Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How we can improve evacuation and rescue during plane crash

It is sad to follow the news regarding retrieval of bodies, wreckage, and personal possession of ill fated Asia Asia flight QZ8501. The location of the crash site took more than 2 days to accomplish, mainly due to the lack of real-time tracking of airline flights and in my opinion, tracking of evacuees. Two days in the open sea is not conducive to survival chance!

In my opinion, the current evacuation and safety measures implemented on air travel is poor and insufficiently practical (in short, IMPRACTICAL). If you are a flyer, you would have been exposed to this safety card on-board the plane. For most people like me (e.g. cautious type who will read safety diligently), we are only theoretically wise in terms of aircraft evacuation and handling life-jacket. But truthfully, I am a fool in the practical aspect, especially when I have not seen the life-jackets and just took the words of flight attendants about them stored under the seats.

To open the emergency exit for evacuation, I only can hope that someone will be able to work with that come crucial moment because I don't know how to do that. Fortunately, I think it won't be difficult especially considering that first-timer Chinese passenger on-board Xiamen Air could open it for fresh air.

Now, if we are lucky and the plane landed on water, what is expected of the evacuation procedure? From the safety card, there are several things that can happen.
  1. Prior to impact, the plane could lose cabin pressure (air is too thin that oxygen will be depleted), and if that happens, oxygen mask will be dropped from the upper compartment. Use it on yourself before attempting to help others because losing consciousness while helping the next person will be useless.
  2. If there is time, wear the life-jacket. Hopefully they are not nicely wrapped in plastic wrapper or else you will have to tear them with your nail and teeth (while cursing the safety officer for the oversight)
  3. Brace yourself for impact by holding onto something (e.g. the seat in front) and lowering your head and body. This will ensure no flying debris hits you upon impact.
  4. While wearing the life-jacket, you should proceed to the nearest emergency exits calmly (but I don't think it will be calm). Wait for someone to work on the emergency exit (or be proactive) so that an inflatable slide-cum-raft will be dispensed. Slide down in an ordered fashion (while giving priority to the needy).
  5. This is the time to inflate your life-jacket now. 
  6. The slide will be your raft (I have no idea how it works, see how dumb I am with just theoretical knowledge), so hold on to it and try to climb up. 
  7. Wait for rescue.
 The above "expected evacuation procedure" is ideal in an ideal situation. Now, what the aviation and safety authorities need to ensure in reality is the following possibilities (in my opinion).

  1. What happens if the aircraft went tail spun (or spin) and landed upside down on water? Would the "expected" evacuation procedure be applicable then?
  2. Had the aviation industry (and safety authorities) estimated the time it takes for a floating plane in sea water to sink completely? Would the time be sufficient to evacuate everyone? Aren't there any mechanism/technology (that can be implemented) that could inflate parts of the plane to prolong buoyancy time of plane during evacuation?
  3. Considering that the time ( > 2 days) needed to search and rescue (or retrieve) survivors, hadn't the aviation safety authorities came up with a more realistic evacuation kit for air passengers. This is considering that a life-jacket (with light and whistle) is hardly practical to save life (except to serve as a floatation device and attracts sea predators at night). Furthermore, who would want to float under the intense sun, dehydrated, and lost while waiting for either the inevitable or miracle? Hadn't the Asian Tsunami thought us anything, especially what happened to the ones who got swept away in mid-sea waiting for rescue? Dehydration.

 My suggestions to the aviation and safety authorities:
  1. If the plane is lucky to crash on water intact, please have a mechanism to increase buoyancy of the aircraft so that there is sufficient time to evacuate all passengers.
  2. Life-jacket (with whistle and light) is alright, but to have a manual water filtration system (those used by the army but with special filter to cutoff salinity) attached to the life jacket will be a blessing especially when dehydration will more likely kill evacuees faster than anything.
  3. If you are going to provide the incidental (or accidental) inflatable slide-turn-raft, at least provide several floating (or attached) packages containing potable water bottles for evacuees. No food is okay but please let there be water (no pun intended).
  4. Please oh please, provide radio transmission devices (aka radio transmitter) for evacuees who are stranded in the open sea. This is the 21st century for goodness sake. Is it really too much the cost to bear for attaching a radio transmitter in life-jackets or rafts for easy search and rescue mission during aviation accidents? If we can tag migratory birds or animals with radio transmitters for easy tracking of these migratory animals in National Geography, surely we can't be too stingy to bear the cost to save lives no? Do note that radio transmitter works better in the open sea than jungle (containing trees blocking the signal). For further information, refer to distress radiobeacon (Wikipedia) and note that the signal can also be used to triangulate the location of the transmitter/evacuee (with detection radius of >10 km for some model.
  5. If it's not too much to ask, attach a water-proof, shock-proof, weather-proof satellite phone to assigned safety officer on-board (could be one of the flight attendants) so that he/she can call for help (or at least inform the authority that there are survivors and so please work your butt faster in the rescue operation rather than retrieval mission). Note that I'm sicked of following news reporting about effort to retrieve the "black box" (or orange box) for investigation. It seemed that "retrieval" is more practical than rescue in air disaster! In addition the satellite phone can be used for locating the caller.
  6. Provide real-time tracking of planes!

  • Implement a more practical evacuation protocol (and mechanism) for aviation accidents or crash.
  • Provide practical survival kit in addition to the life-jacket. A whistle and light at night can attracts sea predators (unless rescue boat can reach survivors/evacuees sooner). Without the crucial water supply, and no means to purify sea water, consuming the sea water will be toxic (Natl Ocean & Atmospheric Administration, NOAA), and survivors will perish before rescue arrives.
  • Provide radiobeacon to life-jackets.
  • Implement real-time tracking of flights.
My condolences to the victims family.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pedophile Old Man jailed 8 years for sexually assaulting girl, 5

Man jailed 8 years for sexually assaulting girl, 5
Chin Wei Foong, 54 doesn't look like an opportunist monster. His outlook betrays his deed. His white hair and age reflects an old and wise man. That is the scariest reality we live in,  i.e. a monster can look so much like us. This old man is fortunate that he has surpassed the age of 50, otherwise he would have gotten the cane (or rotan in Malay). In my opinion, the law should be amended to allow other types of caning to these people. If an old man can commit serious crime,  he should be subjected to similar (or alternative) caning. If the conventional caning at the buttock can't be done,  then he should be caned on the palm. For 1 stroke of the rotan that he misses,  he should be caned an extra 10 to 20 strokes of cane (or rattan) on the palm. The pain he suffered is not even close in comparison to the pain that the little girl suffered,  or mental scar she will have in future. Not to mention the anger and pain the family suffered.

Should we and other family train our children to be less friendly to stranger? Should we start discourage our kids to greet neighbours, uncle, auntie, or Mister on the street? It is people like Chin who are forcing children to "grow up" and be "defensive", while robbed of their innocent good nature. I as a parent have not the heart to do it. I hope people like Chin rot in this life and hell thereafter.

As a side note. Monsters are hard to distinguish. People tend to let look deceive them. Take for example, conmen tend to dress up (and act up) to deceive victims.  There are recent cases mentioned in the news of how certain respected public figures can end up stealing millions of money and still lie about it. How about certain people who seemed like helping the society,  but all he does is complain, complain and complain in public and in blogs (while the real angels are those who committed their time doing voluntary social work helping the less fortunate). The difference between these two types of people is that, while one constantly thrashes the system (without real solution), the other try to find ways around the system that works for the people. The latter people are nobler than the noisy tin can.

Just a thought. 

Shopping mall without benches must have staircase

Some shopping malls are just too cheapskate. They don't provide trash bins and benches (or insufficiently) for visitors. I can only guess that the reason for no trash bin is due to lowering the maintenance cost.

However, I can't think of the reason for not providing benches for visitors to rest within the mall. My guess is as wild as can be, e.g. could it be that more seated visitors would translate to less purchases? Or could the missing benches be motivated by the association that tired visitors tend to patronize eateries, cafes and restaurants in order to rest their tired legs (and hence more businesses)? Or could the missing benches be due to noncompliance to fire safety regulation? What do you think?

