Sunday 9 November 2014

Sim Lim saga: From Phantom Warranty to Attack Of The Coins to Revenge Of The...

I may have underestimated Mr Desmond Kuek.

He’s the former army general who replaced lapsed blogger Saw Phaik Hwa as CEO of SMRT in 2012.

Yes, you can still rely on the train to be delayed about a couple of times a month and it still takes so long to ride the train from the Yew Tee station to the Kranji station (and vice versa) that you feel you deserve a Hello Kitty Run medal at the end of it.

But last week, the official feedback channel of SMRT did something incredible.

It posted on Facebook the IC number, birthdate, addresses, phone numbers and some seductive topless photos of Mr Jover Chew Chiew Loon, Singapore’s most hated man since Mr Anton Casey.

What kind of name is Jover anyway? Is he a joker or a lover? Judging by those photos, I guess he’s both.

Mr Chew is, of course, the boss of Sim Lim Square mobile phone shop Mobile Air who... why are you interrupting me?!

What do you mean it’s not really SMRT?

Look at the Facebook page. It says right there, “SMRT Ltd (Feedback)”.

It’s a satirical page? You mean like The Onion or New Nation?

Then why is it called SMRT Ltd (Feedback)? That’s so confusing.

Oh, it’s to trick people into complaining about SMRT on its Twitter page and troll them.

I don’t get it. Why does the real SMRT allow this to happen?

Possibly the same reason the authorities let Sim Lim Square shops like Mr Chew’s carry on despite being blacklisted by the Consumers Association of Singapore.

So I may not have underestimated the SMRT CEO after all.

But I may have underestimated how the Internet would respond to the report about the Vietnamese tourist being reduced to tears by Mobile Air.

Call it Air Wars: The Facebook Awakens.

It’s a trilogy. The saga started last month with Episode 1: The Phantom Warranty where a Malaysian diver overpaid for two iPhones in another shop in Sim Lim Square.

Then came Episode 2: Attack Of The Coins, where Mr Chew refunded $1,010 to an unhappy customer in coins.

In Episode 3: Revenge Of The SMRT Ltd (Feedback) Fans, netizens avenged the mistreatment of Mr Pham Van Thoai, the Vietnamese tourist, not with light sabres but with.... pizzas?

After SMRT Ltd (Feedback), which is confusingly not run by SMRT, posted Mr Chew’s personal information on Facebook with the instruction “Send some love to Jover Chew here”, Lianhe Wanbao reported that pizzas were delivered to his flat.

But no one opened the door to accept the food from the Pizza Hut delivery man.

I believe this was the first time in history that the outcome of a pizza delivery was front page news.

Later, Mr Chew apparently forwarded his calls to a New Paper colleague, who received 201 calls in five hours asking for Mr Chew, a number of those calls from Pizza Hut.

Which raises the question, since when did Pizza Hut become the go-to pizza delivery company for pranks?

Why not Domino’s? Or Canadian Pizza?

I used to wonder if Canadian Pizza pizzas are actually made in Canada. I also wondered whether I actually want my pizzas to be made in Canada. Is Canada famous for its pizzas?

Now I realise it could just be satirical pizza.

But netizens didn’t just stop at pizzas and pranks. More than $15,000 was raised on crowdfunding site Indiegogo for Mr Pham, but he said he would accept only the $550 he lost to Mobile Air and refused a donated iPhone.

“I don’t want to take more than what I lost. I don’t deserve it,” he said.

Indeed. Although raising money for the Sim Lim victim is a generous gesture, I think we should stop treating Mr Pham like a charity case.

Wasn’t the man humiliated enough by the video of him crying, kneeling and begging for his money back in the phone shop?

He is reportedly a factory worker making $200 a month, but he can afford to come to Singapore for a holiday. I haven’t been on a holiday for six years.

And it all started because he wanted to buy an iPhone 6 for his girlfriend. I mean, I love my wife and all that, but do you see me buying an iPhone 6 for her?

A second-hand iPhone 5C is good enough for the mother of my children.

Still, it’s refreshing to see Singaporeans uncharacteristically taking the side of a foreigner for once – against a fellow Singaporean no less.

But it’s okay because the foreigner is a tourist and not a former China tour guide, and the fellow Singaporean is an Ah Beng and not Phua Chu Kang.

So who says we’re xenophobic?

We’re more ximlimphobic.

With new complaints emerging about Sim Lim Square shops practically every day, the mall should have a disclaimer like the one on the SMRT Ltd (Feedback) Facebook page, which says, “Believing in us is like believing that Kong Hee is Jesus.”

Hey, that disclaimer could work for the real SMRT too.

What do you think, Mr Kuek?

- Published in The New Paper, 9 November 2014

Fantastic article, Mr. Ong.

Also like your statement on believing in Sim Lim Square.

However, I must point out that Kong Hee also asked God: "Abba, why did you forsake me?"

So there may be ppl who believe he is Jesus or equivalent!

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Min Fook Seow