Gushcloud influencers influenced by Singtel

From ‘Gushcloud bloggers apologise for negative Singtel marketing campaign’, 18 March 2015, article by Lim Yi Han, ST

At least two bloggers have apologised for posting negative comments in a Singtel marketing campaign. Mr Xavier Ong, 20, and Ms Eunice Annabel Lim, 21, and others managed by social media marketing firm Gushcloud were allegedly asked to complain about telcos M1 and StarHub‘s services to promote Singtel’s mobile plan for youth.

Mr Ong was first to say sorry in a lengthy blog post on Wednesday. “I…apologise to anyone affected for posting negative comments towards M1 (while on a Singtel campaign) and not explicitly stating or revealing that I was on a campaign with Singtel,” he wrote. But he added that he had not lied, and that he had been “unhappy” with his service provider, M1.

Screen shots of Mr Ong’s posts on his Twitter account criticising M1 were put up by blogger Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, along with what she called “leaked” documents allegedly asking bloggers to complain about the services of M1 and StarHub.

Earlier this year, ST ran a feature about ‘influencers’ (Influencers hold court, but how credible are they?4 Jan 15), defined as people who have a substantial ‘reach’ and following on social media platforms, trend-setters who shape the opinions and behaviour of their fans. One of these web celebrities gave this telling soundbite: ‘With great influence comes great responsibility’. That ‘influencer’ is none other than Xavier Ong himself. Interestingly, the ST refrained from using the glamorous term in the article above, preferring to relegate Ong and his fashionable ilk to the more mundane, Roy Ngerng division of ‘bloggers’. You know, the kind that gets sued more than they’re paid.

Ong’s ‘disguised’ Singtel advertorial is still up as we speak, and it’s painfully obvious that he was in the telco’s payroll from the get-go, using old-timey marketing phrases like ‘It’s just as simple as that!’ and copy -and-pasting the charts and infographics wholesale. You’re not fooling anyone kiddo, and despite your massive ‘following’, it’s likely that people (like myself) only knew of your existence when you got yourself ‘influenced’ by $ingtel’s devious marketing strategy. Not so ‘influential’ now, eh?

You see the same ruse used in Eunice Annabel’s blog. Complain about M1’s reception, give some perky backstory about how you came across Singtel’s FANTASTIC offer, and then sell the shit out of it. Sorry I don’t buy it, but probably because I can’t make it halfway through the pretentious product placement before opening another tab in my browser to watch vastly more entertaining cat videos. Nope, not even if they do naked selfies for the sake of the goddamn Youth Plan.

Poor Starhub. Lifestyle blogger/model/actress/Starhub hater Lydia Izzati was merciless in her shaming of the rival telco, saying ‘Screw You Starhub‘, only to go on to praise the Singtel Youth Plan to the heavens. I couldn’t find the Gushcloud logo anywhere on her blog though, but any site that requires me to scroll down for eternity through the most trivial artifacts of your life story and giving me finger abrasions doesn’t warrant any form of ‘influence’ in my opinion.

As for the masterminds behind this fiasco, tapping ‘influencers’ as part of your smear campaign seems like  a desperate tactic following some abject failures previously, like the mRemit ad with painted-on throbbing man-boobs. The marketing honcho explained that this was an ‘isolated incident’ and the campaign was a ‘niche’ one, ‘targeted at a narrow customer segment’. Let’s see, two pretty faces, both early twenties, with around 10 million site hits between them, a YOUTH plan. You’re not exactly selling frozen yogurt to elderly people with dentures, Singtel.

Singtel got it sorted out eventually, with Gushcloud’s partnership and the staff in charge getting terminated on 19 March 2015 (Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong apologises to M1, Starhub, employee in Gushcloud campaign no longer with Singtel). Maybe the work of some attention-seekers wanting to earn an extra buck doing the dirty work for a telco giant has brought about the eradication of this ‘influenca’ virus once and for all. Incidentally, the telco recently unveiled a new logo and a slogan called ‘make everyday better‘. By paying clueless narcissists to bitch about your competitors I suppose.

