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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pawnshop and Money Lenders

How things have changed. In the past, there were few pawnshop. Most of them like this one here are imposing looking with iron bars, high counter and old man peering down at the customers. 

I have walked past many of these pawnshop and thank goodness, despite our family situation when we were young, we never had to resort to them to get money. Over time, the number of pawnshops went down as young people shun them because of the stigma and turned to easy bank loans.

Then in the past few years, a new breed of pawnshops have sprouted. No longer confined to the older city neighbourhood of Chinatown, Jalan Besar and Geylang, these new breed of pawnshops are in the HDB heartlands and shopping malls.

These pawnshops have glitzy shopfront more like jewellery store and are fronted by celebrities making it sound cool to pawn things. And judging by the number of them mushrooming all over, it is very profitable too. At least for the pawnshop owner.

Along with the pawnshops there are now a new breed of money lenders. Money lenders used to be just a small little cubicle in a shopping mall in Chinatown or Geylang and do not advertise their services. But in recent years with the relaxation of the Money Lending Act, illegal money lenders hiding under the cloak of a licence are openly touting their services and getting away with obscene interest rates.

And what is the real reasons for the rise of these new fanged pawnshops and money lenders? In the past, the people who goes to such places usually do so as a last resort - to borrow money to tide over the month or to pay for some urgent unplanned for expenses.

But according to a friend who works in a pawnshop, the new breed of customers are not the old people who are not comfortable in such glitzy places but the PMEBs. And why are these people going to such places? Clue: these places started sprouting only in recent years after the opening of? Why, the 2 "integrated resorts". Yes our 2 world famous casinos are the sole factor behind the rise of these places. According to my friend who works in the pawnshop, their busiest time are Thursday and Friday where customers walked in to hock their jewellery and of there to the casino. If they win, they come back and redeem their stuff and if not, it is a drive to the money lenders to borrow some money to tide over until their next winning!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

National Stadium lives on...

Most of us Singaporean remember the old National Stadium - the beautiful field, the 4 lights at the corners, the row and row of seats and of course National Day parade.

Well the stadium is gone now but there is a project to save some part of it. The wooden benches have been recycled and made into various designs although I am not sure whether this is just a once off project or a commercial project. Anyway, here are some of the interesting ideas:

Some of the design are real nice, some are plain impractical and some are kinda simple. The benches are currently on display at the URA Centre at Maxwell Road.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Muar Food Street

So we were in Muar for the food and the run of course. Before we left, we were told there was this famous food street. I had expected something akin to the famous Glutton Corner of Penang but what I got was more like a back alley of food stalls. It was a big letdown.
We arrived in Muar around lunch time and promptly went in search of food. We came to this coffee shop at the corner of the food street and so we proceeded to order what we thought was the famous food there.
Sadly, the char kway teow was too dry.
The roast meat was so so and nothing to rave about.
The otar was plain tasteless.

Perhaps the best of the lot was the pig intestine soup with salted vegetables.
Ok maybe in our haste, we got the wrong place so we promised to come back to the food streets for real food.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Go the Extra Mile for Service?

Recently there was this survey on service staff commissioned by the 'Go the Extra Mile for Service (GEMS) Up' project, a joint movement involving SPRING Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, the Institute of Service Excellence at the Singapore Management University, and the National Trades Union Congress. The result of the survey shows that 56 per cent said workers in places such as restaurants, transport, shops and hotels performed "below expectations" when it came to doing more.

Why am I not surprised? My personal experience bears this out.

Recently, a group of us went for dinner. It was about 8.30 pm and we were at Citylink Mall. We walked into a ¾ empty Japanese spaghetti restaurant. As far as our eyes could see, there were only 3 tables occupied and the staff were cleaning the place. The group of us asked for a table for 7. One of the staff told us to wait. Initially I thought we had to wait while they join the smaller 2 seater tables together but as the wait dragged into the minutes without the staff doing anything, we got impatient and repeated our request. The staff than told us we had to wait for the table in the corner which was occupied by a small group of 6. But the place was practically empty and we failed see why they couldn't accommodate us by joining the other tables together. And then while we were still standing there, another staff told us rather curtly to wait outside. 

Of course, we got pissed off and we went outside - to another outlet! There was no way I was going to spend good money on this type of place with such poor service. 

On another occasion, I was browsing at a camera shop at Funan. I had just finished my run and was in running attire. I saw a bag that I thought I might like and wanted to take a closer look but since I was dripping in sweat and rather smelly after the run, I decided to go and change first and come back to the shop. It was around 8.15pm then. After changing, I came back and walked into the shop but before I could do anything else, the salesman told me curtly that they were “closed”. I was stunned. There was no customer earlier on when I was inside and still no customer now and since I had come back a second time, any good salesman should have smell a sale here but instead of doing that, he chased me out! What the fuck!

Coming back to the survey, my 2 examples show that despite all that retail bosses have said about training and good service, the message obviously have not sink into their staff. What I suspect in both cases was that they were on the verge of closing for the day and did not want to stay back later than necessary, not even for a sale. Got sale or no sale, it is their boss’ problems and they still get paid come what may. So indeed like the findings of the survey, service staff here are not going the extra mile. Like that how can we hope to become the shopping capital of Asia?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Trains, Monkeys and Dogs and Goodnu

Why do people buy houses near MRT for the convenience but after buying that  cry father cry mother about the noise from the train and the station! MRT station announcement too loud, train pulling in too loud, people talking on the train platform too loud!

Why do people buy homes near to facilities and then complain about the crowd and the noise? Just like  a neighbour at my old place. He had bought an unit on the ground floor near to the children playground and swimming pool so that his children can be near them.  And guess what, he then started complaining about the noise from the other children playing there! 
Why do people buy houses near nature reserve and then got all flustered about forest creatures invading their homes. I am very sure that the very thing that prompted them to buy a house there was to be close to nature. And nature will come with,very naturally the snakes, monkeys and insects. So why do these residents now kbkb over the monkeys? 
Ok maybe they bought the house from the showflat and never got to see the surrounding areas.  In that case they must be freaking blind and goondu! 
So what brought on this ranting? There this joker who wrote to the papers to complain about being chased by dogs while he was cycling at Bukit Brown. Bukit Brown is not exactly a sanitized park. Hell, it is not even a park. It is just wild overgrown grasses and plants and I am very sure beside the “silent” inhabitants, there are living inhabitants like snakes, wild dogs, maybe even a wild boar or two. So when you go riding in the heart of all these and kena chased by dogs, why blame them? Blame yourself for intruding into their territory.
Next thing we know, somebody going to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve will be complaining about the crocodiles and other wild animals there and demanding that they be put away for the "safety" of the public!