Great Singapore Sale Shopping Challenge, The Disappointing Part

So I have written all about fun part of the Great Singapore Sale race here. Now here comes the disappointing part. There were two issues that we tried to raise. The first was the calculation issue. The second was the suspected foul play.

Before I start, let me clarify the shopping rules again. We were given $1,000 and we had to find discounted items in at least 3 different malls (Orchard, Marina, Harbor front) and buy at least 3 items in each of the malls. The team with the greatest dollar saving wins. Savings = The actual price – the discounted price.

The first concern.

The winning team saved $24,000+, the 1st runner up saved $11,000+ and we were announced as the 2nd runner up winner with a saving of $10,000+.

Which didn’t match our calculation, because according to ours we should’ve saved $12,002.

When we got to the finish line and dropped our shopping haul at the tabulation booth, we wanted to make sure that we were there during the calculation so we stick around. But we were shooed away. They took the items and the receipts with them so we never did have the chance to recalculate it ourselves. We have asked many times to be informed about the calculation but they didn’t want to disclose it.

So of course, we were surprised when it was announced that we only saved $10,000 +. We directed our concern to Singapore Tourism Board race committee and demanded to see our receipt and calculated it together with them. But they never seemed to bother.

First, they said the receipt had been brought back to the office for audit. Then one of them said that the receipt was on the way back to Orchard road and they would recalculate it for us, but later on they that it’s impossible for them to have miscalculated because it had gone through three different calculations.

All we asked was for them to bring out the receipt so we could calculate it together! How hard would that be?

Fast forward to four hours later, we still didn’t see the receipt. We met with Andrew Phua, the Director of Tourism Shopping & Dining of Singapore Tourism Board, again the next day to follow through with the dispute. But he didn’t mention anything about the receipt, so we took it as a sign that he didn’t have the intention to solve the dispute.

We couldn’t figure out why it’s so difficult for them to grant our simple request. Until now we still regret their decision because we think if they have done what we asked, it would have proved that the race was held with transparency and integrity as it should have been, regardless the outcome. We understand that our calculation might not be accurate too, but since we couldn’t see the receipt, we couldn’t prove it either way.

The second issue.

We shopped at the same store in Wisma Atria as the first winner, Amanda Zuydervelt and her partner (UK Team). In fact, they were right in front of us at the cash register (See pic below). As a rival, it was just natural for us to examine what they bought and how much those items cost.

We have visited that store before the race, so we knew that that store doesn’t sell anything above $1,000. There were dresses that were priced at $2,000, but the price tag was in Malaysian Ringgit. There was another price tag on it that says $920 which was the correct price in Singapore dollar, but was marked down to $70.

When the receipt was printed, it showed that the actual price was $920, the Singapore dollar price, not the $2,000 in Malaysian Ringgit. I heard Amanda telling the sales lady that the printed receipt was wrong, she pointed to the $2,000 price tag. She then asked the sales lady to make a correction, but then the two sales ladies told her that the actual price was indeed $920, that the $2,000 was in Malaysian Ringgit so that’s why they didn’t have $2,000 come out on the receipt. The sales lady knew we were in the race as there were three teams in the store so she wanted to be fair to all of us.

With my own eyes, I saw the sales lady crossed the price of the bottom two items because there was actually an error on their part. She left the remaining 11 items on the receipt as it was. (The UK team bought 13 items in that store).

Knowing that we and the UK team buy similarly-priced items, plus the fact that we still had more items in the other store with great discounts, we felt we still had a chance to win. Or even if we were behind them in terms of savings, the total would not have been too different.

So you could imagine our shock again when, after the committee announced our saving, we heard them announce that the UK team saved a whopping amount of $24,000+. It wasn’t possible because we know what they bought and how much those items cost.

Sensing there was something wrong there, we brought it to the committee along with our 1st complain. We told them what could possibly have happened. We also asked the committee to show us the receipt and after hours of hesitancy, they finally showed us the UK team receipt.

When we saw the receipt, we were shocked. The prices of all the items bought were all crossed off and changed into bigger amounts. We couldn’t believe that the committee didn’t even question that! The $920 were crossed and replaced with a handwritten amount of $2,616, $2160, $1500 and other big numbers next to it. It wasn’t only two that were crossed, but all 13 items!