As for Gushcloud, or should I say Blushcloud, you could still reinvent yourselves after this embarrassment, not as a ‘social media talent agency ‘ but maybe an underground fetish network for like-minded individuals to socialise via a ‘niche’ genre of ‘watersports’.

This article was not brought to you by Singtel, Starhub, M1 or MyRepublic.

Fun pack items a waste of money

From ‘Fun packs should be useful to all’, 9 March 2015, Voices, Today

(Goh Kian Huat): This year’s National Day Parade (NDP) is set to be a big affair as Singapore celebrates its golden jubilee. About 1.2 million households are set to receive a free fun pack, so they can join in the celebrations even if they are not at the event itself (“Mega-NDP across Marina Bay area to draw 150,000”; March 6)

To ensure the fun packs are useful to households, some of the items should be different from the ones given out to those attending the parade. For example, things such as face paint, handheld fans, clappers, banners and plastic raincoats are useful only to those who are at the parade. Organisers should consider substituting these items with more useful ones for households, or souvenirs for keeping.

Also, organisers should ensure fun pack items can be recycled or reused as far as possible out of consideration for the environment. For example, the bag for the fun packs can be designed in such a way that students can reuse it as a school bag.

In addition, to avoid duplication of resources, households that manage to secure tickets to attend the parade should not be given a second fun pack. Organisers should find a way of identifying them.

The total cost of the celebrations is expected to be around S$40 million, twice that of previous NDPs. Let us ensure that the resources are put to good use.

Full of fun

Full of fun

This is a nice way of saying that the fun pack and its contents are pretty useless. Even if those at the parade took these out to play, they’re mostly junked once the fireworks have fizzled. 1.2 million households, 10 million dollars. The Fun Pack Song even has the self-prophesying lyric: Attack the Fun Pack,  and the attacks have been relentless. When the government sends a bag of freebies to our doorstep, we either complain that it’s ugly or an utter waste of money, and that we’d rather receive a SG50 hongbao with $10 cold hard cash inside. Such ingrates. Such Singaporeans.

If there’s one thing the SG50 committee hasn’t learned about the Singaporean psyche, it’s that they did not make us QUEUE for the damn thing. Sending the funpack straight to our homes makes it far less desirable than when we’re putting in time and effort to join long, overnight queues to grab ‘limited edition’ goodie bags, like how we drag ourselves out of bed at 4am in the morning to camp outside McDonalds for free Egg McMuffins. Likewise, if you had pitched the funpack such that there are only ‘1 million available’ and forced Singaporeans to fight tooth and nail over it, you would have more people posting their catch on Facebook and showing them off like trophies rather than grumbling about the practicality of banners and clappers. Even if it looks so god-awful that your kid would rather wear your dusty army fullpack to school than be seen slinging a funpack over his shoulder.

But look closer at the spread above and you’ll find oodles of charm and usefulness in every item. The chapteh, for instance, can be used to spice up your bedroom tickle parties in place of a kinky peacock feather if you’re not the sporty type. Face paint can be used as zombie makeup this Halloween, or for your next cosplay event. The ‘commemorative’ publications like the jubilee book can add some zesty patriotic colour to the top of your coffee table. Singapore flag erasers come in super handy when you’re down by the lake in Chinese Garden pencil-sketching pagodas and cranes. And who doesn’t love NEWWATER? This wonderful elixir is the e-pee-tome of our self-sufficiency.

Still, the SG50 folks could have done better with the selection, and should have consulted Singaporeans like how they made us vote for the Jubilee Baby package, bearing in mind that not everyone will be up on their feet dancing on National Day. Some will be doing shift work making sure convenience stores and hospitals are still manned by humans. Others will be worrying about getting food on the table for their next meal. And there are the buggers flying off somewhere for holidays who can’t be bothered about this SG50 overkill.

