I did not really check the bill. When I came home, I looked through the bill (and found) I was charged $308 for the crabs alone before taxes.
        "I did my calculations and it came to 1.4kg per crab. I called the restaurant, and I was told each small crab is between 1.1  and 1.4 kg. I argued that it was not what Iwas told initially (1.1-1.2kg).
        "I told the woman I spoke to, how could it be all my crabs weighed 1.4kg. She told me I was served bigger crabs but I was only charged 1.4kg. I found it ridiculous.
        "When I questioned why my crab was served so late, all I was told was 'sorry, we got too many orders'. Is this the kind of service we expect of a top seafood restaurant.
        "The service I got was worst than coffeshop standards. Even in coffeeshops, they would weigh the crabs and indicate the weight in the bill. Whereas, No Signboard bill just syas '1 crab $308'. 
        "The total bill came up to $657.50. I just felt cheated. We pay for good service and good food... I had many good experiences at No Signboard Restaurants years ago.
        "But my last experience at the Geylang outlet and now at the East Coast outlet was so bad. I am not going to ever go back and I want to let others know about my experience here."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Citibank's action upsets Melisa

      After she was given her credit card from Citibank in June, Melisa Tan, 31, decided to get a sub-card from her 61-year-old father who is self-employed.    But her application was rejected. 
     When she called up the bank to find out the reason, the customer service officer who spoke to her refused to tell, saying "they are unable to disclose the reason and there is no department which can help me on this''.
     Melisa was obviously unhappy and decided to return her credit card and to "cancel all services with them."
     On July 11, after she received her statement, she called up customer service again to enquire whether she needed to pay the bills straightaway or
"wait for the final settlement since I had already asked to close my account".
     The officer she spoke to was surprised when Melisa told her that she had already asked for her card to be cancelled.
     Apparently, the bank record did not show any cancellation request.
    Melisa recounted: "I was obviously upset and I asked her whether I had to pay the bills or wait for final settlement.
    "She told me to wait for final settlement.  And so I waited. Then a couple of days ago, I received a call from Citibank regarding my outstanding payment.
     "I told this officer what I was advised to do. He was surprised and told me that if I did not pay I would have to pay interest. So I told him to get his manager to call me as it wasn't my fault.
      ''An hour later, a woman called, saying that she was a senior staff and wanted to explain. I told her that  I only wanted to speak to her manager, someone who could make decisions.
      ''The manager called me an hour later. She told me to make payment by next week as this account was an outstanding account in their system and there would be interest incurred.
      "She said that if I made the payment by next week and called her after that she could help me waive the interest."
      Melisa questioned why she should even pay interest "since I was only heeding their advice."
      Two days ago, the manager called to repeat what she had told Melisa ---  interest would be waived but only after she had made thepayment.
    Citibank had obviously made a mistake by not carrying out Melisa's instruction. For that, it should have apologised first before proceeding to ensure that Melisa paid her bills.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Psst...this is not a Singtel email

A week ago, I posted a story about my friend Lulin's unhappiness with Singnet when she tried to give some feedback to the service provider. She was asked so many questions, including personal ones, that she finally gave up.

I alerted Singtel to my post and yesterday, received an email reply that I thought was so strange.  The writer said the email was not from Singtel but he ended the message with his name, designation and company's name.

His email was to thank me for giving him the feedback and to advise customers on how to guard against online dangers. 

This is his message:

"I refer to your email of 26 July 2012. 

Thank you for your feedback. Please be informed that this email is NOT from SingTel and we recommend that customers do not click on the links or volunteer any information. To safeguard your interests, we recommend that customers ignore emails from unfamiliar sources and exercise caution when providing personal details online and in competitions, lucky draws, surveys and feedback forms. For more information about phishing, please visit    

Please do not hesitate to contact me at +65 6838 4367 (DID), or email if you require further clarification on the content of the above correspondence. I will be glad to help you.  

