Sunday 16 June 2013

Jem’s jam more shocking than Wong Li-lin’s divorce

Dear Jem,

Congratulations on your opening yesterday.

Four days late.

Wink, wink.

Just between you and me, the delay was intentional, right?

News of the aborted opening last week was more shocking than Wong Li Lin and Allan Wu getting a divorce.

Now Wong can finally be reunited with her former Triple Nine co-star James Lye, whom everyone knows she is destined to be with.

Sorry, Diana Ser. Maybe Bobby Tonelli is still available.

Celebrities get divorced all the time, but what Jem did was unprecedented.

Anyone can open a shopping mall. But to cancel the opening of the third largest suburban mall in Singapore on the night before it was supposed to open?

That took some kind of evil marketing genius and mall-size balls. I clap for you.

When I first heard that Jem was opening next to the Jurong East MRT station, I was so happy that I didn’t mind living near a dengue cluster in Choa Chu Kang.

It was like Orchard Road coming to our smelly backwater kampung.

It's even more exciting than offering free shipping to Singapore for certain orders above US$125 (S$156).

Having lived in the western part of Singapore for 30 years, I have long felt that the area has been underserved in terms of shopping centres.

Sure, we already have IMM, Jurong Point, JCube and West Mall, but you can never have enough places to watch post-converted 3-D Hollywood movies, buy crap you don’t need and eat lousy food court food.

Actually, IMM doesn’t have a cinema, Jurong Point has been extended twice since it opened in 1995, JCube is basically an ice-skating rink that happens to have some shops around it and West Mall appeals only to people in Bukit Batok.

Jem may be another generic shopping mall, but at least it’s a classy generic shopping mall with stores like H&M, Kinokuniya and Victoria’s Secret.

Even your name sounds classy. Jem is a homophone (not a gay telephone) for “gem”.

Unfortunately, Jem also sounds like “jam”, which better describes your situation last Tuesday when you couldn’t open the mall as scheduled because the fire permits weren’t ready.

I had “liked” your Facebook page and followed your 10-day countdown to the June 11 opening day. With four more days to go, you wrote on Facebook: “Come rain or shine, we’ll make sure you have a great time.”

Yes, come rain or shine, but apparently, not come lack of fire permits.

Even your tenants were caught off-guard. They were told only on Monday night that the next day’s opening was cancelled.

It was almost as disappointing as McDonald’s running out of The Frog Prince Hello Kittys in less than a day.

I mean, Jem eventually opened, but The Frog Prince Hello Kitty is gone forever.

The spokesman for Select Group, which owns Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert, told The Straits Times: “Lend Lease (the company that developed Jem) wanted us to rush to open on the 11th, so we paid contractors more to work 24 hours. That was a big waste.”

Hong Kong Sheng Kee Dessert, which hired six people to work at the Jem outlet, had to throw food away. Nothing breaks my heart like throwing away food.

I couldn’t understand how anyone running a gargantuan 241-store mall could make a monumental mistake like this.

And then I read the media coverage of the “administrative issues” and it hit me – it was all just a sneaky publicity stunt!

So sneaky that your own tenants weren’t in on it.

Come on, do you really expect us to believe that you could be so incompetent as to not apply for the fire permits in time?

And that you were actually planning to open the mall on a Tuesday?

Who goes shopping on Tuesdays? There’s a reason Gelare offers a discount on its waffles only on Tuesdays.

When you finally opened yesterday – a Saturday, naturally – you got more hype than you would have if you had opened four days earlier as scheduled.

Now, thanks to the “administrative issues”, even people who don’t live in the western part of Singapore would be curious to visit the mall that couldn’t get its fire permits ready for its opening. Even the haze won’t deter the rubberneckers.

But you know what ultimately gave the game away?

When the delay of the opening was first reported, Jem’s development director Chris Brown was quoted as saying: “It’s been delayed to a date yet to be determined, due to an administrative regulatory issue.”

So the name of the Jem spokesman is the same as the guy who beat up Rihanna?

Yeah, right. I can’t wait to meet your CEO Usher and your chairman Kanye West.

They bring a whole different meaning to the word “jam”.

So congratulations on pulling off the greatest mall opening publicity coup ever!

Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me.

If I lie, you can call Triple Nine.

- Published in The New Paper, 16 June 2013

2014 UPDATE: The fault in our Jem – here come the waterworks