Saturday 28 December 2019

Not a fan: Elmark screws up its recall and I went all the way to Ubi for nothing

So Elmark is recalling a number of its fan models.

Since I have seven ceiling fans in my flat (because Singapore), odds are that I would be affected. True enough, two of my fans have the Elmark brand.

To find out if my Elmark fans are among those being recalled, I took a picture of the fan and WhatApped it to Elmark as instructed by the company website.

I received this reply:
Hi, the fan is in the recall list, u are entitled to the Elmark $150 vouchers, please head down to our showroom (55 Ubi Ave 1, #02-04), with the picture, warranty card and purchase receipt to facilitate our staff.

Warranty card? Receipt? The fans were bought I don't know how many years ago. Who would still have the warranty card and receipt?

Miraculously, my wife did find the receipt. It was dated 2013.

Yesterday, it took me over an hour to get to 55 Ubi Avenue 1 and find the Elmark "showroom".

A sign at the entrance said we had to remove our shoes. What kind of showroom is this?

The showroom was actually part of an office.

There was no receptionist. People were busy on the phone in their cubicles and not paying any attention to my wife and me. We just stood there like idiots for a while, not knowing what we were supposed to do.

Eventually, a woman approached us and we told her we were there for the recall and showed her our receipt.

She asked us whether we want to have our fans removed or replaced. Removal is free. For a replacement, we would get a $150 voucher for the purchase of a new Elmark fan.

She showed us a new ceiling fan on display with the price tag of $488. My wife asked if there were cheaper fans.

While my wife and I discussed what to do, the woman left us and showed our receipt to another woman in the office who was older.

The older woman came to us and dropped the bombshell: Our fan wasn't on the recall list.


She explained that because of the recall, the staff were overwhelmed by messages and so the company hired someone to handle them.

That someone, being new and presumably not properly trained, misidentified our fan as being on the recall list when it wasn't.

The bottom line was we went all the way to Ubi for nothing.

Even though our Elmark fan wasn't recalled, we were being punished for owning an Elmark fan.

The older woman was very apologetic and said since we went all the way there, we could still have the $150 voucher, which could only be used to buy an Elmark fan.

After all that?

The recall was starting to feel like a ruse to get us to buy a new Elmark fan.

We declined.

While my wife was relieved we didn't have to spend money on a new fan, I was pissed about the screw-up.

So pissed that as I was putting my shoes back on, I thought about writing to Enterprise Singapore to complain about Elmark.

I'm definitely not a fan.

Monday 23 December 2019

Why I wasn't among first five guys in line for opening of Five Guys: I blame Khaw Boon Wan

Dear Mr Khaw Boon Wan,

You like burgers?

Five Guys opened its first Singapore outlet in Plaza Singapura last Monday at 11am.

I wanted to be there. No, I had to be there.

I had missed the opening of Shake Shack at Jewel in April, and the queues were still too long even weeks later when I finally made my way there. So I have yet to try the burger at Shake Shack.

Five Guys was supposed to be the next Shake Shack. This time I would not be left out.

Expecting a long queue for the Five Guys opening, I set out from my Yew Tee home at 8.30am.

I might not be the first in line because I wasn’t going to start queueing at 4am, but my hope was that I could be at least among the first five guys. Get it?

Unfortunately, at that exact moment, there was no train service between Kranji and Bukit Gombak “due to a signalling fault”.

After so many months with no major delays, why did SMRT have to break its streak on the most important day of my burger-eating life?

Most other commuters were just going to work. But I was on a once-in-an-eternity mission.

At first, I thought I must be the unluckiest man in the world.

I mean, the disruption could have been on the East-West Line. It could have been on the North-East Line. It could have been on the Circle Line. It could have been on the Downtown Line.

If the Thomson-East Coast Line were operating, it could have been on the Thomson-East Coast Line.

But no, it had to be on the North-South Line. Why? Because Yew Tee is on the North-South Line, and that is where I live.

It had to be more than just bad luck. It seemed like someone had it out for me. Who could it be?

But I persevered. I will not be foiled by our world-class transport system.

I decided to take a bus to Bukit Panjang, where I could take the Downtown Line to Little India and then take the North-East Line to Dhoby Ghaut.

But when I reached the bus stop, it was overcrowded because of the train breakdown.

Two buses went by without stopping. It was as if all of us waiting at the bus stop were invisible.

So I walked to another bus stop farther away that was less crowded to become visible again.

After I finally managed to get on a bus, I read on Twitter that SMRT had announced that the signalling fault had been rectified and train service was “progressively returning to normal”.

No wonder the bus was emptier than I had expected.