Yours sincerely    

Dhan Guines (Mr)
Customer Relationship Executive
Customer Management, Consumer Operations
for and on behalf of:
Singapore Telecommunications Limited"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lulin sends feedback to Singnet but ends up doing all the work

My friend Lulin's intention to do a good deed has left her totally exasperated. She wanted to inform Singnet about a possible scam but was put off by a whole lot of boxes to fill including some personal info.
    Here's her beef about Singnet: "I received an email on my Yahoo account asking me to verify my account by clicking an URL.
    "The email came from a Singnet address. I know about such scams but thought I should inform Singnet as I also have a Singnet address.
    "At the Singnet website, I clicked "contact us" which led me to a short form. Typed my name, IC number, tel and email. For "type of feedback", none of those offered fitted mine and I chose comments, suggestions etc. And I typed my story about the hacking email into the feedback box.
    "The short form expanded and I had to type in a whole lot of other personal info and the form expanded further. Finally, I thought that was it, but a box popped up and asked for my ADSL number. What the heck is that?!!
    "Surely with my email address, Singnet can check the ADSL number (whatever that is). If this is a way of discouraging feedback it sure works! If the ever-expanding form is to help Singnet divert the query or complaint to the different departments, it is nonsense!
    "Why make the customer -- who is already taking the trouble to send the feedback -- do the work? Why can't Singnet read the feedback and forward it to whoever? NOT good enough, Singnet!
    "If they are still interested, the email I received is: Webmail Administrator Dear Account Owner July 24, 2012 5:59 PM
Dear Account Owner,   We are currently upgrading our Webmail account data base, for this you cannot be allowed to send or to receive new email until you revalidate your email account. Kindly click here Webmail Administrator Unit."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Albert met a salesman with a 'darkened face'

Shoppers Albert Wee and his wife are pretty upset by the way they were treated by a salesman at Toy Outpost Singapore in Plaza Singapura.   
      The couple were shopping at the mall on June 16. His wife had bought two iPhone earpieces for $10.
      Albert said there were a few colours to choose from but his wife chose two without noticing there was a pink one as well. 
      Later, when she realised she had missed picking the pink one, she asked the salesman whether she could have it changed.
      Albert said he "showed a face"  (obviously a sour one) and ignored her request.
      To test whether the salesman would behave in the same manner again, Albert went to another display box which had the same earpieces on sale and had more colours. 
      He said: "I asked for one in blue and the other pink. 'World class
service' was again rendered.  The salesman also ignored me and again showed his darkened face.
     "As such services were being shown,  we decided to leave but not
before informing Livia (another sales staff) about what had happened."
     Minutes later, a dissatisfied Albert went back to the shop as he wanted to confront the salesman to ask for his name as he thought he should complain to the management about the rotten service.
     Albert said this was how the dialogue went between the two of them:
     Salesman: “What you want my name for?"
      Albert:  “Cause I want to let your management know of your excellent service."
      Salesman:  “My name is confidential, cannot give you."
       Albert: "Are you afraid of me complaining to your management?"
       Salesman: “No, I’m not."
       By the way, Toy Outpost Singapore is a consignment shop concept. It rents out lockers to anyone to sell their products.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

UOB's inflexibility over credit card payment annoys Shionge

      For blogger Shionge, her unhappiness with UOB started when she  received a new UOB Visa card to replace the one that was expiring soon.      
      She says: "I took it along with me to Hong Kong and started using it for my first transaction in Macau Hard Rock Hotel.  It didn't go through.
     "Luckily, a friend used her Visa to pay for me."
     Shionge says she found it strange that the UOB Visa transaction could not go through.  So she tried another outlet --- G2000 -- and  again it failed to be cleared.
    "For a moment I thought the card was faulty and I was embarrassed that it had been rejected twice," Shionge says.
    "I returned to Singapore and told the bank about this, and it was then that I was told by the Customer Service Officer that for a new replacement card, I must inform them before I leave the country so that they could 'activate' it for overseas transactions."
     Her question to the officer was: Why didn't the bank inform her about this in the first place??
     Shionge's annoyance did not end there. While she was on the line with the officer, she requested for a short extension of the due date for next month's payment as she was going to be away again in mid-June till early July. This was to avoid the late payment penalty.
     She says UOB's due date usually falls on the 3rd or 4th day of the month but she will only be back in Singapore on July 6.
     Shionge says her request was rejected by the officer without any consideration.
     "I told the bank officer that I am making known to them that I will be travelling and by rejecting me outright, they are merely discouraging customers from carrying their UOB credit cards overseas," she says.
      Shionge thinks that the bank's accounting system can be more flexible.  "Afterall,  I have been a loyal customer and pay my bills promptly," she adds.
      Maybe the moral of the story is:  Loyalty does not pay!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