Sigh, I pity the visitors who might need benches to rest in these places, e.g. the elderly, expectant moms, and "mobility-challenged" (weight-challenged or wearing medical-cast).

Fortunately, all is not lost though, because visitors can still try to find salvage by locating staircases within the shopping malls. Once found, it will relief your tired legs. Not long ago while I was at a shopping mall, I noticed that some visitors indeed resorted to resting their legs at such places (i.e. staircase). I had done that myself and at the same time I have seen expectant moms with kids doing the same there. There are also the elderly patronizing the free resting "station". Some youngsters got food from stalls inside the mall (those without table and chair type) and just sat there munching away.

This is how sad visitors like us had to bear in shopping malls without (or insufficient) benches.

Just to share.

Lesson from losses of MH370 and QZ8501

Losses of MH370 (MAS airline) and QZ8501 (Air Asia) resulted from different circumstances. However, the outcome were the same, i.e. difficulties in locating the crash site and thus, hampering the search and rescue effort. The problem should have been corrected by requiring real-time monitoring of aircraft after the loss of Air France flight 447 5 years ago (The Independent, 30 Dec 2014). If real-time (or continuous) flight monitoring is made mandatory, could we have prevented 9/11 that destroyed so many lives (inclusive of the war thereafter)?

Technology nowadays is available to do just that, real-time tracking/monitoring of aircraft. For example, A Canadian company, Flyht, sells a system to pinpoint aircrafts by triangulating communication streaming time of "automated flight information reporting system" (AFIRS) transmitted during an emergency to receiving stations. However, I'm not sure if Flyht also cater a real-time system in addition to the AFIRS (for emergencies).

Fig shows how the AFIRS radio signal is "released" upon an emergency and then radiated/transmitted to receiving stations. The time of receipt of these signals at these stations can be used to calculate/triangulate the location of the aircraft. To allow continuous monitoring of aircraft, frequent emission of "AFIRS" should be made instead of only in emergency.

UN Intl Telecomm Union Secretary-General said real-time (or continuous) monitoring/tracking of flights is needed, however Intl Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has not issued any instruction on the matter. It all boils down then to whether it is time for aviation industry to take their own initiatives to implement such system to prevent the recurrent of difficulties in locating their aircraft. Alas, without the involvement (or intervention) of ICAO, the danger of non-standardized tracking system flooding the market will cause more headache later on.

In addition, the cost for implementing and subscribing to such tracking system should be made affordable. The cost should be similar in concept to the cost of generic drug that helps eliminate debilitating/serious diseases. Without reasonable cost/price, I don't think we will see a comprehensive subscription of this much needed real-time tracking system by the aviation industry worldwide.

Just a thought.

P.S. Condolences to the victims' family.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Kids playground not a love boat or for heartbreak

Have you been to the playground lately with your loved ones or children? Did your baby boy or girl played with the slide? If your playground is at HDB area, then chances are high that your fortunately yet to be literate child would be exposed to "F*** you" written all over the play area. There are also other angry words such as "B****" and other stronger expression to denounce to the world how unjust and inconsiderate the vandal's partner (e.g. girlfriend or boyfriend) had been and how heartbroken he/she was.

I guess usually it started off with the "Ah Beng Love Ah Lian episode that later unfolded to the first heartbreak, followed by several rounds of reconciliation and separation before the relationship stabilizes or broken forever. However, to involve public property in the process is irresponsible.

First you carve the "A love B forever". Then you scratch it off and replace it with hate message, e.g. "B****, F*** You". Subsequently, you replace the hate message with new "A love B again", then you repeat the process over several rounds... what is wrong with you?

Nowadays, with the advent of internet and blogging, you can easily proclaim your love to the world with clicks rather than to vandalize the innocent playground with your love life.

Be more considerate...

Abolish statutory rape else lock up Lee Sze Kiat

Is this news ("Teenager has sex with minor while on probation for similar offence", The Straits Times 29 Dec 2014) a mockery to statutory rape law? How the heck did Lee Sze Kiat escape jail and whip for having sex with a 16 yo? Would an adult doing the same act be given such leniency? Does it make sense that just because the perpetrator is a minor himself, he is "free" to commit the act? 

In my opinion, the statutory rape law had failed to protect minors and allowed Lee Sze Kiat (16 yo, although technically a minor) to continue being a predatory "rapist". Remind me again please, what is the function of statutory rape law? Lee Sze Kiat was so audacious that he targeted another younger victim (12 yo) during his probation!

I'm dumbfounded. Did the law failed because it is selective? Is it selectively lenient towards minors committing the same/identical act (that would have landed adults in jail or whipping)? If that is the case, statutory rape law is not protecting minor per se. It is rather limited to protecting minors against predatory adults (those over the technical term "minor").

If the law is not selective, why was Lee not being punished similar to how adults would be have been punished, e.g. a jail sentence or whipping? If the court tried to be "rational" by suggesting that a jail sentence would have been inappropriate considering that jailing the minor would surely have destroyed his future and wouldn't have served to correct him (as compared what probation could do), what about the two victims (and probably the unaccounted for or future victims) that got DESTROYED? To save a life that will destroy more lives doesn't make sense. I'm not an economist, but I think the math doesn't add up right in this case. Do you? This is like being "penny wise pound foolish".

Also, if jailing minor destroys his future, wouldn't jailing adults destroy their futures too? If jail is not effective/efficient in correcting a person, why not send all statutory rapists (regardless of technical age) to probation too?
If statutory rape law can be interpreted in many ways (by discretion) to cater for different types of rapists and victims, I don't think this law can completely serve to protect minors from predatory sexual act on them.

Statutory rape law was implemented to protect minors. It is not for minors to commit the act and get away with it. If the law is selective as this Q&A statement from AWARE, it will not do any good to protect minors from predatory rapists (minor or not)

Q & A: "What if both parties are 15 years of age?

Technically, this still constitutes the offence of Statutory Penetration of a Minor under S376A, Penal Code. However, the police, exercising its discretion and taking into account the age of the parties, may not initiate any charges.

We were once (or are now) teenagers and minors too, for those who got educated with sex early knows that sexual urge and thoughts are normal sensation/feeling (i.e. only human). However, what is not normal is what LEE SZE KIAT did to the girls. If he can get away with being irresponsible with his sexual urge (or libido), what is the signal being sent to other minors with equally high sexual urges too? What makes Lee special?

Lee should not be selectively let off (especially after the second act on another victim) while those abstaining the act watch with contempt.

  • Don't be selective in meting out sentencing for statutory rape. It gives wrong signals.
  • Economy of letting off minor rapists is bad. One unrepentant rapist can destroy more lives and families than the court thinks.
  • To have strong libido is normal, but to be a predatory sex fiend who targets multiple minors to satisfy one's sexual urge is not. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to report a traffic violation to the police in Singapore

If member of the public wishes to report to the police of a traffic offense or violation that they encountered in Singapore, they can do so by following the minimal requirements stated in the Singapore Traffic Police website. The furnished information is necessary to build a strong case against the traffic offender.