Here’s my wishlist for a future DREAMpack. I just hope we don’t have to wait until SG100 for this.

1. N95 mask
2. Pre-paid Ezy-link card
3. Hello Kitty Merlion edition
4. A mini rotan
5. Special edition Chope tissue pack
6. An LKY doll with knuckledusters
7. A toy replica of the boat that they used on the set of ‘The Awakening’
8. A toy replica of an ERP gantry
9. A lego diorama of the Istana, with lego Tony Tan.
10. A map of Singapore. 100 years ago.

PAP leaning too much to the left

From ‘Budget 2015: NMP Chia Yong Yong cautions against PAP leaning too much to the left’, article by Siau Ming En, 3 March 2015, Today

While Budget 2015 has been praised be some Members of Parliament (MPs) and observers as being left-leaning, Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong today (March 3) cautioned against an expenditure that leans too heavily to the left, leading to members in the House thumping their armrests in approval.

Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the Budget Speech, Ms Chia said: “We have in conclusion, a budget that is arguably very generous, and for which I am also very thankful. We have a budget that has been praised and approved as being leaning to the left.”

“But I would also argue that if we lean too much to the left, we will not have much left,” said Ms Chia.

MP Alex Yam, a man of the times, followed up with a sassy line from Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable': ‘To the left, to the left’, while MP K Karthikeyan said ‘If we go too far to the right, it’s not right’. Someone please set things right, or we’ll be left with directional puns all day. From the way Parliament is being conducted these days with all this merciless finger pointing at opposition MPs, things seem to be moving not left nor right, up or down, but going around in circles.

Right on, girl!

Chia’s concern echoes what the Budgetmeister himself Tharman said in a 2013 interview:

If I compare our thinking in Cabinet, or the weight of thinking in Cabinet, when I first entered politics about 11 years ago, I would say the weight of thinking was centrist but there were two flanks on either side of it,” he said. “There were some who were a little right-of-centre, and there were some a little left-of-centre. “Now I would say the weight of thinking is left-of-centre. You still get diversity of views in Cabinet, but the centre of gravity is left-of-centre.”

A ‘left-leaning’ ideology generally indicates belief in ‘socialism, equality and state assistance for individuals’. Like Chia, other MPs were concerned that we were being too generous with the Budget on ‘social spending’, that we risk becoming a welfare state. Hence all the armchair thumping like they were having a fan-girl encore at a Beyonce concert. I have no idea what ‘centrist’ thinking is, though it sounds vaguely like sitting on the fence.

Curiously enough, the PAP in its not-so-humble beginnings in fact started out as a LEFT WING SOCIALIST PARTY, as admitted by LKY himself in 1959, who pushed for his own brand of ‘democratic socialism’.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 7.42.43 PM

Hence the great socialism ‘experiment’ began, and Singapore by the late sixties was proudly referred to as ‘the only democratic socialist country in Asia’. We later became an esteemed member of the Socialist International, but were forced to ‘resign’ in 1976 over ‘anti-PAP’ allegations, namely the mistreatment of political detainees.  Our socialist stance then was seen by some observers as straddling the middle ground between communism and right-wing authoritarianism. Oh look, money for all you poor, hungry people one moment, execute drug traffickers, cane vandals, regulate websites, ban movies about exiles and sue bloggers in another. Socialism, Singapore style, is the multiple personality disorder of politics.

In a 2001 interview LKY brushed aside the socialist label (‘I wouldn’t say I consider myself a socialist. I was convinced that it was a civilized system of government’), reminiscing about how the UK Health system in the 40’s introduced him to what he later refers to as a ‘malfunctioning’ system. Today, however, we continue to espouse ‘democratic socialist’ ideals, which according to our PM Lee, the ex-socialist LKY’s son, entails ‘an open and compassionate meritocracy, a fair and just society’. Having a ‘Singaporean Singapore’ was part of our unique brand of socialism as well. What we can’t decide on is how far ‘left-of-centre’ we have become, a term which suggests that we have been playing it straight down the line all along. Those who believe we’re a fascist state would beg to differ.