SingPost apologises for 'lost' parcel but Betty is not happy

SingPost has apologised to Ms Betty Ong and her partners “for the difficulties and inconvenience” over a “lost” registered parcel sent from Taiwan last month.
        In an email to her yesterday, SingPost said: “After analyzing the issue and conducting several internal reviews, we have also extended the search in our Post Offices. Despite extensive search conducted, we are unable to locate the item.
        “We will officially declare item as lost by 05/06/2012 and Taiwan Post office will be notified. Investigation reports will be forwarded to them for their reviews on the compensation claims payable to the sender. This is as the sender would have the prior right of claims to the item.”
        Betty is obviously not happy with its reply. She says: “I have placed a $5,000 deposit on the items (sent) and (is) likely to lose it, so who do I go to for my compensation? ‘’
        The deposit to her Taiwan supplier was for “crystal and jadeite samples sent over for us to view and show our customers”.
       She says: “No business people will just send things over without some sort of payment first. The agreement was that once we have seen the items and want to buy, then we go from there either sending the supplier more cash or return the items to get the deposit back.
       “Hence if the parcel is lost, I won’t be able to get my money back and, to be honest, I believe the items are worth more than that.
      “I am so very displeased with Singpost. It is irresponsible and takes no accountability for items under its charge. If this is the case, isn’t SingPost encouraging its staff to mishandle items as they don’t have to account for them?
       “I am sure my supplier in Taiwan will not take this quietly as well.”

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Registered parcel missing and SingPost cannot tell what's happened

Ms Betty Ong is totally frustrated with the service she is getting from SingPost over a "lost" parcel that had arrived from Taiwan for her.
     So she decided to google to find a way "to make a complaint to SingPost that will produce results" and stumbled upon my blog.
     She says: "I am at the end of my patience and tolerance right now and considering taking them to the small claims tribunal."
     Her problem started when her supplier in Taiwan sent her a registered parcel which arrived in Singapore on May 12.
      She says: "As we have been tracking its movement, we made it a point to have people home between May 13 and 18. But we were shocked to see a failed delivery note on Track and Trace on May 15 when there were two people home that day and no card was left behind to collect or redirect the item.
      "A call was made to SingPost that afternoon to ask for redelivery but my nephew made the mistake of telling the manager on duty that it contain something important.
      "We were told that they will call back the next day. However, no one rang and when we rang back we were put on hold for two hours at a time.
      "This happened repeatedly over two days. I emailed customer service to make enquiry and wastold to be patient. Finally, I received an email on May 21 telling me that the parcel has been missing since May 17 and nothing can be done.
      "My sister went down to Singpost HQ on May 22 to speak to someone of authority and was asked to give Singpost 24 hours to find the item and to give a reply.
      "This has dragged on from then to now and we still have no answer as the matter has been passed from one person to the next. We don't know what has happened to the parcel and what sort of action SingPost has taken.
      "How can we get someone up the top in Singpost to take notice of what is happening?
     "How can something like this happen when we have been assured by Mr Marcus and Ms Kathleen, two officers who were supposed to look into the matter, that all registered parcels are scanned and coded and also the delivery couriers are also coded and hence they would know the movement of the parcel?"
      Betty's sister has in the meantime lodged a police report.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jessica Ho of Kinokuniya shows what good service is all about

My friend and neighbour, Leonard McCully, was a little peeved earlier in the week when his friendly nature failed to elicit a response from an unsmiling cashier despite him wishing her "good morning" a number of times.

But that bad experience was forgotten a couple of days later when he was served by Ms Jessica Ho at Kinokuniya's main store in Takashimaya.

"This lady has restored my faith in humanity," he says.

Leonard was so impressed with Ms Ho's service that he wrote to the bookstore's management to relate to them what she had done.

"I am writing to record the caring service provided by one of your sales staff , Ms Jessica Ho, at your Kinokuniya main store this afternoon, 11th May," his email says.

"I am recovering from a long illness, needing to use a walking stick to support a bad back. I had several books in hand when I asked Ms Ho for directions to the bookshelves containing books on cars.

"Noticing my impediment, she very kindly insisted she first park the books I had selected with the cashier, then accompany me to the correct bookshelf.

"At the bookshelf, she then insisted that I accept her offer of a chair to allow me to browse the books at my leisure and in comfort. I gratefully accepted as my back was just about "killing" me! What a relief.

"I then spent another 30 minutes browsing and picked up a couple more books.

"Ms Ho is such a great credit to your organisation. She made my afternoon shopping for books such a pleasant experience, that I will most definitely return.

"Please note Ms Ho's exemplary service. I believe it would not be out of place to place it in her record of employment with Kinokuniya."