Wow!

If it was that easy to win the competition we could’ve done the same. Just crossed the actual price and changed it to $5,000. After all, no one from Singapore Tourism Board would verify it with the store, right? But no, we did not do it because we wanted to play fair.

The Singapore Tourism Board committee had a long meeting on and off that night to discuss our request, I had no idea what they discussed really, I didn’t even understand what was there to discuss. If they really wanted to make everything straight, clear and transparent, they would have brought everyone together at the same table right away before everyone had left. (and showed us our receipts too!)

But since it was too late; the other team had left, the store had closed, there was really nothing we could do anymore. The committee suggested us to go back to the hotel and get a rest. At first they promised that the dispute will be followed through the Singapore Tourism Board office in Jakarta. Of course we refused the idea because Singapore Tourism Board Jakarta doesn’t have anything to do with it and we know once we left Singapore, we will never hear anything about it anymore. Then they promised to try their best to bring everyone together the next day.

The next day we got an SMS from Derek Liaw, the event manager from SPH Media Box who basically our liaison with Singapore Tourism Board. He told us that the meeting was set up at 6 PM (3 hours before our flight!) in Wisma Atria. We asked Derek if the sales lady, the key witness, would be there too since it would be pointless if she’s not there. Derek said he would send the request to Singapore Tourism Board.

So at six o’clock we went there and met the winner, Amanda Zuydervelt who stood not far from the escalator, and the first thing she said was, ‘YOU KNOW WHAT, this is my first day off in 30 days and it was ruined by you guys, I’M REALLY UPSET’ :D

Not until the meeting was started that we understood why her day was ruined. Because she had to spend it all preparing her speech.

Yes, speech.

She wrote down every single word she wanted to say, page after page. She spent a great deal of time explaining about why, of all people, she would be the last person to cheat. She even thought it was important to try to intimidate us again and make us look like two ungrateful little Asians.

There was also one time when she played the ‘blonde moment’ by admitting that she didn’t know the currency of Malaysia. It speaks a lot about her credibility when Amanda Zuydervelt, as the founder of Stylebible.com didn’t know that an Anne Klein dress couldn’t possibly be priced at $2,000.

During the transaction, what my eyes saw was the sales lady only crossed two items, but I didn’t have the hard proof for the committee. Diana also heard that the sales lady told the UK team that the price was in Malaysian Ringgit. But we totally understand that they cannot just believe what we say. We knew we were in a weak position, that’s why we insisted to just bring the sales lady out.

But you know what? The sales lady wasn’t there because it was her day off. The Singapore Retail Association representative (I forgot her name), who obviously had the power to ask the other sales lady for her friend’s phone number and to ask her to come by, acted like there was nothing else she could do.

I then asked them why don’t we just ask the other sales lady, who was also behind the cash register when the UK team made the payment because that sales lady also told the team that the prices was in Malaysian Ringgit. But the Singapore Retail Association representative just brushed me off and said that that sales lady is not a trustable person.

We are very disappointed that The Singapore Tourism Board, who was supposed to be the neutral party, did not even try to summon the one person who could have verified the facts and settled the case once and for all.

Realizing that we would never came to a decision since the key witness wasn’t there and the fact that we had a flight to catch, made Diana just tell everyone firmly that there’s really no point of sitting here and discussing it because we don’t have the hard proof of everything we said, so point taken and case closed. And we walked out of the coffee shop with tears rolling down our faces. It was very frustrating for both of us.. :(

After we left, we realized that there were a few points we missed. Well, English is not our first language and we didn’t come prepared with a speech, you know. We forgot to say that:

During the briefing, before the race started. Amanda Zuydervelt asked one question. And it was something along this line..

“If the price on the tag doesn’t match with the price on the printed receipt, can we match it with the price on the tag?”.