Now I really felt like someone was toying with me.

Was this payback for all my past columns making fun of previous MRT disruptions?

Was it karma?

By the time I reached Plaza Singapura around 10am, a queue had formed outside Five Guys. About 20 people were ahead of me.

If not for the signalling fault and the two buses that wouldn’t stop, I could have been among the first five guys.

I blame you, Transport Minister.

You recently said our MRT is more reliable now, even comparing it with the Hong Kong MTR and Taiwan Metro. And that to maintain that reliability, we should expect to pay higher fares.

Where was that reliability when I needed it most?

Will there be a train delay on the day I want to queue for the opening of In-N-Out Burger if it comes to Singapore?

There better not be.

By the way, I took a selfie with the guy who was first in line at Five Guys.

His name is Ryan and he is a 14-year-old American student from United World College.

He started queueing at 4am. So it was too early for him take the train there. Lucky him.

I asked Ryan when the second person in the line showed up. He said 7am. We both laughed.

The kid queued for seven hours when it could have been just four. That made me feel less sorry for myself.

Was the food worth it? Ryan said yes.

I thought the burger was okay, but I really enjoyed the milkshake with bacon.

Hey, Transport Minister, if you make sure the MRT doesn’t break down again, I’ll even buy you one.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 December 2019

EARLIER: I queued up for opening of Five Guys and got the milkshake with bacon (and a free T-shirt!)

Monday 16 December 2019

I queued up for opening of Five Guys and got the milkshake with bacon (and a free T-shirt!)

So Five Guys opened its first outlet in Singapore this morning. I was there.

I reached Plaza Singapura at 9.55am. A short queue had already formed.

Although it was a cool day, people in the queue were given bottled water by restaurant staff.

And not just any bottle water, but chilled Evian bottled water. Wah, so high class.

And then someone else came out to give us the menus.

The restaurant opened one or two minutes before 11am and I got a picture of the first guy in the queue making his order at the cashier.

People in the queue were also given goodie bags.

In the bag were a T-shirt, sunglasses and other Five Guys swag.

When it was our turn at 11.15am, my daughter and I ordered two burgers, two milkshakes and a large Cajun fries. We both opted to add bacon to our milkshakes.

Ours was order #15.

There was a rather random giant box of peanuts in the restaurant. Because the peanuts seemed to be free, I took some.

While waiting for our food, I took a selfie with the guy who was a first in line. He's a 14-year-old American student from the United World College named Ryan.

He said he started queueing at 4am. I asked him when the second person in the queue showed up. He said 7am. Both he and I laughed.

I asked whether his parents knew what he was doing. He said yes.

Any regrets, I asked. He said no. Ha!

It was almost 11.30am by the time we got our food. The milkshakes came earlier. The burgers and fries took a while longer.

The burger came a little wet and crumbly. It was messy to eat but tasted okay. My daughter said Shake Shack is better.

I enjoyed the milkshake because of the bacon bits in it.

It was the first time I ever queued for the opening of a restaurant and Five Guys made it fun with its friendly staff and unexpected free stuff.

I went back to have a look at the place at 4pm after a movie and was surprised to see no queue outside the restaurant.

So it seems Five Guys may not be as popular as Shake Shack.

Now we just have to wait for In-N-Out to come to Singapore.

Monday 9 December 2019

StanChart marathon organisers should apologise to us runners too

Dear everyone inconvenienced and angered by the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM),

It probably doesn’t mean very much coming from me, but I’m sorry.

It was partly my fault.

Well, mine and the more than 51,000 runners who took part in the marathon, half marathon, ekiden, 10km race, 5km race, and 600m kids dash. (“Ekiden” is just the fancy Japanese way of saying “relay race”.)

So actually, it was less than one-51,000th my fault, but I still feel responsible.

I was in the half marathon, held for the first time at night on Nov 30, along with the full marathon and ekiden. (The kids dash was the day before. The 10km and 5km races were on the morning after.)

It was for me – and a few thousand others – that major roads were closed two Saturdays ago, resulting in apocalyptic traffic jams and more than a few unhappy people like you.

And especially Mr Selwyn Koh, who ranted in a viral Facebook post that the SCSM organisers’ decision “reeks of nothing but stupidity and selfishness”.

He wrote: “One look at the full listing of roads that are scheduled to be closed and anyone with a brain will know that it’s going to be a disaster.”

He pleaded to the organisers not to do it on a Saturday evening again, urging: “Have some compassion, even if you don’t have a brain.”