Considering how extreme left the PAP once was, maybe we have been steered in the ‘right’ direction all this time. Now, if only there’s a song lyric for that.

Restaurants charging up to 80 cents for tap water

From ‘More F&B outlets now charge for glasses of water’, 8 Feb 2015, article by Cheryl Faith Wee, Sunday Times

More restaurants are putting a price on tap water, to the frustration of diners. Around one in 10 dining establishments now charge for a glass of water, at least twice the number from just two years ago, said Restaurant Association of Singapore executive director Lim Rui Shan. The typical price is between 30 cents and 80 cents. And the reason is rising costs.

Industry sources say an average restaurant can end up spending from $5,000 to $10,000 every year serving free water. There is also the loss in drink sales, which can make up at least 20 per cent of a restaurant’s total earnings, and the manpower cost involved in what is already a tight labour market, as service crew have to constantly refill glasses.

…About two to three years ago, Chinese restaurant chain Crystal Jade also started charging 30 cents for boiled water and this practice is currently in place at 21 of its 25 outlets here. Another food and beverage brand, Skinny Pizza, stopped serving plain water for free in April last year.

It now charges 50 cents for a glass of water flavoured with herbs and fruits such as mint and strawberries. A spokesman for the brand said: “Unfortunately, business costs have spiralled over the years and we have to do all we can to find a balance.”

…Establishments which still offer tap water for free said that there are customers who take advantage. Some come in a group, order one dish and keep asking for water refills. Said Ms Debby Lim, 27, senior marketing executive of Peranakan Place, which runs two bars and a cafe: “What the customer sees is just a glass of water; what we see is time and effort taken to wash, pour, serve and refill.

One clue which tells you whether a restaurant serves free tap water or not, if you’re afraid to ask, is if it has more than 1 brand of bottled water on its menu. It’s not clear if these places are charging for boiled water (50 cents at Ya Kun) or water literally taken from the kitchen tap (which logically should be cheaper than boiled). The water direct from our pipes is supposedly top grade and more drinkable than some of the tonic oxygenated slush they sell these days. So drinkable in fact, that some establishments would charge you $26.40 for two pitchers of it. But that doesn’t mean customers are willing to bring an empty glass to the toilet to help themselves.

I think most people tend not to opt for the bottled alternative, but the unhealthier and cheapest drinks on the menu, usually a basic coffee (not handcrafted or artisan), or worse a can of Coke.  If you’re the sort you needs to rinse your palate after each course, you’re better off bringing your own tumbler of home-brewed H20. Now, if the restaurant not only has a no-free-water policy, but one whereby you can’t even bring water from outside, then you’re morally obligated to make a scene about it, Joanne Peh style.

Thankfully, there are still eateries that uphold the philosophy of free tap for all and we should all applaud them for making sure we don’t perish from dehydration. Some places I’ve visited provide each table with one communal flask without you having to ask for it (Swensens, for example), which means less effort on your staff to ‘wash, pour, serve and refill’. We don’t ask where the water comes from, or demand that someone puts a lemon slice in it. If you see free water (especially the ICED variety) on your table before you even flip to the drinks menu, you feel good enough about it to want to order dessert as well. Otherwise, I would rather go to the Toastbox next door for kopi after dinner rather than buy your signature tiramisu cake (which I’ll need to wash down with a $2.50 Evian).

In 2009, blogger Veron Ang put up a list of restaurants that charged for water, some of which turned out to be ‘libelous’ accusations, which shows how serious the issue of free water is. In Hungry Go Where’s updated list, True Blue Peranakan charges you A DOLLAR if you order water on its own without accompanying drinks.

Restaurant owners were quick to come up with excuses, like:

  • People who complain are not educated about business..nothing is free.
  • Our patrons are ‘serious’ diners who come to taste food, not water…nobody outside Singapore asks for free water…which turns out to be false.
  • Even the kopitiam charges 30 cents for ice water i.e Everyone else is doing it.