  •  Full registration of the vehicle of which the driver/rider committed the traffic violation/offense (if possible, provide the make and colour of the vehicle).
  • The accurate date, time, and location (precise location would be required, i.e. as how you would provide your location to a tow trunk operator) of the alleged offense.
  •  The circumstances/accounts leading to the alleged offense. If it's a parking offense, I guess you don't have to provide this (but sometimes you have to provide evidence showing that the vehicle was not stalled due to engine failure, e.g. a before and after pics or video showing the offender driving off afterwards, thus suggesting that his vehicle was not defective but rather he/she parked indiscriminately).
  • Confirmation of willingness to testify in court should the offender dispute the alleged offense. This is important should the offender dispute the offenses alleged against him/her. The drawback is that if it was a foreign traveler to Singapore, he/she will be unwilling/unable to testify later. However, if Singapore court allows written- or video-recorded testimony, then justice will not be hampered by technicality.
  • Full particulars of the informant. I guess if you are willing to testify, then you have to provide full particulars of yourself. Definition of full particulars would be your full name, NRIC/passport/ID, address, contact number, and email (the last three items are required for investigation officer to contact you for help).
  • Corroborative evidence. If you have video- or picture- recordings (explicitly showing the alleged offense taking place such as snapshots or a video account; a pic showing the aftermath of the accident is not useful) with correct date and time (remember to set your compact camera with this information; for phone camera, it's already preset ready), independent witness(es) to corroborate your account (if you have a pen and paper, write down the date, time and location, and brief account; then allow the witness to write his/her particulars for your reference; you can then ask the witness to take a pic of the note with his/her phone camera; this is important because the witness might forget important information such as exact date/time/location later). The particulars of the independent witness should at least have name, contact informations (e.g. phone number and email address). Send video evidence to (quote the police report reference number on the email).
 Once the minimal requirement is met, they can approach Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) to submit a police report (form NP299). Alternatively, you can submit an electronic feedback to Singapore electronic Police Centre. The required login information SingPass user ID and password (What about individuals without SingPass?).

Fig shows the login window in the electronic police center.

For your information, the e-feedback is available to report on the following:
  1. GOOD/COURTEOUS road behaviour :D
  2. Feedback on pedestrians'/cyclists' behaviour on Singapore road (or non-designated area such as open mall), 
  3. Parking violation (reporting to LTA; types of illegal parking can be referred to, and 
  4. Traffic violation (on the road)

  • Traffic Police Information Hotline +6565470000 (for non-urgent traffic-related enquiries; available Mon-Fri 0830-1730 and Sat 0830-1300)
  • For Emergencies, call 999

Friday, November 28, 2014

How to fix a defective laptop LCD screen?

In Singapore, it is easier to just get a new electronics rather than fix/repair it. To repair an item will cost more than to buy a new one (especially when warranty period is over). For example, you will be charged with a diagnostic fee, then the repair fee, and the not-so-cheap replacement parts (that are always not available in Singapore) and need to be ordered.

Sometimes, for a fault that cost only a few dollars can escalate to more than SGD 50 when service charges are included. Other instances, to save time, the repair shop will suggest to change the whole module without determining the component fault.

For this blog, I will share my experience regarding my laptop and its LCD screen (that has gone black).

A visit to several repair shops suggested that the LCD need to be replaced. When I asked them if it could be back light or LCD inverter that is not working, they said it is possible. However, they will need to test it. Diagnosis will cost SGD 30 (others quoted SGD 50), and if I decide not to go on with the repair, I still have to pay for the service fee. Wow, the inverter only cost SGD 10 to 15 in my case (from eBay which I browsed earlier). It was just not worth the repair, unless if I decide to change the LCD screen that will probably come with its bundled inverter! That would cost me at least SGD 150.00.

So, I have decided to go on with a DIY project (that will cost me less than SGD 20). I guess if it doesn't work, I can comtemplate changing the LCD later.
  • The first thing that I needed to do was to disassemble-and-reassemble the LCD panel and be very comfortable with the process. Fortunately, Youtube provided plenty of examples from contributors in this regard. Update: I found it easy to do that with my laptop model (thank you Acer).
  • Secondly, I needed to purchase the backlight inverter from eBay (SGD 19.31 plus delivery) for my laptop model. Most of the parts are readily available from China and Hong Kong (with free delivery sometimes) whereas those from US or UK has higher delivery charge which is more than the price of item (and took longer time). I studied the reviews from the seller before committing the purchase. When that's done, I just waited for the item. It will take at least three weeks to a month for the item to reach Singapore. Update: the item reached my home on the second week. Note that the item doesn't come with a warranty, but it was mentioned by the seller (personal warranty for limited time).
  • When the item arrived. I removed the old inverter, and replaced with the new one. Update: it worked and the LCD was not at fault. I saved plenty with this DIY. I will wait for couple of days to leave a positive review to the seller, just to be certain that the inverter is working :)

All in all, I have spent approx. SGD 20 and had a great experience trying out a simple DIY to change the inverter. I just hope the inverter will work for at least a year.

Just to share.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A sound advice is adults should never hit children out of reactions

I'm referring to this article "if he loses hearing, I'll just pay compensation" (Asiaone, 17 Nov 2014), and from Stomp "Man arrested after allegely slapping 3-year-old kid at Toa Payoh" (17 Nov 2014).

The father who hit another child did it out of reaction (impulse). He could be an over-protective dad who loves his child, BUT his knee-jerk reaction and action were not proper. Kids will be kids and as adults, we should be more patient and level-headed when dealing with them.

I gather, from readers' responses that most of us who are angry at the slapper, are also susceptible to reacting the way the father did (just a hunch). Our shock and anger over this news, and our subsequent comments such as "I'll punch him if that's my kid", or "I'll whack him if I see him", suggests that we are no better at controlling ourselves emotionally if the same thing were to happen to us. Fortunately, not all readers responded in the negative. For those hating the father, let us show a little slack for him. This episode will be an unforgettable lesson to the father, and will serve as a reminder for the rest of us to treat children with more patients and never hit them out of anger/reaction. If you subscribe to some caning in your parenting style (for serious misconduct), at least do it properly and especially after a TIME-OUT (when you are no longer clouded by emotion) so that you won't "lose" yourself.

As parents, our kids are everything. Protecting them is natural. Anger (of ourselves or others) over our inability to protect them from harm/hurt will happen. However, over-reaction is not good, although it will happen sometimes (as we are just humans). Let this episode be a reminder to us that we shouldn't hit a child out of reaction.

There are several examples I would like to share and ask readers what would your reactions be when you are dealing with them:
  1. You walked with your 6 months pregnant wife home from work via an HDB void deck. Several kids (from primary school) played soccer there (which is not allowed as indicated by the warning sign) and one of them kicked the ball so hard that it accidentally hit your wife's belly. She cried out in pain. What is your reaction?
  2. You walked with your 2 years old daughter in the market around your HDB (where no cycling is allowed in the vicinity). Suddenly, at a corner, a man turned his bicycle and knocked onto your baby girl. She got bruised and cried out loudly. What is your reaction?
  3. Your kid came home from school with bloody uniform. His two front teeth got chipped badly and whatever trauma had caused them to wobble. He told you later that one of the school bully (he had been telling you for sometime) pushed him down the staircase in school. How do you feel? This happened to a friend's child, and the teeth had to be extracted because it got infected. According to the dentist, the trauma had caused the other teeth to move out of position. So, in the future the kid will have to come visit for orthodontic treatment to correct the alignment. How do you feel?
If you felt angry at some instances, that is a normal response. We are after all humans and we do tend to err in emotion and judgement (just as how the father who slapped the 3 years old kid erred). His alleged retort "If he loses hearing, I'll just pay compensation" didn't help him a bit BUT I hope we can give him the benefit of the doubt that he spoke with sane mind (considering that he could have been clouded by anger when he spoke).

Being unreasonably angry at him only reflects our susceptibility to ending up the type of person we hated. Let us remind ourselves not to be "short-fused".

Just a thought.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

HDB ceiling leak in bathroom

If you noticed that the ceiling paint inside your bathroom(s) is peeling, don't assume that it is due to Singapore's humid weather (or the humidity in your bathroom). That is because, most paints are resistant to humid condition and will not peel due to exterior condition.

A most likely reason for the peel is due to a leak that resulted in wet ceiling that caused the paint to deteriorate and peel.

Now, how can a ceiling be leaky? As I got to find out, bathroom in HDB is layered by water-proof membrane (it is just paint-able waterproof polymer that will solidify and function as a water-proof layer). This waterproof layer act to direct excess water to a sink (or drain), while preventing water leak to the lower unit. See the figure for explanation. Due to wear and tear, the water-proof membrane need to be replaced.