Well, Ms Ho certainly deserves a bouquet for her outstanding service.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bouquet to MAS for its quick response to feedback

I am encouraged by the Monetary Authority of Singapore's  response to feedback. It has replied to me each time I alerted them to something which they as regulators have oversight.

The latest was a complaint by Anne Wong Holloway over "impossible" conditions which AXA Insurance had set when she tried
to claim for expenses incurred as a result of her maid's hospitalisation after a stroke last month.

After I posted her story on April 19,  I alerted both AXA and the MAS.  AXA replied to me in 12 hours to say that it would be in contact directly with Anne.

Six days later,  the Consumer Issues Division of the MAS emailed me
to say that it "is aware of this matter and we have contacted the insurer to look into the issues raised by Ms Holloway."

I am not sure whether Anne had also informed the MAS at the same time, but I am happy that it has been pro-active in its response to our feedback.

Bouquet to MAS!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Eggs on FairPrice face

I was amused to read a letter in The Straits Times' Forum Page last week when a reader said that she had "noticed that various FairPrice outlets price their products differently."

Miss Chan Wan Wen had written in to the newspaper, together with photographs as proof, saying: "The Pasar eggs sold at the Tampines Mall outlet were priced at $1.75, while those at the Eastpoint Mall outlet were selling for $1.90.

"I noticed these prices on April 9 and 11 respectively. There was no offer in either case. I don't understand how the same product can have different prices. Aren't they all sold under FairPrice? Furthermore, Pasar is a house brand. This is not the first time I have noticed such price differences for the same products in FairPrice outlets.''

                     Tampines Mall outlet                         
                                   Eastpoint Mall outlet

The reason for my feeling the way I did was that last month, FairPrice had written a long email to me in response to my January posting about its recently-opened Scotts Square outlet. (See blog, FairPrice replies to my queries on its Scotts Square outlet )

I had commented that it was illogical of FairPrice, as a co-op, to pay such high rental for the outlet in the Orchard Road area when the majority of its customers were living outside that area.

In its reply, FairPrice maintained that it was still keeping to its core mission -- moderating prices of daily essntials for Singaporeans -- and what it was selling "are the same, uniformly priced products found in any other FairPrice store regardless of retail format or location."

Well, I guess what Miss Chan found out at its two outlets will now make the co-op more careful when it next makes a statement about product pricing.

And I hope what had happened was just a one-off mistake and not an indication of price discrimination to come.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Voices letter brings number plate issue to the fore again

A reader's letter in the Today newspaper on Saturday (April 22, 2012) jogged my memory over an issue which I had with the Land Authority of Singapore two years ago.

I had expressed my unhappiness in my blog on July 13, 2010, over my having to pay $1,300 for retaining my car number and using it on another used car that I had purchased.

I thought it was illogical and unfair when compared to the $100 fee which is charged on someone who retains his number and uses it on a new car.

I alerted the LTA about it and, after an exchange of email, it finally agreed to take my feedback "into consideration in our future review of the retention fees."

I had forgotten about the matter until a friend alerted me to yesterday's letter in the Voices page of Today as she had remembered about my unhappiness.

The writer, Mr Bok Hai Suan, has brought up the same issue which I had complained about two years ago.  He wants the LTA to explain "the objectives, relevance and effectiveness of the measure".

If my experience is anything to go by, the chances are he will be getting the same official reply from LTA.

Maybe it would be generous and tell him that his feedback would be taken into consideration in the next review.  Which means it is likely to be lost in the lallang, like mine did.

Mr Bok's letter in Today follows:

Here's an excessive car cost
Letter from Bok Hai Suan

THE high cost of car ownership here is partly regulatory-driven to control the growth and age of our vehicle population. This we can understand. But are there excessive costs that may be irrelevant, as similar measures are already in place?

Here is one: A car owner pays S$100 to retain the registration number of a vehicle to be de-registered immediately. He tops up S$1,200 if the number is used subsequently on an existing vehicle, but $0 if it is used on a new vehicle.

The cost difference is 1,200 per cent.

Similarly, a car owner pays S$100 to retain the number of an existing vehicle (which is not to be de-registered immediately) for a new vehicle, but S$1,300 for another existing vehicle.

It is clear that the cost difference lies in where the retained number is used: New or existing vehicle.

If this is a reflection of the amount of work involved, it is difficult to comprehend how it costs 12 to 13 times more to use a retained number on a new vehicle compared with an existing vehicle in this age of computers.

If this is to encourage car owners to switch to new vehicles, is not the Certificate of Entitlement, with its 10-year validity, already doing the job?