Well of course if I’m having a posh dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant I would think twice about asking for tap water, but here you’re talking about places (according to the Sparklette blog circa 2009) like Ajisen Ramen, Crystal Jade, Gelare and even Boon Tong Kee chicken rice. There was a time when asking for ‘tap water’ made you sound like a hobo in a soup kitchen, and we had to say stuff like ‘normal’ or ‘regular/plain’ water, especially after the server asks you the dreaded question ‘Sparkling or still’?, which is a hint that ‘No, we don’t serve tap water to cheapskates like you’. (The correct answer to the question is ‘Sorry I asked for water for drinking, not the liquid from church that you vanquish demons with’)

Personally I wouldn’t boycott a restaurant just because of a strict water policy if the food can make up for it. Others, like this parchedpatron blogger, insist on shaming the culprits. People have their own business reasons (which the lay diner can NEVER understand) for charging you for trivialities, be it water, wet towels, peanuts, an ice bucket, or non-existent service.  I’m curious though, about places that charge you almost a buck for a glass. Maybe they run their tap water through a silver nanocrystal filter, or it’s some ‘handcrafted’ elixir infused with homegrown mint, acai and Chinese wolfberries.

If you’re ever charged 80 cents for a glass, do the rest of us water fans a favour; ask that it be filled to the brim, with not a particle visible by magnifying glass floating in it, and it must be slightly tepid at a temperature of exactly 32.7 degrees Celsius. If you’re lucky they may just give you Chinese tea for free as a peace offering.

Workers’ Party’s deafening sound of silence

From ‘WP town council and the sound of silence’, 10 Dec 2014, article by Lawrence Wong, Opinion, ST

…Every year that the Workers’ Party (WP) has run AHPETC, the town council has been consistently flagged “red”, both for its service and conservancy charge (S&CC) arrears management and its corporate governance.

…MND is naturally concerned. It has queried AHPETC several times. But so far, all we have got from AHPETC are prevarications, non-answers, and sweeping assurances that things will be all right.

…There is a disturbingly familiar pattern in how the WP responds whenever questions are raised about its conduct. It has happened again and again – cleaning hawker centres, running illegal trade fairs and, now, managing S&CC arrears.

First, its leaders say it is not a big deal. Then, when they can no longer pretend it is not a big deal, they blame someone else – the National Environment Agency, the People’s Action Party, even the AGO. Then, when their excuses are exposed one by one, they say “we are looking into the matter”, or that things will be explained – in “due time”. And then, more silence.

Perhaps, the WP hopes that by lying low and keeping its head down, the matter will go away. The public may forget, or even better, not notice. But it will not, and the public will not. Instead, the WP’s credibility and integrity are slowly but surely draining away.

After my colleague Desmond Lee, as well as many residents and commentators in the media, raised questions, I was expecting the WP to issue a prompt and full reply, and end its long and damaging silence. Sadly, nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, there is silence – one that is growing more deafening by the day.

Lawrence Wong and Desmond Lee aren’t the only ones unimpressed by the WP’s ‘sounds of silence’. Hri Kumar compared the WP’s tendency to avoid ‘difficult questions’ and fence-sitting to Humpty Dumpty in a Facebook post similarly inspired by a Simon and Garfunkel classic. Ng Eng Hen had strong words for the opposition party back in 2008, that they were ‘fudging’ on national issues and were guilty of ‘cop-outs’ and ‘double-talk’. Even when one of their own, Yaw Shin Leong, was caught pants down, there was a ‘kind of hush’ within the WP camp. Ironically, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, one of the WP’s fiercest critics, was once no fan of the PAP himself, before he was successfully ‘co-opted’ into the regime.