 Fig. water-proof membrane (dark gray) and the bottom layer is the concrete scaffold holding the whole bathroom unit. A sink/drain is shown. Please don't be misled to think that the water-proof membrane is thick; they are not and comprise just a thin coat of paint!

 Fig. 2 dimension representation of bathroom floor layers. The uppermost is the tiling, the layer immediately down to the tile is the concrete/screed (for support?), the dark gray colored layer is the water-proof membrane. The bottom-most layer is the strong scaffold/concrete supporting the bathroom unit. The blue arrows are the water-flowing to the sink/drain whereas the red arrow shows a leak when the membrane is worn out.

I was surprised (if not shocked) to know that the water-proof membrane can only last 10 to 20 years. That is a short time as compared to a 99 years leasehold for HDB home. It means that we will have to repair our bathrooms at least 5 times throughout the lease. Well, that's not actually a bad news, considering that some of us (not me yet) tend to renovate our home after some time. Having said that, please remember to ask the contractor to repair the waterproof membrane too the next time you decide to renovate your house (especially bathrooms). This is to prevent unpredictable leaking to the lower unit that will cause a revamp/redo of your newly renovated bathroom! A competent interior designer (ID) will be able to advise homeowner about this (to save future cost and headache).

Fortunately, any bathroom leak in HDB unit will be "subsidized" by HDB in their Goodwill Repair Assistance (GRA) scheme, in which HDB will co-pay 50% of the repair cost and the the remainder is shared by both vertical neighbours at 25% each. For more information, refer to HDB website pertaining to "repair of ceiling leaks".

All the following took 2-3 months time (and it depends on the speed of home owners to response to HDB because HDB is powerless to "compel" owners, and so being responsible neighbour is important):

Once you report a leak, an officer will come to your home and inspect the leak. Once the leak is confirmed to be due to ceiling leak, they will send request for GRA scheme and repair. You will receive a letter confirming that HDB will co-pay the repair and an HDB contractor/surveyor will visit to assess the bathrooms and write prescription about the repair work and they will show you the type of tiles, toilet bowl and explain the procedures. When we agreed to the repair, the surveyor will arrange a convenient time for the repair work.

For the repair, the first day will be very noisy and dusty. The contractor will provide a protective sheet for you to cover your bed (up to king size about 6.1 inch in width). You might need to prepare more protective sheets for your other items on the master bedroom (if that's the case). The first day will likely fall on a weekday, and ideally on a Friday (so that you will only need to take one day off work). Your bathroom will be demolished along with your favourite toilet bowl (you can't salvage it UNFORTUNATELY!). Any fixture at the bottom will be removed. However, anything that can be salvaged will be removed with care (that's how good the HDB contractor is; at least what I experience that day).

On the second day (ideally on Saturday), there will be two visits per day. The first visit is to paint the water-proof material (black in colour) to the slab of concrete layered on the first day. When the water-proof layer is dry, the next visit on that day would be to layer the subsequent void with concrete (or screed). That will be left to dry for two days (because Sunday is off day).

On the third day (or rather fourth day because it fell on a Monday), your chosen tile will be laid. Now, if you don't prefer to have the 20 x 20 cm tiles (and would prefer a larger 30 x 30 cm tiles or larger still), you will need to source it elsewhere. A minimal fee of SGD 80 will be charged for the tile work (if they are not from HDB specification). I don't understand why HDB is not providing a minimal 30 x 30 tiles (because that will ease the contractor's work during laying down the tiles (rather than having to repeat many times for the smaller dimension tiles). Furthermore, the price difference is not a lot for these tiles (see different types of tiles in Singapore). For those owners with concealed piping for sink or other fixture, you will not be able to conceal it once HDB contractor finish their work. If you insist on having them concealed especially those "ugly" piping, you can arrange with the contractor (but with added cost). That is because HDB only allowed basic repair work that fix the problem while preserving the function of your bathroom, rather than to "beautify" your room. HDB contractor can advise you about added work but they normally will not "hard-sell" you of their added services (due to HDB regulation I guess, which is good because you are assured to get the best of what HDB expect, while better than best would require your own insistence).

The work comes with a warranty (10 years).

A letter to therealsingapore highlighted a ceiling leak of a 20 years old building, the title was "HDB not taking responsibility for building defects" (19 May 2014). The complainant was unaware that waterproof membrane is not forever, and HDB does help owners to subsidies the repair work. Any warranty for the waterproof membrane on the new HDB unit is for 10 years and it is owners' responsibility to repair the leak thereafter (but co-paid by HDB on Goodwill scheme). The complainant was unaware of his role and blamed HDB for defect without approaching HDB for help and clarification.

Here are several responses from readers (of therealsingapore):
Khor Wee Siong · Top Commenter
"This accusation is based on assumptions which may not be accurate - namely - that the building work was defective and that the leak was caused by defective materials and/or workmanship. The normal warranty for waterproofing is only 10 years. So, if the slab remained watertight for over 10 years, it has already performed beyond the warranted period. This leak is thus fair wear and tear. The cost of repair should thus fall upon the owners, not the HDB."

Tempest Abraham · Top Commenter
"Seriously dude, your ceiling has started to leak after close to 20 years. Poor initial workmanship or not, likewise premium quality construction materials or otherwise, it is not unreasonable for them to start failing now. How often do you get life time warranties?"


Do I like my bathroom now?
Well, I preferred my previous bathroom because it was sleek and beautiful BUT I don't dislike the current fixed bathroom because the work was surely not done shoddily. The officer-in-charge, the surveyor, and down to the contractors and workers were friendly, helpful and professional. Based on all these, I would give 4 out of 5 stars, with one star left out to encourage continued effort to improve.

My hope is that the waterproof membrane will last for 10 years plus plus.

Just a thought.

Updated (20141129)
  • HDB ISN'T DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THE LEAKING PIPES IN MY CEILING (TRS, 2 Jan 2014) - I guess it's really difficult to expedite some repair, especially severe leakage that causes drips (if not pour), and it is important to spot the fault early so that immediate action can be taken. Fortunately, the above neighbour cooperated (as according to the contributor). We need to understand that HDB is powerless to compel people to act according to being neighbourliness and responsible because there is no law for HDB to act upon to compel owners to cooperate. It all boils down to being responsible neighbours. For example, in my case, when HDB informed me that my unit was leaking water to my neighbour at lower level, I immediately followed HDB recommendations to repair the leak. It was all done in less than 2 months time. As for my upper level neightbour unit that is causing my ceiling leak, it was difficult for HDB to contact them for several weeks but when HDB did, this neighbour followed the recommendation to fix the bathroom and the expected repair took about 3-4 months time. Considering that repairing leak (plus the paper works) takes longer time, it's always good to spot the fault before it gets bigger. However, there is also a hotline to call HDB in case of emergencies, e.g. ceiling pouring down water overnight instead of drips (e.g. 1800-225-5432 from 8.00am to 5.00pm on Weekdays). I guess we should hope that there is no emergency on weekends... All in all, we should understand that HDB is not superman (who can fix any problems immediately), the importance of being good and responsible neighbours, authorities act within bound of law (and not "common sense"), e.g. HDB don't hand-cuff people because they failed to cooperate.

Vigilante & mob attack is a double edged sword

Netizens might get into trouble for harassing Sim Lim’s Jover Chew: reports (Yahoo News; 8 Nov 2014). Although it's FUN and (spiritually) LIBERATING to see Jover Chew suffered and got what he deserved (I felt GOOD too knowing that he got harassed, shamed, among others), but what "SMRT Ltd (Feedback)" did was illegal and wrong. 

Awww.... what the hell am I talking about??? I guess most of readers will shout out, "SHADUPPPP.....BRAINLESS".

Well, I am still right. The authorities are still right. It is illegal, wrong, and preventive action should be taken to discourage recurrence (before someone gets hurt).