Could the relevant authority enlighten us on the objectives, relevance and effectiveness of this measure?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Battle with AXA: Anne wins Round 1

Twelve hours after I posted Anne Wong Holloway's complaint about how difficult it was to make an insurance claim for her helper's medical bills,AXA Insurance Customer Service Centre's manager, Ms Daphne Koh, emailed me to say that the company  would be "in contact with the insured directly with regards to the claim issue."

That sounded like good news to me.  Two hours later, Anne confirmed it through an email, saying that the company had sent her an Acceptance Note and Computation to settle a claim of more than $10,000.

She ended with this remark: "This just goes to show that these insurance companies ONLY pay up when the policyholder fights for his or her rights."

Don't I know.  I have had a few skirmishes with them and, believe me, it does take a lot of work and heart aches.

But Anne has not completely finished her battle with AXA.  There is still
an item which she is not satisfied with.  So she followed it up with this email:

"I have quickly checked the Computation and would like to enquire why the days of stay, from 15 March 2012 to 23rd March 2012 were not included in the days eligible for Wages Reimbursement?

"To the best of my knowledge and understanding, St Luke's Hospital is a hospital and recognized by MOH as such." 

Obviously, AXA is leaving out something which Anne feels should be included.

Let's see how Round 2 will end. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

AXA claim conditions are 'impossible', says Anne

My friend Anne Wong Holloway's domestic helper suffered a stroke early last month and, after treatment here, went home on March 24.

As the helper was insured, Anne promptly made a claim from AXA Insurance for medical costs. But she is finding hurdles in the way.

She says AXA Insurance, "which seems to write the majority of domestic helper policies in Singapore via Anda Insurance (a broker), is baulking."

"It's 'nickle and diming' us and as a result has not even bothered to settle the major portion of the claim which is for the medical bills I have paid."

As expected, Anne has written to the insurance company to explain why it is setting "impossible conditions" for claims to be made.

Here's her letter:

"Dear Ms Foo,I have spoken to Ms Lee Kah Keow, nurse clinician at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. She has confirmed my reservation and fear that no doctor will be willing to certify that a stroke patient will not be able to work ever again, especially one who was discharged within a month of suffering the stroke.

"Therefore I would be a complete fool to apply to the Medical Records Office of TTSH ( and pay approximately $200 for one of their doctors to say that he is unable to certify beyond one year that my previous helper will not be able to work as a FDW.

"I have since read the 'fine print' and basically for some critical illnesses the AXA policy sets impossible conditions.

"In the case of a stroke, AXA requires 'evidence of permanent neurological damage confirmed by neurologist at least 6 weeks after the event.....

"For the amount that AXA would reimburse in re-hiring expenses (a few hundred dollars at most), it would be fiscal imprudence of the highest order to keep anyone in an institution where she would have rehabilitation therapy for 6 weeks as the stay and rehabilitation would amount to several thousand (a ballpark figure of SIN$8,600 per month at St Luke's Hospital).

"In this case, AXA also stipulates that the doctor must be a Singapore-registered physician or surgeon.

"If my FDW had had a heart attack (instead of a stroke), I would have to provide evidence of "left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 50% measured 3 months or more after the event.'

"Again this would have to be obtained from a Singapore-registered physician, from a Singapore hospital. The cost of a stay in the hospital and treatment would probably exceed the value of the entire policy!

"And all this for a few hundred dollars? It is abundantly clear to me that it is only when such catastrophic events arise that one discovers that some insurance policies are written solely for the benefit of the insurance companies and are not fair or just.''

Having had bad experiences with insurance companies myself, I would say: "Good luck, Anne! Get set for a long haul."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

FairPrice replies to my queries on its Scotts Square outlet

More than a month ago, I wrote about NTUC FairPrice opening its finest outlet at Scotts Square and raised several questions on whether, as a co-op, it should have opened an outlet in the heart of the city where rentals are exorbitant.

However, I did not not alert the co-op to my posting.

On Monday, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from Winston Ng, its assistant manager for Corporate Communications, thanking me for my feedback before launching into all the things it had done to promote its social mission of moderating the cost of living in Singapore and to help the needy.

It went on to explain that the FairPrice Finest concept was first launched in 2007 "to cater to customers who aspire for finer things in life".

"While it carries a selection of cosmopolitan products that cater to customers who are looking for more sophisticated products, it also offers a wide range of daily essentials that are affordably priced," Mr Ng says.

