Jun 09 2012

What to do if you’re ripped off at Sim Lim Square

Published by at 1:33 am under Shopping

Most travellers know to be wary of scams in cities like Bangkok, but feel they can let their guard down in Singapore.
The fact that people feel so safe here combined with the belief that Singapore has cheap electronics is the perfect breeding ground for shopping scams. According to the Singapore Tourism Board, 37% of all complaints they receive are from tourists who were ripped-off buying electronics, and the usual culprits are the salespeople at Sim Lim Square IT Mall.

Sim Lim Square is home to Singapore's best gadgets and best con-men.

Sim Lim Square is home to Singapore's best gadgets and best con-men.

A post I wrote last year on avoiding rip-offs at Sim Lim Square  has received comments from unlucky tourists who fell victim to these scams. Sometimes the scams could have been avoided by simply knowing the suggested price for the product, but sometimes they’re more complex than that.

If you think you’ve been ripped-off buying electronics in Singapore, here’s what you can do:

While the rip-off is happening
You’re at an electronics store and just paid for a new smartphone using your credit card. Then the salesman asks how you’d like to pay for the additional S$300 unlocking fee so you can use it overseas. What should you do?

Call the police. It may sound extreme, but in Singapore it’s normal to get police involved in consumer disputes. If the additional fee is phony (as they usually are), odds are it will disappear before the cops arrive. Otherwise, the police will take both sides of the story, try to resolve the conflict and assist you with filing a police report if needed.

After you’ve been ripped off
Of course, most people are happy with their purchase until they see the same item being sold everywhere else for a lot less. Here are some actions you could take:

Go back to the store: There’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back, but it might make you feel better to confront them (in a calm, cool manner, of course). Ask the salesman the retail recommended price of the item you purchased, and why you were charged more. At Sim Lim Square, any shop bearing the “STARetailer” logo is obligated to refund you any amount over the recommended price. Visit the Sim Lim Square Information Counter for advice.

File a formal complaint: In cooperation with the Consumers Association of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) handles consumer rights complaints made by tourists. If you file a formal complaint, they will provide mediation and represent you in small claims court (if it gets to that point). Ensure you keep the receipts and the name-card of the store or salesperson who served you. You can contact the STB by calling 1-800-736-2000. The Straits Times reported that the mall plans to open on July 1 a counter on the first floor where people can complain directly to the Consumers Association.

Report the store on STOMP: Stomp.com.sg is an online “citizen’s newspaper” where people report things like a fruit vendor that sold them a rotten durian or which restaurant had a rude waitress. It won’t help you get your money back, but posting your story and the name of the store will serve as negative publicity and a warning to others.

We repeat, the best way to avoid getting ripped-off is to be an informed consumer. Always know the suggested price for the item you’re interested in buying, even if this means finding a nearby internet café and looking it up.

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