Sim Lin Square in Singapore is a well-known gadget haven, boasting of six floors of stores selling nothing but the latest computers and consumer electronics, including laptops, tablets, mp3 players, mobile phones, audio equipment, and the like. While the vast array of shops leaves you spoilt for choice, this also leaves you open to unscrupulous sales personnel. Yes, even Singapore has its share of con artists. Based on my own shopping experience, here’s a short list of tips to avoid getting suckered in Sim Lin Square or any other shopping area in the world:
- Know what you need or want to buy before you shop. It’ll help you focus your search instead of wandering aimlessly around the mall. During this trip last trip to Singapore, I was on the lookout for a Blackberry Curve 9300.
- Do your research. This includes the standard retail price (SRP), what’s included in the box, and anything you’d need to get the gadget to work overseas (if applicable). I was just about to buy the BB 9300 from the store with the 2nd lowest price (more info on the store with the lowest price later) then the clerk goes and says that I need to pay S$40 extra to get a 2 GB micro SD card so that he could “install the software to make the BB work overseas”. Now, there are several things wrong with this. First, S$40 for a micro SD card is highway robbery. Second, some BBs already come with a 2 GB card in the box (the one I eventually bought did). Third, you don’t need any extra software to get the phone to work overseas. If I didn’t know any of that beforehand, then I would have ended up taken for S$40. Yep, this seller was an ass.
- Shop around. All the shops carry practically the same items so take your time and look around. Write down the name of the store, its location, and the price (I’m putting this out there because I’m the type who rarely remembers things not written down). Note that all the prices quoted are pre-tax. Add the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) to get the final price.
- Ask the right questions. Don’t just check the price. Check that the seller has the exact color and model that you want on hand. One store offered me the lowest price out of all the ones I checked (S$280 for the BB 9300) and I confirmed the price several times. When I told him that I was going to buy the phone, it was only then that he checked his stocks and saw that he’d already run out. What a waste of time and effort.
- Check that the retailer participates in the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS). The TRS allows tourists to refund the 7% GST paid on purchases of at least S$100 from a single retailer. Participation in the TRS is voluntary for retailers so you are responsible for checking that the retailer is enrolled in the program. You are also responsible for asking the retailer for the TRS form – you won’t get your refund at the airport without it. You can find more information here and here.