The PAP considers such dithering an integrity breach, while some observers think this golden silence is a ‘shrewd’ tactic, designed to make their accusers look like quick-tempered, impatient bullies looking to score brownie points while offering no solution of their own, whereas the outnumbered WP are the quiet, stoic ones who don’t need to bark in Parliament all day to get the job done on the ground where it really matters, as the name of their party suggests. Low Thia Khiang once referred to himself as a ‘watchdog’ over the PAP, and later a ‘co-driver’ who would not hesitate to slap the driver if he falls asleep. But it has become obvious by now which ‘driver’ is the one being repeatedly slapped in the face.

3 years on, and the WP doesn’t look like any of these things, spending more time defending their honour against PAP MPs lining up to call their bluff, demand for useful opinions over culturally sensitive issues like hijab as part of uniformed groups, or outright calling them ‘false and untruthful’ because they know they can jolly well get away with it, in the spirit of LKY’s blasting of James Gomez as a liar. Is this our ‘watchdog’s’ idea of a ‘First World Parliament’ or ‘constructive politics’? Will we see the day when Lawrence Wong sends a handwritten Xmas card to Sylvia Lim and gang with the message ‘Keep up the good work’? Instead of collaborating, our politicians find themselves constantly embroiled in a fault-finding circus, PAP members shaking hands only during the National Day Parade in front of camera, after which they go back to the normal high-horse routine of ‘Which WP MP shall I pick on today?’

Maybe it’s time for the PAP to dig deeper rather than pick on the most convenient of targets, because what’s more worrying is the silence of their own members when it comes to their own policies. The last MP I recall providing the slightest semblance to internal feedback was Inderjit Singh’s problem with the White Paper, where he called for plans to ‘delay further population growth for now’. Yet, when it came to the crunch, he ‘was not present during the vote’. It’s not so much a quiet, minority opposition that bothers me, but a group of yes-men blindly following the party line, taking the easy way out without a fight. The silence that’s most deafening is not the disgruntled, sulky WP type, but the slavish, obedient one.

A-star scholar biting the hand that feeds her

From ‘Drop ungrateful scholarship holders’, 28 Nov 2014, ST Forum

(Estella Young): WHILE funding for the local arts scene is always welcome, it is disappointing to see Dr Eng Kai Er use her one-woman arts grant as a thinly veiled attack on her scholarship agency (“A*Star scientist starts arts grant in protest against six-year bond”; Tuesday). Depicting herself as the hapless victim of a scholarship bond and describing her scientific research as “narcissistic, masturbatory work” that she is not interested in show a shocking lack of appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on her doctoral studies, not to mention the academic and professional opportunities afforded to her.

It would have been far more honourable for Dr Eng to resign her scholarship once she had resolved not to pursue a scientific career. Remaining employed in the field while publicly sniping at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the scholarship system is simply biting the hand that fed her.

Eighteen is not too young an age to make a commitment for the next decade of one’s life. A six-year bond is hardly indentured slavery: The savvy scholarship holder who dislikes his job would use the opportunity to hone his professional skills and position himself for his post-bond career change.

Since Dr Eng is unlikely to remain in the scientific field beyond her bond, A*Star might be better off terminating her bond immediately and channelling the estimated $700,000 in liquidated damages to a more deserving party.

While Dr Eng was still studying at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, she and a fellow student paraded around Holland Village in the nude for kicks, probably at the peak of her artistic blossoming then.  A-star decided to let her off with a warning letter. Eng, other than an being an aspiring patron for the arts scene here with her ‘No Star Arts Grant‘ project, is no slouch in areas outside of the Infection expertise that she was groomed for. The Hwa Chong alumni was a national competitive ice-skater, MENSA member and more recently a dancer-director-choreographer for a play titled Fish. She also dances on the MRT in her free time. Not sure if anyone has called her side projects ‘narcissistic’ or ‘masturbatory'; her one-woman arts grant certainly RUBBED some folks the wrong way.

Are you A-star scientist, or Are you Dancer?

