Sunday 8 February 2009

Good service is welcomed, but low prices even more so


I still feel a little unnerved whenever I’m assaulted by this forced greeting as I step into a Giordano/Bossini/Hang Ten/IP Zone store.

And I’d be startled again when I leave the shop and someone shouts, “Thank you! Come again!” which almost makes me feel guilty for not buying a $8 T-shirt that half the population already own.

I hope this is not the kind of “service” that the Government hopes to encourage with the $100 million fund it announced last week to raise service standards.

But I guess it’s better than entering a “high-end” shop and being greeted by a cold hard stare that hisses: “You can’t afford anything here. Go back to Giordano/Bossini/Hang Ten/IP Zone where you belong.”

That’s still not as bad as Mustafa, where every customer is treated like a potential shoplifter.

Even after you have paid for something, the surly cashier will place your purchase in a plastic bag and then close it up tightly with a cable tie that can only be removed with a bolt cutter. This presumably is to prevent you from sneaking any unpaid merchandise into the plastic bag.

Once I went to Mustafa with my wife and was stopped at the entrance by a security guard who said that before he could let me in, he had to secure my knapsack with the aforementioned cable tie.

I said okay and asked if he was going to bind my wife’s tote bag as well. To my surprise, the guard said no because my wife was (and reportedly still is) female. It was the guys they didn’t trust.

What? So Mustafa was not only zealous and somewhat low-tech in preventing shoplifting, but they were also gender-biased? Since when do women not steal? (They steal my heart all the time.)

But was this going to stop me from shopping at Mustafa ever again? No, because what’s a little misplaced sexism and surly service as long as you can get low prices and an insane variety of stuff in one place?

Remember when food outlets were required to display the grade they received for their hygiene?

When was the last time you actually paid attention to the grade? Did you stop eating at your favourite hawker stall because it was given a lowly C grade? Of course not.

Hygiene and service are all well and good, but other factors like value for money and taste also matter.

So what’s a little food poisoning now and then?

- Published in The New Paper, 8 February 2009

UPDATE: And the ‘baddest’ shopping centre in Singapore is...