SMRT Ltd (Feedback): From Troll Group To Internet Vigilantes. From this news (or interview), SMRT Ltd (Feedback) felt that their action was PROPER (if not RIGHT), and the victims DESERVING. They felt that when the authority is not doing its job, it's alright to fill the VOID. SMRT Ltd (Feedback) felt no wrong to initiate "Operation Airkangkang" to promote online vigilante and online mob attack. The attack on Jover Chew is not the first. Anton Casey was another victim that got attacked. I don't think both of them will be the last victims. Will online vigilante be the trend now?

The reason I don't feel comfortable about online or offline vigilante...
  1. What if certain groups target individuals who went against their beliefs, e.g. transgender, homosexuals, act of close-proximity (e.g. public kissing/hugging), etc? 
  2. How about the case involving a Malaysian teen who received death threats after 'Liking' Israel on Facebook (where a screen-shot was taken and published by his teacher
  3. How about having a SOCIAL JUSTICE LEAGUE sites targeting individuals deemed to be socially despicable, obnoxious, and irresponsible? E.g. those walking smokers, reserve-seats "sleepers", litter bugs, etc.
  4. Edited.... I guess whatever vigilante movement is possible here. 
I don't think any vigilante movement will have the ability to self-regulate. What they deemed right (sometimes) might be wrong. Vigilante is not right and will never be alright in any learned/civilized society (not in Singapore). History told us vigilante movement is flawed (because innocent can fall victim).

Cheongsam lady and Anton Casey.

About Anton Casey (my previous blog; 29 Jan 2014), My take on Anton Casey case is that, someone could have disliked him. That person was Anton's Facebook friend. That person exposed Anton with his "dry-joke" that easily offended many Singaporeans (especially those not rich as him). As predicted, Anton got into BIG trouble, loss (or quit) his job, and moved out of Singapore. To me, Anton is a bad joker and politically incorrect... I don't think he deserved attack because he it was a bad joke not meant for others (but his peers).

In Jover's case, how his particulars were acquired was scary. His friends, workers, acquaintances, neighbours and other people who knows him EXPOSED him. This included information about his family, Facebook photos, addresses, and phones. SMRT Ltd (Feedback) was the "contact center" to acquire such information from the public. I guess such method was used on Anton Casey and Cheongsam lady too? Or am I wrong and was there another way?

Fortunately, no one got hurt. However, if the trend persist, I worry that someone might get hurt.

Just a thought.


Edited several times to get to the point.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Freedom in Singapore doesn't mean freedom from responsibility and liability

Refer to this news and what the defense lawyer Mr. Ravi used as material to help the defendant. He invoked Article 14 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression to try to defend Roy's action in the libel/slander case.

I guess defense lawyer will try to invoke the rights of freedom of expression as a shield in most cases of libel/slander. I guess for common person, we will all fall trap to the misconception about Freedom of Expression/Speech and other freedom prescribed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The misconception is that, "It is all right to curtail other people's freedom but not our own".

So, is it all right to speak with mischief, malice, ill-intent, hatred, bully, malign, and other vile intent (just to preserve your rights) to destroy the life of others (or curtailing the rights and freedom of others)? Bear in mind I'm referring to the question in general (not just in Roy's case).

There are several examples of individual freedom versus other people's (or public) freedom:
  1. Freedom to move and reside. A group of people decided to park their butts in front of your house, wandered around, and made tents. Their rights however encroached and curtailed other people's rights. Similarly, how about an individual decided to scale your property wall and entered your house just to invoke his rights to freedom of movement to the judge/jury when he is pressed with intrusion (for paparazzi)/trespassing (for robbers) charges?
  2. Freedom to express/speak. In major religion, there is a prohibition/warning about the danger of speaking with ill-intention or malice (or rumour and slander). Such "freedom" had been known to start wars, killed innocents, and sacrificed plenty. Is it all right to speak untruthfully (without fact/evidence) and malice to degrade and harm someone? Is individual rights more precious than others? Is there no responsibility? To be more specific, is freedom to express free us from responsibility/liability as well?
  3. If human basic rights provide freedom of movement, most of the prison inmates including dangerous murderers, rapists, and war criminals shouldn't be locked up against their will. They have their rights! How about freedom of individuals with Ebola being prevented from flying to other countries (note that they are being quarantined against their will and against their basic human rights)? Aren't their freedom being curtailed?
  4. Freedom to express. When a friend was killed in an accident, a mob of people expressed their anger (freedom of expression?) that ended up a riot with damaged properties (but fortunately no casualties). In this case, are their rights to express freely justifiable to removing the rights of residents and property owners to a peaceful and safe environment? 
If we allow the rights of certain people to be preserved but cared less about the rights of other people, then what will happen next will only be disorder and disregard for the law (and logic). If the Western press who are protected by rights to express freely can end up paying millions to several celebrities, politicians and others, then it is not surprising that Roy will have to bear the responsibility for his action too. He was given the chance to minimize the damage, but he insisted to charge forward to be accounted for his action.

As for the CPF issue, to my knowledge (in "pre-Roy" time), it had been an ongoing work by opposition and ruling parties to deal with the issue involving feedback from contributors (pertaining to several discontents). The debate had been professional and there was none so stupid or audacious as Roy to insinuate a misappropriation in CPF (which is totally unrelated to this prior works). I think it was a mischief gone wrong...  I guess the Malay proverb rings true here, "kerana mulut (or blog) badan binasa" (or bad repercussion from "slip of tongue"). Also, "Better the foot slip than the tongue ". Fortunately, there had and will always be freedom of speech/expression, but it is never too far away from responsibilities.

I would like to point out that whatever changes pertaining to CPF (seen during Roy saga) is the result from hardwork of thinking opposition party (for several years) and cooperation from ruling and not by mere blogger who stuck his head in and ended up in libel/slander. The real people who worked out the CPF issues are the ones who sat and thought before speaking out. It is unfair that Roy is getting the credit for things he did not participate in. Isn't it akin to "spiritual adviser" making a "rain dance" and later got credit for the subsequent rain that was the result of cloud seeding?

Just a thought.

Update: Keypoint (of this entry) is that freedom of expression is not free from responsibility/liability (in general sense).

Opposition party hard work on CPF issues (random picks)
  1. Speech on CPF (Amendment) Bill – MP Png Eng Huat (12 Nov 2013)
  2. MP Sylvia Lim’s Budget 2012 Speech
  3. Speech by Low Thia Khiang on CPF changes, 18 Sep 07

Digital TV transmission in Singapore

MediaCorp started transmitting free-to-air (FTA) channels in digital format (i.e. the Is and Os) since Dec 2013 using the Digital Video Broadcasting - Second Generation Terrestrial (DVB-T2; previous version being DVB-T) standard. The analog transmission will cease operation once the switch to digital transmission is completed (expected to be around 2016-2020). This blog is just to educate myself about the transition from analog to digital TV reception, especially considering that my TV is not digital TV-integrated. I tried to research on this topic..

The benefit of digital transmission versus analog can be referred to this site (briefly, better resolution and sound quality, unclog/clear the radio-frequency being transmitted in Singapore [for other commercial purposes], richer content [more function for viewers and content provider], et cetera).

What must I do (or what had been done)?
Fig. Progressive rollout of DTV transmission from 2013-2016 (sourced from MediaCorp)

  • What will I need to get to enjoy DTV? A digital TV antenna and also a tuner/converter.
A digital TV antenna (that can bandscan or search VHF and UHF). For example, Philips DTV tuner/antenna (Model SDV1125T/27) that cost USD 15 (output is via coaxial connection). Ebay Singapore produced several hits when search input was "Philips digital TV antenna" and the price range was around SGD 30 and above. The antenna will be connected to a tuner/converter before being fed to the TV.

A digital tuner/converter box with several output connections, e.g. coaxial, S-video (or RCA), HDMI, USB, etc. Things to look out for are support options (aspect ratio, resolution, closed caption, parental control, etc.. A search in Ebay produces an example, e.g. Supersonic SC-58 DTV Digital to Analog Converter box +HDMI Output (1080P) +USB for reference. It cost below USD 50. The output connections for this item are HDMI and RCA (aka A/V jack).