If Eng is ‘biting the hand’ that feeds her, then bond-buster Chen Jiahao, aka Acid Flask, must have chomped off an entire arm for accusing A-star of bribery and corruption in 2007.  A-star threatened with defamation, and Chen shut down his blog. Ironically, Eng published a paper that deals with a cellular process known as ‘autophagy’, or a ‘constitutive, dynamic, bulk degradation process’. The word in its original Greek means ‘self-eating’.

The notion that students should already know what they want in life by EIGHTEEN is subjective at best. I didn’t then, and to be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure up till now. Which is why I’m writing a blog instead of paying people to do arty-farty shit. We’re not worker bees cemented to fulfil an ordained purpose till we die, and according to Cherian George, at this age we’re not trusted to vote or watch an R21 movie, yet are supposed to be ready to enter a contract binding us till we’re 30 years old (Bond-busters:Who’s to blame?22 Aug 1997, ST). Things change, people change. You could be working Semliki Forest viruses one day and decide you want to become Natalie Portman’s Black Swan the next.

Most scholars would swallow the bond despite losing interest in their jobs, driven by emotional indebtedness and fear of stepping out of line, but a rare few will react in the most extreme way possible. SAF doctor Allan Ooi reportedly killed himself in Melbourne over his unhappiness with his bond. A scholarship also doesn’t necessarily guarantee promotion success in the real world, with some switching to private after their pride was burnt by high-achieving non-scholars. For those who refuse to soldier on or pursue their other passions whilst giving their benefactor the middle finger like Eng has, breaking the damn thing appears to be the only other option.

In fact, breaking a bond may be the best thing that ever happened for some Singaporeans, like ex PSC scholar Brandon Wade for example, now US-based and millionaire founder of a ‘sugar daddy’ dating website. Hector Yee, doomed to slog at the National Computer Board, broke free and got himself a job at Google. A-star chairman Philip Yeo called his act of defiance ‘bullshit’, this coming from a man who once said he wants ‘hungry leaders, not boring drones‘. ‘National Computer Board’, incidentally, is the kind of boring, ‘droney’ name that summons retro images of clunky, grey computer monitors and floppy disks. The only time you hear someone actually say ‘computer’ is in an 80s sci-fi movie where you’re asking some artificial intelligence behind a screen to summon data for you. Like ‘Computer, set coordinates for Lamda Galaxy’, or ‘Computer, find this rogue scholar and terminate her contract now’.

While originally intended as a mechanism to harvest talents with the ‘moral obligation’ to contribute to nation-building,  the ‘Programme’ has been deemed by some as an ‘instrument for converting free Singaporeans to indentured serfs‘. In a world where we routinely encourage our local brains to venture overseas, ‘dream big’ and hone their skills, the expectation that scholars should return home to serve the glorious motherland after their stint and contribute locally in a stifled work environment seems outdated, even naive.

A ‘bond breaker’ no longer has that stigma of ‘brash ingrate’ tied to it anymore, when ‘staying hungry’ and ‘breaking the rules’ has become the hip work ethic these days. Even if they did stay on to serve obediently as ‘promised’, there’s no guarantee that may even be model workers. Some government drones fall prey to sex corruption, others get caught for child porn and underage sex. Nobody accuses them of being ungrateful brats or depriving others of the chance to succeed, though we the taxpayers pay for their education, training AND their jailtime.

Eng has already been let off the hook once for going full frontal and the dancer-artist seems prepared to bear the consequences after some serious bitching about how her day job sucks ass. If all else fails, a rewarding career of MRT pole-dancing beckons.

Hard-selling Beijing 101 not accredited by CASE

From ’15 complaints lodged this year against Beijing 101′, 15 Nov 2014, article by Melissa Lin/Amir Hussain ST

Singapore’s consumer watchdog has received 15 complaints against Beijing 101 so far this year. This includes the one made on Monday by Madam Susan Koo Moi, 75, who said she was pressured into signing a $15,600 package with the hair-care centre last month.