So, she did go to that store before the race (as confirmed by her Twitter) and she knew that  it would be printed much less because the $2,000 was in Malaysian Ringgit. I also found a few other things she wrote that kind of raised a flag, like the ‘magic’ shop and the estimated saving she knew she could’ve saved after she visited that store (which was much less than $24,000)

By the way, Amanda was the winner of last year race too where she also ‘saved’ $25,000. And only Amanda Zuydervelt can save that much because the record before that was $14,451.

We were hoping that since The Singapore Tourism Board already know that the price was indeed in Malaysian Ringgit, they would at least make a correction to straighten the misleading information. Singapore is great for shopping, I would admit that, but saving that much is not going to happen. Especially not when you have to do it in less than 4 hours, not when you have to buy at least 9 different items in 3 different malls and not when you’re doing it FAIR and SQUARE, without the ‘magic’ store. But we are too naive to expect them to give such statement if they didn’t even have the courage to make us feel understood and fairly treated by giving us the acknowledgment that they know about the wrong currency on the price tag even though the misleading information work against to their advantage because that means the actual price in Singapore is much more expensive than the rest of the world. (Check the price of Anne Klein dresses here)

So that’s it. That’s our story. It’s sad that it had to happen. We like Singapore, we promote Singapore a lot in our network. We have worked together many times with Singapore Tourism Board in Jakarta office. In fact, there is one campaign lined up that unfortunately we have to cancel due to this :(  It doesn’t feel right for us to proceed with the campaign as we don’t want our readers, who have supported us throughout the competition,  to misinterpret our intention. We’re sorry that the Singapore Tourism Board Jakarta had to suffer the consequences of this incident but we feel that this is the best thing to do.

By reading this long post, we hope we don’t give you the impression that we’re just bitter we won third place and only pocketed $2,000 in cash. I just have to make it clear again in here that it’s not about the money, there’s a whole greater issue involved that is so principal and more important to us than just money.

It’s not easy for me to write this post as I have to consider other aspects, mainly out of respect for Singapore Tourism Board Jakarta office (they are inviting us for a meeting later on this evening to hear our side of story and see if there’s anything they can do). But I write it anyway because I owe you guys an explanation. Besides, we already informed Andrew Phua that we’re going to publish it in our blogs and he didn’t seem to see that it’s going to be a big deal.

The whole experience makes me wonder, is it really that hard to come out on top when you are playing fair? Is the world we live in really that corrupted? I know money can be blinding, although I don’t think any amount of money can ever justify sacrificing one’s integrity and dignity.

What I didn’t know was, there are people who have the position and the power to do something but don’t have the guts to do it. They choose to just play it safe and pick the easy way out. I mean, how can you just turn a blind eye and call it a day?.So sad!

But all in all, there’s no regret of joining the Great Singapore Sale shopping competition. We learned a lot about a lot of things, about life, about how the ‘system’ works and mostly about ourselves and what we’re made of. (Oh and I also learned that Diana Rikasari is such a remarkable person! I can’t praise her enough :) ). We have nothing to be ashamed of. We came there with a determination to win, we played honest, we tried hard and planned it so well.

And most of all, we’re so glad that we had the COURAGE to take action and do something when we felt unfairly treated. We fought for our rights, for justice and for fairness.

What we fought for didn’t change the outcome, we didn’t get the prize that we think we deserve, and we didn’t get the confirmation that we were looking for, but it was worth fighting for and we went back home with our pride and dignity fully intact.

And we would not have it any other way :)


Click here to read Diana Rikasari story regarding the challenge. If you want to support us, you can spread this story by retweeting it or sharing it on your Facebook. Thank you for reading the longest post ever published in Fashionese Daily :D

Update: June 03 2010

  • Singapore Tourism Board Jakarta office invited Diana and I to a meeting yesterday, we thought it was nice of them to spare time to sit down with us and hear our side of the story.
  • We received an email this morning from the Malaysian team who are willing to give a testimonial if needed. Nasa was in the same store as us & the UK team, so she saw and heard things. I have forwarded her email to them. If the Singapore Tourism Board has any intention of investigating this, it’s surely can be done as more evidence has appeared. If they wish to leave it unresolved, it’s fine by us too.
  • I will leave the comments open, but please be civil, and leave out the generalization as this is not about one country vs another. Trolling and name calling will not be entertained either.