I guess the next step would be to search for an antenna and tuner/converter. In the US, the transition from analog to digital was sponsored by the government, with a "voucher" at USD 40 to get the antenna and converter/tuner. Not sure if Singapore is going to sponsor the transition to digital when the analog transmission is ceased (considering that many household will be affected)? For those who can't wait to enjoy better TV experience, I guess they will be looking for one right now (or had got one). I'm still deciding...


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Updated: 4-year-old's death from eating tainted food a misadventure, says coroner

Updated from the previous post re: 4-year-old's death from eating tainted food a misadventure, says coroner. Yesterday news reported that NEA will take action against the stall owner in court (Straits Times; 1st Oct 2014). Under the Environmental Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations, the stall owner faces a fine of up to SGD 2000 for each charge. In addition, Kopitiam was also reported to be taking action against the stall owner by terminating the license agreement with the said operator. On top of that, the boy's family could also take legal action against the stall owner, as pointed out by criminal lawyer Justin Tan. However, the boy's family was reported to have decided not proceed with that course of action.

I hope that this incident will provide a strong reminder to all food stall operators/owners to be extra vigilant and responsible in terms of ensuring that food safety/hygiene is followed. Owners should also ensure that all of their staffs handling food are well trained, certified and responsible. They should be made aware of stool-to-food transmission of lethal pathogens, in this case Salmonella spp. and never handle food when they are feeling unwell.

I remember that there was a case of Salmonella poisoning (or Salmonellosis) reported in 2007 and affected PrimaDeli product, in which scores of people were affected by the contaminated food product. Fortunately no lethality was reported. Sadly, the transmission of this bacterium was due to poor food hygiene practices and was attributed to food handlers (in which two were tested positive for Salmonella Group C) and management.

Food poisoning is not life-threatening to majority of adults, but I would like to remind food operators that food poisoning could be detrimental/lethal to certain susceptible group of people, such as children and elderly.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Re: 4-year-old's death from eating tainted food a misadventure, says coroner

As any readers, I was surprised when I read this news 4-year-old's death from eating tainted food a misadventure, says coroner (The Straits Times; 30 Oct 2014). What was more surprising was reading it in The real Singapore, CORONER: DEATH OF 4YR OLD THAT ATE TAINTED FOOD FROM FOODCOURT WAS JUST A "MISADVENTURE". Do take note of the quotation marks in the latter.

I asked myself, "Surely, I must be reading this wrongly?".

So began my quest to understand the terminology used in coroner's language. Sure enough, the terminology used, e.g. misadventure was used in a proper context, and in line with the coroner's work. That is because, terms such as these: Misadventure, accidental death or an open verdict only meant to be used to describe a death that was not due to deliberate action by someone/oneself.

In the above case, the boy did not intentionally poison himself, and similarly the food stall operator did not intentionally (nor premeditated to) poison the child. That's the coroner's language...

Having said that, it does not mean that Kopitiam (or the stall owner) is free from liability. Civil liability or negligent cases can still be heard by the court and compensation can still be meted out. In addition, Singapore authority can proceed with additional charges and include punitive measures to curb a recurrence.

Let's just hope that the parent will proceed with a civil suit against the stall owner (and/or Kopitiam) to get justice. There is a pro bono legal services in Singapore for help. Having said that, we as readers shouldn't be too shocked with the term "misadventure" used in the reported news. The verdict do not preclude/omit a civil liability of Kopitiam/stall owners (nor did it free them from any wrong). With sufficient circumstantial evidence provided by investigators/authorities, and if the evidence is strong (e.g. presence of Salmonella in the stall/operator), it would make a strong case to get justice and mete out a deterrent sentence.

Just a thought.

  1. Inquests in England & Wales (Wikipedia)
  2. Civil liability/Legal liability (Wikipedia)
  3. Negligence and negligence suits (Wikipedia)
  4. The Law of Negligence (SingaporeLaw dot Sg) - Note that it's too technical for me...
  5. Pro bono legal services in Singapore (by the Law Society of Singapore that provides free legal service for public).

Sim Lim Square under a bad light again (this time involving coins)

Sim Lim Square is under bad press once again. It is due to a bad shop at Sim Lim Square that caused bad publicity for other shop owners operating under the same complex/building. According to The Real Singapore, the shop mentioned was Mobile Air Pte Ltd (Reg. number 201327396H; ACRA). What happened was that a woman shopper was tricked into opting-in for in-house warranty for iPhone product, which cost SGD2400 (for a two year warranty) whereas her phone only cost SGD1600. She wanted a refund and failed to get it. She went to Small Claims tribunal for help and the shop was supposed to refund her the money owed. To her surprise, the shop employee handed her a bag full of coins of different values. The customer had to spend hours counting the coins and all the time enduring harassment by the staffs.

A snapshot taken from The real Singapore. For more pictures, visit the New Paper too.

A check at Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority Singapore (ACRA) Bizfile showed that there are two shops with "Mobile Air" business name, e.g.
  1. MOBILE AIR PRODUCTS (SINGAPORE ) PTE. LTD (Reg number 197200673H) at Penang Rd that was no longer active
  2. MOBILE AIR PTE. LTD. (Reg number 201327396H) at 1, ROCHOR CANAL ROAD, #01-41, S188504 (at Sim Lim Square) which was active

 There are two entities with "Mobile Air" business name.

To find out the business owner, you have to fork out minimal SGD5.50.

To find out who is the owner of the business, one has to pay SGD5.50 (which is not expensive but not cheap if consumers need to check multiple companies belonging to the same owner). The information (or business profile) is not sufficiently informative and relevant. I'm saying this because, although the name of business owner is available in the business profile, there is no mention of other business names registered under that particular/same person (or am I wrong?). Furthermore, the online search form does not allow search by individual/owner's name. The only option is to search by business name or registration number.

There is no search option to find out how many other business names a particular business owner owned/registered.

For example, if a "Wong Ah Kiew" registered ten business names, and one of them, e.g. "Mobile Shitty Service Pte Ltd" was currently under bad press, consumers would be unable to shun (or avoid) the nine other businesses under the same "BAD" MANAGEMENT. Also, if the owner can swiftly change multiple business names at ease, it would be difficult for consumers to keep track, esp. considering that updating such information would require frequent purchasing of business profiles (from ACRA) that lacked information regarding other business names the same owner registered. If I'm Wong Ah Kiew, I would register several backups (if it's not too hassle). If that's easy, no wonder business owners can afford to be shitty, no?

I believe, if ACRA helps to list down businesses owned by an individual, that person will have to think extra hard before smearing his/her business with shitty services (because it would be easy to find out all other businesses he registered). Alas, for the time being, owners are able to change names whenever they fancy and consumers have difficulty keeping track of these changes. Probably that's a major motivation for businesses at Sim Lim Square having the audacity to roll out shitty services.

Just a thought.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Foreigners are rude; Singaporeans are...

