Take cheap things with a grain of salt. It might not taste good, but at the very least it won’t get you killed. Or worse, scammed. – Mother Patricia
Indeed, the notion is so true, considering the recent spate of scams going around in Singapore.
In fact, just recently on 2 June, Novel Communication Pte Ltd, an exclusive retailer for Singtel that’s located at Northpoint City in Yishun, actually got called out for purportedly switching phones without the expressed knowledge and permission of the customer.
And what do you know; Singtel actually replied! But is the situation entirely as it seems? Or is there, for lack of a cooler phrase, more than meets the eye?
Let’s find out.
On 2 June, Facebook user Yeo Hui Ting took to the social media site when she discovered first-hand how her mum might have been “scammed”.
For the sake of readers, here’s the full transcript. All credits to the original Facebook user.
DON’T LET YOUR PARENTS BE FOOLED BY Singtel DEALER – NOVEL COMMUNICATION‼ (NORTHPOINT CITY OUTLET EXPERIENCE)
My mum came back with a Samsung J3 Pro the other day and got me to help her with the set up. She was obviously happy with getting a new phone paying just $48 upon recontract.
I downloaded some apps to get started and realized the phone response is slow and sometimes lag. For my mum who has been using a Samsung Note 4 previously, this phone respond much slower and the screen is also obviously smaller. Why would mum buy a phone with a smaller screen when she has presbyopia?
Out of curiosity, I took out the contract.
1️⃣ The first page shows the Invoice by Novel Communication for the sale of the Samsung J3 Pro. Unit Price $198, Amount $48, Subtotal $1,346. How come the amount doesn’t tally?
2️⃣ I flipped over and saw the Trade-in Form with a cashback amount of $198. I asked mum if she traded in any phone, she said no. Then how come there’s a cashback? Mum said she didn’t receive any cashback from them too! What is happening?
3️⃣ The next page shows the Singtel recontract details… with a written note on the side saying “Customer agree to trade back Apple iPhone X 64GB”. AM I SEEING THINGS? APPLE IPHONE X 64GB? WHY IS A SAUMSUNG J3 PRO ON MY HAND AND NOT THE IPHONE X?
Checked with Mum and she does not know the existence of the iPhone X!
We went back to the outlet and asked to speak to the manager. Wai Keong attended to us and explained the reason why it’s iPhone X in the contract because J3 Pro is no a phone under Singtel plan but they can offer it to us since my mum wants a free/cheap phone that comes with a recontract. (If you can put any phone just for paperwork purpose then why not put a Samsung J2 Pro that’s $0 for recontract? Speaking of which, why didn’t you offer Mum the J2 Pro??)
During our stay at the shop, I overheard another staff using the same selling tactic to the macik opposite, saying I will give you this phone but in your contract I will put xxx… 😠
Given the above scenario, Novel Communication took the opportunity to use my mum’s recontract plan to get an iPhone X 64GB (highest value phone in the market) from Singtel and pushed a kuching kurak phone to my mum!
Using her plan, top up is at $1,100 for iPhone X 64GB. After deducting the $150 recontract voucher, nett top up at $950. Sell the iPhone X 64GB at market value of $1,598. WOAH! $648 PROFIT FROM ANOTHER CLUELESS AUNTIE!
During our conversation, Wai Keong even exclaimed Singtel knows this is how they work and all documentation prove is given to Singtel.
SINGTEL, DO YOU KNOW YOUR DEALER IS MISREPRESENTING YOU❓
Concluded the episode asking for a void in the recontract, returned the phone, got back the $48. Was charged for new sim card and service fee which cannot be voided. 🙄
1. ALWAYS check and understand what you are signing for to avoid being “used”.
2. When it’s cheap/free, always have second doubts.
3. To avoid such from happening, always go to the official (not dealer) Singtel/M1/Starhub retail stores.
⚠ Please check your parent’s contract and see if they are also an unknowing victim.
⚠ Please share with your circle especially people in Yishun!
The post was accompanied by numerous invoices that seemed to support her claims.
Twist to the tale
In the post, Hui Ting mentioned this:
“During our conversation, Wai Keong even exclaimed Singtel knows this is how they work and all documentation prove is given to Singtel.
SINGTEL, DO YOU KNOW YOUR DEALER IS MISREPRESENTING YOU?”
And indeed, at first glance one would naturally assume Wai Keong to have been farting rainbows out of his mouth. But it seems that as far as reality is concerned, Wai Keong was farting rainbows, but true rainbows.
But even so, there’s one minor complication that still can’t be absolved.
“2️⃣ I flipped over and saw the Trade-in Form with a cashback amount of $198. I asked mum if she traded in any phone, she said no. Then how come there’s a cashback? Mum said she didn’t receive any cashback from them too! What is happening?”
And Singtel lays down the judgement
In response to Mothership queries, a Singtel spokesman acknowledged “lapses” in the way the transaction was dealt with.
“Protecting our customers’ best interests is our top priority. To safeguard the sales process, customers at any of our shops are required to sign an agreement that clearly states all the transaction details. They will also receive an SMS alert that provides details of the handset model, price plan and date.
“We have investigated the issue raised by Ms Yeo Hui Ting and found lapses in the way our appointed retailer, Novel Communications, handled her mother’s transaction. We will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the retailer.
We regret the inconvenience caused and have since been in touch with Ms Yeo to redress the matter.”
Novel Communication has also made a separate apology to the customer.
“We apologise to Ms Yeo for the confusion and inconvenience caused by our inexperienced salesperson who attended to her mother, Mdm Lim, when she recently visited our shop to re-contract her mobile plan. During the transaction, our salesperson did not provide clear explanation to Mdm Lim and made mistakes on the invoice. We are sorry that our staff did not follow our standard operating procedures to help the customer and have taken corrective action.”
In the end
It doesn’t even matter – oh wait wrong platform.
Nevertheless, this whole saga boils down to three things:
- Don’t be tempted to neglect someone’s cash refund, be it because of malice or inexperience
- Don’t be tempted to cheat someone’s cash refund, especially if that someone has a daughter called Hui Ting
- Don’t be malicious or inexperienced, and just follow the rules. Like what your enick has said before, Don’t test the system.
It does get you wondering though; why would someone even go through such a process when it sounds like the very pinnacle of a drug deal?
It could actually be explained via three short concise steps:
- Some customers, usually old folks or those who can’t afford expensive phones, don’t utilise their right to buy higher-end phones, even though they are eligible to do so when re-contracting a plan with a telco
- Mobile phones that are packaged with a contract normally come cheaper, courtesy of discounts attached like subsidies or cost absorption. Ala carte phones (ones sold without any plans or contract), on the other hand, tend to take a bigger chunk out of your wallet.
- As such retailers and consumers can work together to ensure the best of both worlds. Retailers, in particular, can choose to purchase the iPhone X and resell it, therein earning a form of arbitrage. Consumers, on the other side of the equation, will get a cash refund.
So as you can see, its really not as shady as it would seem at first glance. It’s just this particular case (that sports no apparent cashback) that really muddles the whole perception of trade back business up.
Our advice? Approach a legitimate, trustable retailer for potential tradeback services, or just head to a proper telco. After all…
You can’t be scammed if you don’t allow yourself to in the first place.
Now you know what Singaporeans are talking about today; do check back tomorrow for another piece of news of the day!
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