But brainless or not, Mr Geoff Meyer, managing director of Ironman Asia, which organised the marathon, told The Straits Times that moving the race back to the morning “would be the last thing we want to do”.

However, he also apologised and said that Ironman Asia (not a member of the Avengers) could have done better.

But his response was criticised for being self-righteous and “a sorry-not-sorry attempt at papering over the flaws”.

There was also an apology from Mr Lim Teck Yin, chief executive of national sports agency Sport Singapore, a co-organiser of the SCSM, who wrote to ST: “We apologise to those caught off guard and inconvenienced by the traffic impasse.”

That makes it sound like it is your fault for not heeding the extensive road advisories issued way in advance and being “caught off guard”.

So now it’s my turn to apologise, even though I didn’t organise anything.

During the race, I felt guilty that despite being a glacially slow runner (I was overtaken by a guy in a tyrannosaurus costume), I was moving much faster than the vehicles I saw on the road that night.

I would understand if some of you frustrated drivers fantasised about stepping on the accelerator and running us over, but I’m appreciative that you didn’t.

Who knew that people would be more outraged by the road closures than by a new version of the national anthem?

Because of all the negative publicity, I’m now too embarrassed to don the SCSM 2019 race singlet I got as part of my runner’s entitlements.

Or casually wear my finisher’s medal to work to impress my colleagues like I used to in previous years.

Instead of a badge of honour, the medal has become a reminder of my culpability and shame. My 21.1km achievement is tainted because of the backlash.

As such, I feel the SCSM organisers should also apologise to the runners for making us accessories to a sporting event that caused weddings to be ruined.

And that complicity is what I hope to atone for with my apology to all of you.

I am sorry that you were stuck in traffic for hours with nowhere to pee just so I could get a dumb medal that I would never wear out.

If it is any consolation, my legs hurt so much after the race that I couldn’t walk properly for two days.

My guess is that it’s probably no consolation at all.

- Published in The New Paper, 9 December 2019

EARLIER: Standard Chartered half marathon: My last race? (Yes, I've said that before)

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Sorry for the inconvenience: I apologise for enabling the Standard Chartered Singapore (half) Marathon by joining it

I know people are angry about the road closures and traffic jam caused by the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon on Saturday night.

Especially this guy named Selwyn Koh:

Even though I'm not the organiser, I apologise for all the inconvenience caused as I was one of the runners who took part in the race.

If it weren't for thousands like me, there wouldn't be a Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon and so many people wouldn't have to suffer.

Even during the race, I felt guilty that despite being an extremely slow runner, I was still moving much faster than the vehicles I saw on the road that night.

Because of my inconsiderate behaviour, many were stuck in traffic for hours and late for appointments, even weddings.

Other people shouldn't have to be punished just because I want to punish myself by completing 21km just to get some stupid finisher medal. (Since I joined the half marathon, I didn't even get a finisher T-shirt. Only those who finished the full marathon got a T-shirt.)

Was the medal worth it? Not if I caused my fellow human beings so much pain.

In the future, I promise never to join any organised mass run that require any major road to be closed on a Saturday night so close to Christmas.

If it's any consolation to Selwyn Koh, my quads still ache from the 21km.

UPDATE: The organiser has apologised.

EARLIER: Standard Chartered half marathon: My last race? (Yes, I've said that before)

Sunday 1 December 2019

Standard Chartered half marathon: My last race? (Yes, I've said that before)

I had decided not to join the Standard Chartered half marathon again after the last one.

But this year, it would be held at night for the first time. That got me interested even though I hadn't enjoyed night races in the past like the Marina Run and Sundown Marathon. I wanted to see how Standard Chartered would do it differently.

The weather yesterday evening was cloudy and cool, which was great for running. Some complained about the humidity, but I was used to it.

The turnout was huge.

Flag-off was 6pm, but I didn't cross the starting line until 6.20pm.


I bumped into someone I know from my navy in-camp training back in the day. I don't remember his name. I was impressed he was doing the full marathon.




On Cecil Street.



I managed to get a blurry picture of Soh Rui Yong, who was the first Singaporean to finish the full marathon. Quite a number of runners were ahead of him, presumably non-Singaporeans.



This year's half marathon route was similar to last year's, going from the F1 Pit Building to West Coast Highway and back.

A random Elvis impersonator near Vivocity.




13km, just before the U-turn.

14km, heading back.





This was where I was very glad I didn't join the full marathon. I couldn't imagine going another 21km.


Her shirt says: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong". Does this count as a demonstration? Call the police!



Finish line in sight.

My last medal?

Not my best half marathon time, but 10 minutes faster than last year. So I guess I can retire from racing on a positive note.

So long.