Most of the complaints were about its hard-sell tactics to persuade consumers to buy more hair-related packages, said Consumers Association of Singapore’s (Case) executive director, Mr Seah Seng Choon. Beijing 101 could not be reached for comment.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that Madam Koo had gone to Beijing 101’s Funan Mall outlet last month hoping to use a $50 voucher, but ended up paying $4,000 as a deposit for a package.

…Beijing 101 is not accredited by Case, which means it does not have to offer a five-day cooling- off period during which consumers can ask for a full refund.

“Businesses should have the conscience to give their clients a reasonable timeframe to change their minds,” said Spa and Wellness Association of Singapore honorary secretary Edward Wong. He noted, however, that firms are not legally obligated to do so.

The multi-million hair care business is not an industry known for its ‘conscience’. Beijing 101 is among the first in the country to sway the gullible public with raving celebrity endorsements, even if the said celebrity’s hair loss was due to breast CANCER  chemo. In 2003, Beijing 101 got ex Mediacorp actor Xie Shaoguang to advertise as a ‘satisfied Beijing 101 client’, who thanked them profusely for his ‘thicker and healthier-looking’ crop. Today, the man is an ordained MONK in Malaysia. Other familiar faces soon followed suit, including the late Huang Wenyong, who was paid to declare that since Beijing 101 uses ‘100% natural Chinese herbs…there will be NO adverse effects’. Well I’ll fill a tub with their tonic and just submerge my bloody head in it then.

Giving freebies to snag customers is a sales tactic that has been used since the 80’s. Svenson, the hair experts whose name no 75 year old vainpot is able to pronounce, launched what was known as ‘Hair Week’ with free consultation services. Also, no before and after picture in those days was complete without a full, macho beard. Today, you just have a sad balding face (before) and a happy winner ready to take on the world (after).

Your money HAIR today, gone tomorrow

Your money HAIR today, gone tomorrow

Not much has changed since the swinging 50’s. A luscious, crowning glory has traditionally been viewed as the glorious symbol of a man’s success and attractiveness. Before hair care consultants emerged, you could harvest a head of shiny, healthy hair in the comfort of your home, using a bottle of Vaseline tonic no less, a trusted formula that keeps your hair ‘perfumed, cool and fresh’. Today’s Vaseline can also be used at the other end of your body, for callused toes.

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For an empire that has been operating for 40 years and having its fair share of complaints, largely unregulated by the authorities when it comes to product effectiveness or safety, the least I would expect as a client who also happens to be an adoring fan of Zheng Guoping or Chen Shucheng, is some form of basic consumer protection. But it’s not just unscrupulous practices that we should watch out for. In 2010, a couple of its hair growth tonics were found to contain undeclared minoxidil, a ‘Western’ drug that has been approved for use in male-pattern baldness. In other words, the ‘natural power’ of premium Chinese herbs as so claimed was horseshit. The typical Beijing 101 customer may be balding, but what our self-proclaimed consumer ‘watchdog’ is severely lacking, despite such incidents, is a set of TEETH. If not, hopelessly DEBARKED.

Hair care centres like Beijing 101 or Yunnam should be classified under the ‘Spa and Wellness’ scheme under CaseTrust, but you don’t find either listed. Instead, the level of ‘assurance’ you get as a customer of Yunnam are brand awards like ‘Trusted Brand’ or ‘Most Effective Brand’. Beijing 101 is more discreet of its accolades, with a tiny ‘Most Preferred’ logo (2012) on the top right corner of its website. How about ‘Most Pushy’ or ‘Shameless brand’ then? We force local news websites like The Independent or Online Citizen to apply for licences but give free rein to shameless ‘wellness’ centres that hawk their questionable wares using Mediacorp celebrities, putting the bank accounts of innocent people at risk. This despite us not knowing for sure if these actors/actresses even HAD a scalp problem in the first place. Maybe they noticed a few strands plugging the shower drain and then suddenly realised: ‘Oh God, I need my confidence back and the wardrobe people don’t have nice wigs to spare!’

Time to get to the root of the problem, CASE. We can’t have our Pioneer Generation getting scalped by unethical business practices anymore.

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