He also made the point that all its prices are the same at its various outlets, including those at Scotts Square.

While I appreciate Mr Ng's attempt to explain and make the case that the co-op has not veered away from its mission, unfortunately he did not address my main question which is:

"Why is the co-op venturing into the upmarket area when it should really be concentrating on the more residential places where the ordinary Singaporeans live?"

My argument was that rental was high in that district and if prices were to be priced the same as the other outlets, the profit margin would inevitably be lower or it might even make a loss. This would impact on its bottomline and have a cascading effect.

So, I decided to reply to Mr Ng. Here's my email:

"Dear Winston,
Thank you for taking the trouble to address my concerns and in giving such a comprehensive account of what FairPrice is doing.

I accept all your points about how the co-op is going all out to serve the people and that prices are the same in all its stores, including the outlet at Scotts Square.

However, I still cannot see the logic of paying such high rental in the Orchard Road area when the majority of your customers are living outside that area.

Further, I do not think anyone living outside the city would go to that outlet to shop for obvious reasons. So the people who would pop in would likely be those who live in the expensive condominiums in the vicinity or the tourists staying at the five-star hotels nearby.

Even if you were to argue that there is some value in branding the FairPrice finest brand, I would not buy it because your brand is now well-established among Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans alike, and there is no need to waste unnecessary money which can be put to better use.

I believe that as a co-op, it is important to remember that a dollar saved is a dollar credited to its customers who are mostly from the lower strata of our society.

I sincerely hope that your management would bear this in mind when it next sets out to expand its business."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DBS's 'slow and disorderly' way in handling Thazin's HDB loan application

It is their first time applying for a housing loan but from the way Thazin describes it, it must have been a thoroughly frustrating experience dealing with some of the DBS loan officers at its Toa Payoh branch.

Her regret was that she had not checked the Web before making the application. She told me in her email: "A quick search on the web has made me realised that I am just one of the many who are disappointed by DBS's service standards."

It all started when she and her husband went to the branch last month to get a loan for a HDB apartment.

"To our disappointment, the process has been slow and disorderly," she said.

"First of all, our case was handled by several different people due to understandable reasons (they were on leave because of the Chinese New Year).

"However, the way the case was handed over from one DBS person to another has resulted in much trouble for my husband and I.

"For instance, we were only informed through email about our next contact at DBS but the email addresses were wrong.

"We were given contact numbers but no one answered our calls. We were given vague reasons on why our loan cannot be processed and were asked for answers/documents without stating exactly what kind of answers/documents were needed.

"Soon, we were tired of been pushed around from one officer to another, having to explain our case from scratch again and again.

"At one point, we went down to the branch and requested to take our documents back and change to another bank.

"But the officer we met that day told us specifically that his manager will take over our case entirely and that we would not have to deal with the original officer.

"However, to our disgust, it was just a one-off show. Soon after our loan was approved, paperwork settled and when we thought the worst was over, the original officer contacted us again and told us of more outstanding issues, more papers to sign and request to us to go down to the branch repeatedly.

"These requests were done through one-liner emails and phone calls where the person over the phone speaks hastily without bothering to give proper explanation or even introduction.

"Since it is our first home and first time applying for a HDB loan with DBS, we would have enjoyed the process if the persons in charge were friendlier and more meticulous when handling the case.

"I regret that I did not do a thorough research about DBS service standard before going ahead with accepting their loan.

"I hope that my post would help other couples think twice about the bank they choose to get their HDB loan from. A pleasent experience with the bank goes a long way for a young couple embarking on their life journey together."

As I am writing this, Thazin sent me another email, saying: "Another incident with DBS today has made me very angry again.

"As I have explained earlier, DBS says that there are still documents left to sign.

"Hence, they sent a courier to my office yesterday to pass the documents back to me. The courier was a stern-faced man who told me coldly to pass the documents back to him once I signed it. Of couse, I signed it on the spot.

"There were some check boxes to tick on the page, but I did not tick them because I could not understand what each of them means.

"There was also no one to explain to me as the stern-faced courier man did not know about the documents."

She decided to make arrangements for her husband to go down to the bank today to find out and understand what the check boxes were about before ticking them on her behalf.

"But when my husband arrived at the bank as they had scheduled, the person in charge, called Annie, did not have the documents ready," Thazin said.

"Annie immediately accused me of holding on to the documents and my husband called me frantically to make sure that I had passed them back to the courier. "

Her last sentence was: "My husband is still at the bank waiting for the documents."