Whenever a customer is being ill-treated, Singaporeans will form a quick thought about the whole affair, e.g. "How freaking rude, was he/she Singaporean?".
If the service staff, e.g. Bus captain shouted, "Ooii... Knn, tap the card", when a passenger forget to tap his/her Ezlink card upon boarding the bus, the Singaporean passenger will form a thought, "either he's Singaporean or Malaysian".
Lately, a KOI staff was rude to a customer, and the customer subsequently posted her complain on social media that got viral. Therealsingapore picked it up and posted the story with the first paragraph "KOI Café announced on Monday that they have now fired the foreign staff member who was involved in the incident resulting in a customer complaining about her treatment in a viral video".
The description "foreign staff" seemed to suggest that, "oh, no wonder la.... It's a foreigner. It's not surprising then.... That's our foreign talent (FT) at work. We should thank the garment".
Wait a minute.
Don't we see something wrong here?
Rude staff is a rude person. To give them a benefit of the doubt, their behaviour could have been attributed to bad management. OR it could be the reciprocal/reaction towards an unruly customer, or it could be the late salary, among others. However, as customer service staff, there shouldn't be an excuse for being rude to customers. Similarly, there shouldn't be an excuse that since he/she is a Singaporean or foreigner, hence is alright/expected.
Most of the time, bad service stem from bad management. A management that constantly take into account staffs' input about status quo of business operation will alleviate staffs' stress and improve service operation. Alas, in Singapore, it's easy to fire a staff rather than put the blame on management. Employers here are lucky that Workers Union in Singapore is not strong, so it's easier to blame everything on a single staff (and fire her) rather than itself.
An example would be on our SBS/SMRT buses. The bus captains are "pressured" by management to ensure that each customer is tapping their Ezlink card upon boarding. In addition, captains need to ensure that no passenger is standing on the upper deck of a double-decker bus. One problem though. There is no internal communication system for bus captains to communicate with passengers. As a result, they have to shout most of the time. If a passenger is standing on the upper deck, the bus captain had to stop the bus, move up the deck and ask the passenger to move down. Imagine the repetitive action everyday and the stress on the throat and mind! Surely someone must have highlighted the problem to the management? Or is there lack of communication with management too?
Even if bus captains are rude and can't communicate with passengers in decent way, as a management, surely is not costly to implement a buzzer/warning tune to remind passengers to tap their cards rather than asking bus captains to shout their lungs out, or worst, shouting vulgarity.
Last, it's UGLY that some Singaporeans and especially Singapore alternative online news, are inculcating bad values to people of multi-ethnicity and culturally and religiously diverse Singapore. There is the good of being nationalist, but a great risk of being plain Xenophobic pain-in-butt if left unchecked. Don't blame everything bad on "someone else" (them/their kind) without thinking out of the box (e.g. figuring out the real issue at hand). Bad management/staff is just that and doesn't involve skin colour, culture, religion, sex, and others. 
Just a thought.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sim Lim Square, scams, contracts, consumer protection, misrepresentation and lack of help

Malaysian diver who performed badly during a game blamed his bad experience at Sim Lim Square while buying two iPhone 6s at doubled the price (> SGD4,500; that included exorbitant, misrepresented, ill-informed, contracted in-house warranty). The Commonwealth gold medalist Ooi Tze Liang was so much affected by the experience that he lacked concentration for the dive afterwards.

Sim Lim Square is a place full of vultures. That's the ugly side of an actually wonderful place to hunt for electronics (but the best is still IT Fairs, Electronic Fairs, and the likes). We are more careful and smart (after several past lessons) when dealing with Sim Lim Square salespersons. Alas, for the visitors to Singapore, they are more susceptible to being conned. They should have consulted TripAdvisor before heading to Sim Lim Square (but unfortunately, some was directed there by hotel staffs instinctively upon being asked, especially Sim Lim Square is known by many as a place for electronics minus its bad reputation). Also note that Lucky plaza is another retail place known to "con" tourists (read reviews before visiting any place). If you are a tourist and need internet access, you can access Wireless@Sg for free with one-time registration (for more information about registration and the hotspots available, visit Singtel Wireless@Sg page). With an internet access, study the review of any place before visiting them.

Next, to deal with the salesperson at Sim Lim square, one important attribute buyers/visitors should NOT have is to be FRIENDLY and SMILEY. Wipe that look away from your face. You don't have to be rude, but you must not be too friendly and smiley (which will be your Achilles' heel). Be serious with your buy and let the other person know that "I'm here for a bargain and everything is about PRICE". Ask about the NETT price (inclusive of 7% GST [tax]) constantly.

What to look out for:
  1. STARetailer is a label to identify shops at Sim Lim Square that are less risky. For more information, visit Sim Lim Square Star Retailer.
  2. Behaviour of salesperson in a shop. If they are persistent, aggressive, unfriendly, and act in a pack (like wolves), say "bye bye".
  3. If you spot that most of the items are not price-tagged, say"bye bye". It is really sad to know that in Singapore, tagging items with price is not mandatory. In Malaysia, if any product is found to be untagged with a price, the business entity will be FINED. At times, I wanted to report to the authority about the lack of price tag in certain shops, but I'm clueless as to where to make such report. I haven't consulted CASE for advice. Probably someday.

How you are tricked:
  1. Price or lack of. When you parted your credit card without asking to see the itemized bill (or receipt) first, what comes later in credit card bill can be scary sometimes... that's when you ask, "what happened to the price we were talking about?". Even if the darn salesperson printed the credit card bill for your signature, you can ALWAYS say NO. Just say "I want to cancel the deal, the price is not right". Note that the final bill can be bloated with "sale taxes" that is not itemized on the bill. In Singapore, Goods & Services tax (GST) is only 7% and will be printed clearly as such. If the final bill lacked itemized bill for price of item (negotiated) and GST at 7%, just refuse to pay! Note that for tourists, the GST is refundable in Changi Airport. For more information, visit Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) for GST refund.
  2. Contract signing, in Ooi Tze Liang's case. If the contract didn't state the price or coverage for the services provided (e.g. in-house warranty) and the price came out too much for you, you have the right to void the contract and SCREAM, MISREPRESENTATION!!!!! FRAUD!!!! That will grab attention... but seriously, if the contract was pushed to you and they did a lousy explanation about the price and the coverage (due to non-disclosure, or deliberate omission of facts), you have the rights to void the contract. Call for help, e.g. police or Sim Lim management, especially when they refuse to return your credit card or hold you hostage. BUT NEVER PAY THEM FOR "DAMAGES"/BREACH OF CONTRACT. It's better that the police come to the shop and "arrest" (I prefer to see it as rescue) you rather than to let the police inform you later that, "this scam has happened to two tourists before you" suggesting that it's normal thing to happen in Singapore.
  3. Cooling off period and rights to cancel a contract. Don't let unscrupulous salespersons scaring you off by saying that contract cancellation on the spot will subject consumers to paying for compensation for breach of contract. Recently, with amendments to Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) (Cancellation of Contracts) Regulations 2014, consumers are more protected and there is a cooling off period to cancel contracts. Refer to Ministry of Trade & Industry Singapore (MTI) Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act for detail.
  4. Selling consumers defective, used or refurbished (resold), mismatched (e.g. items sold is different from advertised), reduced (e.g. removal of some parts to compensate for price reduction without informing buyers), Frankensteined (e.g. mixing old components or cheaper generic alternatives into products) goods, and other unacceptable practices. We tend to find out about the problem after some time and by then, the salesperson or shop will not entertain us for refund. However, Singapore Lemon Law provides a protection to consumers against such deceptive practices by business owners. However, Lemon Law only covers products. It does not cover services (I called CASE to find that out). Refer to CASE for FAQ on Lemon law. Refer to CASE for Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) & Lemon Law.
  5. Selling buyers items at exorbitant price.
  6. Selling fakes. Note that Kingston now has an genuine labels using Phantom and Colour-shift technology. Alas, there are other products that can be easily imitated and sold as genuine. Some provide product validation online, but most still lacked this security measure to protect consumers.
  7. Charging items with additional "service fees", e.g. "unlocking fees" for game consoles, hence increasing the amount of the final bill.
  8. Huckster behaviour, e.g. harassment, aggressive sale tactic, throwing "freebies", begging, insulting, etc. to pressurize customers into buying. We don't have to feel pressurized to buy anything (even if there are three to four salesperson hogging to talk to us at one time). Don't feel bad about wasting anyone's time or effort. Just say, "I will consider". Never be FRIENDLY! We are not going to Sim Lim to make friends! Don't let our friendliness be our Achilles' heel.
  9. Upon inspection of the item and deemed satisfactory by the potential buyer, this item is then swapped/switched during transit from customer's hand to the cashier. When the buyer realize this, some might have already boarded their flight and heading back to their country. An easy prey would be those buyers who disclosed to the salesperson that the item purchase is "actually a gift for someone" (which will only be opened by that person).
  10. Misled buyers into buying "cheaper alternatives" that ends up useless, below par, defective product. For example, buyers being misled into buying "generic" camera lenses (instead of original) that end up having super blurry effect. Worst, the alternative is way cheaper than a factor of five elsewhere, e.g. sold SGD500 when it could be bought at SGD100.
  11. Overpriced in-house warranty being hard sold to buyers. Sometimes, buyers are tricked into signing a contract for this useless item (without proper consent). It is akin to installing freeware in which the installer tricks user into opting-in for all the bloatwares.

What you can do:
  1. Don't go down silently, file a complaint with Sim Lim Square and Consumers Association of Singapore. Write a review on TripAdvisor, Google, Straits Times newspaper, Stomp, Singapore Tourism Board (hotline from 9am to 6 pm 1800-736 2000), or blog it. You will need the receipt and other necessary information for the above action.
  2. If you have not parted money or signed your credit card bill, because you are surprised by the amount stated on the bill, you have the right to void the deal. That is when your lack of FRIENDLINESS and SMILE comes into play. You don't have to explain, but if you want to, just say "the price is not right".
  3. Visit the place with someone. Let the other person be the "bad guy" who will spoil the deal by saying, "I don't like it, let us go elsewhere". You will be the person who will ask about the product, the price, the promotion, the freebies etc. while your friend will pull you out from the deal if you give the right signal to abort. If the salesperson insist on knowing why, just say that the item is a gift for someone and my friend knows best! Just leave the place if the salesperson is still persistent.
  4. Don't pay in cash. Allow all transactions to be paid by credit card. If the salesperson take your money, it will be very difficult to get it back if the deal turn bad. At least by credit card, you are well protected.
  5. Get the product first with warranty before making payment. Trust goes both ways, and the shopper should ready the item and place them in front for you to inspect and ready to take away before you part your money. Allow the time you part your money/make payment the very last step of the deal/transaction, just right before the "thank you and bye bye". If there is any "activation" or "messaging" craps, just withhold the payment until that is settled. Keep your card/money until the "activities" stop and your product is finalized and ready-to-go before making payment.
  6. Don't sign any paper/invoices/contracts until you get the final bill. Even after getting the final bill, always be very reluctant to sign anything, except for the credit card bill. There is no logic in signing anything extra.
  7. If you can't find any review about a shop on TripAdvisor, tread with caution because name changing by shoppers is as easy as paying SGD 26.75. This suggest that the bad press associated with the shop name can be removed by changing to a new name for the shop. Refer to Asiaone news on "Shamed Sim Lim Square retailers change signboards".
  8. If you refused to pay and being held hostage, CALL THE POLICE (999). Don't pay, just get "arrested" (or rather, rescued) for "failure to purchase at Sim Lim Square".
  9. Ask for refund if you felt that the item was not what you wanted (or defective). Shops that carried the Staretailer are obligated to refund buyers if they are not satisfied with the purchase (or the price sold to them are higher than it is supposed to be). See Staretailer pledges.

Safety nets:
  1. Contact Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) at +6561000315 (hotline) for assistance and enquiry.
  2. Call Sim Lim Square office at +6563383859 for assistance if you are in a predicament at one of the stores
  3. Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA) & Lemon Law.
  4. Call the police @ 999. Police are not authorized to force business owners to refund money paid by buyers. However, the police surely is able to help customers to leave the shop without being forced to pay (especially if customers are being held hostage). Hence, buyers should not part their money easily except until they received their items in good order and receiving the final itemized bill for the payment.
Just a thought.

 Great references

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ezlink card expiration a nuisance especially when the renewal is cumbersome

Consumers are left without a say in this matter. The Ezlink cards that they possess have expiration dates and when these cards are expired, they will have to renew them. The renewal process is very cumbersome. Consumers have to locate the nearest ticketing offices to have these cards renewed. The control stations or customer service counters at MRT stations can't renew your cards.

Here are the points that get on my nerve
  1. The ticketing office is available at certain hours and locations (Transit Link ticket office & working hours). So, it means that for those who travel to work and home at odd hours will not be able to renew their cards.
  2. There is no alternative means but to renew expired Ezlink cards at ticket counters. How inconvenient is that?
  3. Expired cards can't be top up at the top up machines. The only way that consumers are able to top up the card value is via the control stations/customer service centers.
Now, wouldn't it be more convenient if
  1. Renewal machines/kiosks are setup at MRT stations for consumers to transfer the remaining credit value from their expired card to the new card issued by the machine. The expired cards can be discarded in the bin provided (if there is a need for recycling). Wouldn't that be more convenient, especially considering that Ezlink card expiration is inevitable (or continuous event) and involves large amount of people?
  2. Allow top up function for expired cards at top up machines. I guess the reason for causing inconvenience to consumers is motivation to renew their cards sooner? That's not really fair considering that the renewal process can be cumbersome. For example, what if I travel at 6.30 am to office and at 7.30 pm back to home? When and where is convenient for me to renew my cards?
To me, there is no real motivation to renew my Ezlink card. I guess the only motivation is actually attributed to compelling prospect of inconveniences for not renewing these cards. Well, at least add machines to help the renewal process!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bicycle pump that doesn't work

Bicycle pump designed without much thought about function is doomed to fail. The valve made of plastic is the culprit. Anyone deciding to get a bicycle pump, be advised not to choose this type of plastic valve because it won't work. This pump can't even pump a balloon! What a pathetic pump. 
Note that the valve is the pump's "nozzle" for fastening to tyre's valve stem. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Proper way to solicit donation from public for the less fortunate

There should be a proper way to solicit donation for the less fortunate, but going to people's home at dinner time to ask for help in buying a merchandise in which only a portion of the profit goes to the handicapped (or less fortunate) is not proper.

The manufacturer, if indeed sincere in helping the less fortunate or disabled should think of a socially acceptable means to sell their products and at the same time channel portion of the profit to the right people, without having to ask these less fortunate people to knock/ring bells of homes to solicit a purchase. That is the most despicable act of manipulation! For all I know, there could be a syndicate involved in misusing the less fortunate for their own profit.

Recently, a partially blind (or visually handicapped) "salesman" came to my home at late evening and asked for my help in buying a collection of watches from him, starting from SGD 10. I was shocked and certainly not impressed.

You see, I have firm believe that the proper way to contribute help or donation is by
  1. Directly visit a centre and make a contribution on the spot, in terms of money, pledge, or groceries and other necessities.
  2. Alternatively, you can write a cheque payable to the targeted centres, e.g. animal shelter SPCA, Salvation Army Singapore, Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA)Singapore Association of visually handicapped (SAVH), Nature Society Singapore (NSS), among others.
Never in my mind would I want to part my money for something which I don't really know closely, such as having a "handicapped salesman" knocking on my door asking for help. The company or organization involved in the above mentioned case is lucky to escape because I wasn't able to catch the name, or else...

It's not that door-to-door sales are bad, but due to some abuse of the practice, they are not welcomed anymore. Most of residents will try to dissuade the practice by not striking a purchase with them. With less sale, there will be no risk of seeing this trend of door-to-door solicitation which can be a nuisance in HDB (but not at private properties where they can't gain access). Unfortunately, if residents start falling into the gimmick by salespersons visiting their flats at inconvenient hours (e.g. dinner time, where most working adults would be home), the door-to-door sales/solicitation/scam will make a come-back. It is all up to residents and the general public to either put a stop or motivate such trend. I for one don't encourage this type of sales/solicitation.

Just a thought.

  1. Teen vendors using sob stories to sell overpriced ice cream
  2. Guard Against Contractors On Door-to-Door Sales
  3. 'Fund-raising' scams creating confusion 
  4. "Ex-convict" going door-to-door sales (Hardwarezone forum)
  5. Mendaki donation scam alert (13 Oct 2014)
  6. Two youths sentenced to probation, community service for charity scam (31 July 2013)