I could almost hear her sigh!

Monday, February 6, 2012

LTA waives penalty for my 'late' road tax renewal

Exactly a week after I complained about having to pay a $40 penalty for 'late' renewal of my car's road tax (see January 30 post below), I received good news yesterday from the Land Transport Authority.

The LTA said it had considered my appeal and would waive the late renewal fee.

I am glad the LTA had considered my email to Reach, the government's feedback unit, as an appeal when my purpose was really to point out the injustice of having to pay a penalty.

I had forgotten to renew the road tax because of a family emergency. An alert was sent to me by MyeCitizen, a service provided by the government, a day after its expiry.

When I made my renewal minutes after receiving the alert, I was surprised to discover that I had to pay the $40 penalty. I disagreed with this because I had not even driven my car out of my porch.

In its email to me, the LTA says the rule is that it is an offence for anyone to KEEP, use or allow the use of a vehicle without a valid road tax.

If that is the case, I wonder whether all the car companies are paying road tax for those unregistered cars in their showrooms.

I hope the LTA would consider imposing the penalty two days after the expiry to give a chance for motorists who have been alerted by MyeCitizen to pay up without being penalised.

Otherwise, MyeCitizen should be sending out its alerts a day earlier -- on the expiry date itself.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

United Airlines faces the music for its poor customer service

I thought my blog is a novel and effective way to get companies, retailers, institutions and others who are lagging behind in service standards to buck up...until I saw this video by musician Dave Carroll on YouTube.

Apparently, in 2009, he had trouble with United Airlines whose baggage handlers damaged his $3500 custom guitar, and he spent more than nine months trying to get the airline to pay for damages but to no avail.

In his last exchange with its customer relations manager, Carroll said he was left with no choice but to create a music video for YouTube to expose the airline's lack of cooperation.

The manager response? "Good luck with that one, pal."

Carroll shot and put up his video, United Breaks Guitars, on YouTube.

After more than 11 million visitors had viewed the video, United contacted him to try and settle in exchange for pulling the video.

Carroll's response? "Good luck with that one, pal."

When Taylor Guitars saw the video, its management sent Carroll two new custom guitars in appreciation for the publicity of its product. It has led to a sharp increase in orders.

Moral of the story: There are many ways to get back at those people who think they can dish out poor customer service and get away with it.

Enjoy the video:

Monday, January 30, 2012

MyeCitizen alert that came too late

I have just written to REACH, the government's feedback unit, and MyeCitizen, the portal that offers sms/email alerts and reminder services from government offices and agencies.

This was after I had reluctantly paid a penalty of $40 for "late" renewal of my road tax which expired last Saturday (Jan 28).

I was alerted to the expiry by sms from MyeCitizen the following day (Jan 29). It asked me to renew my road tax immediately if I had not done so.

I do not normally leave such things till the last minute, but this time I had forgotten completely about it because of a family emergency last week.

Immediately after the sms alert, I went online to onemotoring to do the renewal.

To my surprise, I discovered that I had to pay a penalty of $40. I had no choice but to comply.

Although I appreciate very much the services of MyeCitizen, I wonder why the alert came only a day after the road tax had expired.

If I was going to be fined for "late" renewal, surely it would have been more helpful if the alert had been sent on the expiry day itself!!!

MyeCitizen must have gotten its information about the expiry from the Land Transport Authority. So why didn't LTA think about having the alert on the day when I still had time to do the renewal without being penalised???

Another reason for my unhappiness is the fact that I had to pay the penalty when I had not even driven my car out of the porch on Jan 29, the day when the new road tax period starts.

Does one have to pay a penalty when one purchases an airline ticket on the day that the flight takes off?

Stay tuned as I wait for Reach and MyeCitizen to reply.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

FairPrice Finest outlet at Scotts Square raises several questions

I received an eight-page brochure yesterday from NTUC FairPrice to announce the opening of its latest FairPricefinest outlet in the heart of the city -- at the newly-opened Scotts Square.

While I am happy that there is yet another outlet nearby for us to shop, it is unlikely that we will be going there often because of the parking charges.

I guess the outlet is to cater to those people who live in the expensive apartment blocks in the vicinity or tourists who stay in the five-star hotels around there.

Although I do not know the size of this outlet, FairPrice must be paying a hefty per square foot rent for the premises.

My curious mind is wondering whether the co-operative is charging the same prices for similar products that are available at its finest outlets elsewhere.

If it does, then it would either be making a lower profit margin or maybe even a loss for such products because of the higher costs. If it does not, then regulars would naturally avoid going there to shop.

Several other questions come to mind:

* Why is the co-op venturing into the upmarket area when it should really be concentrating on the more residential places where the ordinary Singaporeans live?

* Would prices at other finest outlets continue to be reasonably priced if the Scotts outlet does not measure up because of the higher operational costs?

* Is this an indication that the co-op is slowly veering away from its social mission to moderate the cost of living in Singapore?

NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd was founded by the labour movement in 1973 and its first NTUC Welcome supermarket at Toa Payoh was opened by PM Lee Kuan Yew on 22 July 1973.

Ten years later, NTUC Welcome merged with the Singapore Employees Co-operative to form NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd.

FairPrice has since grown to become the largest retailer. Its network of more than 230 outlets include FairPrice supermarkets, FairPrice Finest, FairPrice Xtra, FairPrice Xpress and Cheers convenience stores.

On its website, NTUC FairPrice says it has evolved to make "the dream of living well accessible to everyone by moderating the costs of the good life."

I hope the opening of the Scotts outlet is not an indication that it has forgotten about its social mission.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why is DBS compromising our security without telling us first?

Despite the ATM thefts amounting to $1 million through skimming, what DBS and UOB said recently would give the jitters to anyone who has some money in these banks.

Following the thefts at its ATM machines in Bugis Street, DBS came out to say that it has no full security measures at all its ATMs.

Jitter technology is employed to shake the ATM card when it is inserted and removed to make it difficult for the thieves to instal a skimming devices. It was not used at the Bugis machines.

And the bank's explanation for this was: these measures will lead to a "meaningful increase in customer queue times".

DBS has also admitted that by not activating all the measures at many of its ATMs it could leave these machines vulnerable to thefts.

But what floored me was the remark by its spokesman that "even if the jitter function was on, it is highly unlikely that it could have circumvented the card skimming incident."

Then, almost in the next breath, he added: "It is fair to say that the more security measures you leave on, the better you are likely to be protected."

The obvious question anyone would ask DBS is this: Why are you compromising our security and why are you informing us of this only now --- when the money had disappeared from the ATMs?

Surely we, the customers, have the right to know what we are in for when we use its ATMs.

I mentioned UOB at the start because when DBS was hit, it said it had activated the full security measures at all its ATMs. But when The Straits Times reporter made a check on Monday, it was found that its machines at three places were not activated.

Later that day, it activated all its machines after being told by the newspaper.

In all this fiasco, the bank that stood out is OCBC. All its machines have the full security measures since 2007. Solid as a rock, as usual.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

$100 notes not a Lunar New Year issue

If you can get new $100 notes from your banks for the Lunar New Year this year, consider yourself lucky.

A spokesman for the Monetary Authority of Singapore's Currency Department told me this morning that the $100 is not a LNY issue. Only $2, $5, $10 and some $50 are.

So, if you were to ask your bank for $100 notes -- like I did -- you will be told that they have only recirculated notes. MAS says that it will only issue new $100 notes when there is a shortage of such notes.

I guess not many people put $100 notes in their ang pows. Anyway, two $50 will do the trick.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DBS says it does not have $100 new notes for the Lunar New Year

It is happening again. Eleven months after I blogged (Friday, February 11, 2011 New currency notes for angpows: Ball is at the feet of our banks) about the shortage of new currency notes for the Lunar New Year, DBS Bank told me today that the authorities have not given them any new $100 notes.

They have notes in $2, $5, $10 and $50 denominations, but not the $100. It does seem a bit strange. I will ask the the Monetary Authority of Singapore's Currency Department again why this is so and whether the bank had made a request for the $100 notes.

Last year, I had asked MAS, after a prompting from a friend, why the Board of Commissioners of Currency could not have printed more new notes knowing that there was going to be a demand every year.

My friend said the giving of angpows "is a good family tradition that we would want to uphold and the government should play its part to make sure that there is sufficient supply of those notes every year."

MAS said then that it would only issue new notes when recirculated notes were insufficient to meet the demand for cash.

"This usually coincides with festive periods such as Chinese New Year. The amount of new notes to be issued in any given year, depends on the demand from banks and stock level of recirculated notes," it explained.

So, it is really up to our banks to ask for them. In other words, ask and it shall be given. How much new notes are put out by the authorities depends on the banks.

Question now is, whether DBS had asked MAS for new $100 notes this year and, if not, why not?