Hell hath no fury…

… like UptownGal misrepresented to. On 18/3/2006 (Sat), the Nokia 6280 hp was officially launched in Singapore. Having waited in anticipation for the phone, I checked the papers and realised that Singtel was selling the phone the cheapest – for $248 whereas M1 & Starhub were selling it for $448, all terms & conditions the same.

Excited, I called Singtel 1626 to check which hello!shop had stock for the silver model. I was told that all the stores only carried the black model and that the current promotion was going to end at 24/3/2006 (Fri), after which the price of the phone would revert to the original retail price. As usual, the kiasu Singaporean in me didn’t believe the guy at the 1626 helpline and i called another 2x before i was satisfied that only the black model was available.

All 3 Singtel 1626 staff i spoke to sang the same tune – this was a “limited promotion” and “only valid while stocks last”. In fact, i nearly wrote in a complimentary letter for one of the staff i spoke to ‘cos she initially told me that this offer was going to last till the end of Mar, but she called me back about 5min later to say that she made a mistake, and that the promo was ending on 24/3/2006. I thought that was very responsible of her to clarify her error! (Though she did the most damage ‘cos she was the one who kept reiterating that they had “limited stock” and i should purchase the phone asap.)

Convinced that this was an offer not to be missed, i rushed down after work on 19/3/2006 (Sun) and purchased the black 6280, as well as to sign a recontract plan with Singtel. Alas, when i saw the Straits Times 6 days later, on 25/3/2006 (Sat), there was a huge ad by Singtel stating that they were now selling the phone for $0, ceribus paribus!

Wah lau eh! Does Singtel mean to say that the “original price” of the phone was $0 and i got suckered into paying $248 for it? Or did Singtel purposely trick long-time subscribers like me into paying $248 for the phone, only to sell it for $0 one week later so as to attract new subscribers, and basically (as my friend put it) “make me subsidize someone else’s free phone?”

I called the 1626 helpline immediately and spoke to this chap called Nash Mohammad. At first the guy gave all sorts of excuses for it but after i lambasted him, he backed down and said that he would check with management on Monday and let me know what they could offer me to “justify my losses”. I also sent an email to feedback@singtel.com stating my case & how Singtel’s 3 staff’s misrepresentation led me into making this erroreous purchase (TMD, not only did the phone become free, the silver model is also available now!).

On 27/3/2006 (Mon), Nash returned my call and said that they were willing to extend to me free caller ID for 12 months “out of goodwill”. My reply was that free caller ID for 12 months only costs $60, whereas i was conned into paying $248 extra for the phone. How would that make up for my loss?

On the same day, a Halimah Bte Shaik from Singtel’s Customer Relations called to say that they were investigating the case, and she would get back to me latest Thu. Thoroughly pissed off by Singtel by now (it’s their tone of voice and their attitude that really irked me), i wrote a complaint email to Bernard Ho (Singtel’s Corp. Comm.), as well as Allen Lew (Singtel Singapore CEO). Bernard’s reply came polite and fast, though i didn’t hear from him again after that. (Talk about great tai-ji skills…)

Anyway, after many emails & my final action of taking the case up to CASE, Singtel offered me 24 months free caller ID. I asked Halimah to put it down in black & white this offer of theirs but i’ve yet to receive her email. I’m thinking now… should i accept this $120 compensation in kind (that is spread out over 2 years) for a $248 immediate cash loss i had to bear? I mean, considering the time value of money… i still don’t seem to be getting a fair deal right?

A friend of mine who’s working for Singtel said that even at $248, the phone has been heavily subsidized by Singtel and since handphone promotions are subjected to frequent changes, she doesn’t see “how Singtel has mistreated me”.

Frankly, i think i was just a victim of Singtel’s bad marketing campaign for the phone and/or bad marketing strategy to capture a greater share of the 3G market. If Singtel had reverted to the original retail price for even 3 days before launching this $0 promotion, i would have had nothing to say. And the poor bottom-of-the-foodchain 1626 staff would not have unintentionally misrepresented to me. After all, no telco has ever dropped the price of a brand new Nokia phone this way before. But since this stupid marketing strategy is already set in stone, why should i let myself be victimized by it? If i misrepresented anything about a condo i’m marketing, i think the buyer would sue me through my pants to demand for compensation. Sure, a handphone is barely a fraction of the cost of a condo, but the principle’s the same right? We all owe a duty of care to our customers and misrepresentation is a VERY serious mistake.

Here’s the whole chain of emails that flew between Singtel, CASE, and me. I’m still waiting to hear from CASE whether i should pursue the matter. Since Ms. Halimah has not given me a black & white on the final compensation in kind offered (oh btw, instead of saying i was misrepresented to, she apologized profusely just now about the information that was “miscommunicated” to me. What an easy way to sweep things under the carpet!), and i have not officially accepted it, i think i’m going to write her another email to say that i want a little more

———————
To: feedback@singtel.com
Date: Mar 25, 2006 8:23 PM
Subject: Unfair & Unacceptable Level of Service by Singtel

I purchased the latest Nokia 6280 last Sunday, 19/3/2006. Before I made the purchase, I called 1626 three times and was advised that the $248 offer (with $200 trade-in) was a promotional price, valid till 24/3/2006 and “while stocks last” only. Initially, I was hesitant to take up this offer as I wanted the silver colour for the phone, which was not available. All three staff I spoke to said that they did not know when the silver colour would be available but I should be quick in taking up the offer as once the offer ends, the price of the phone will “revert to the original retail price.”

Psyched into thinking that this was a fantastic offer by Singtel, I decided to give up waiting for the silver colour model, and rushed down after work on Sunday night to purchase the phone, as well as sign a recontract on my existing line. Although I had to pay an extra $100 for the phone as my existing contract still had 12 months to go before expiry, I willingly paid the extra $100 as I was satisfactorily convinced by your staff that this was an offer not to be missed.

Alas, when I flipped open the newspapers this morning, I saw a huge full colour advertisement in the Straits Times stating that the Nokia 6280 now cost $0 (with $200 trade-in) only! And not only was the price slashed so drastically, the silver model was also available! (As stated on the singtelshop.com website). Whatever happened to the “price will revert to original price” once the offer ends? Does Singtel mean to say that the original price of this phone is $0 and the promotional price of the phone was a scam?

Or, did Singtel intentionally price the phone at $248 to lure unsuspecting loyal subscribers like myself to recontract, only to drop the price to $0 seven days later so as to attract more new subscribers to sign up? Were loyal subscribers like me made to be sacrificial lambs, unwittingly conned into subsidizing the $0 offer for new sign-ups?

If the reason for dropping the price to $0 was the result of a badly executed marketing campaign by Singtel, then why should I be penalized for it? I bought the phone with much urgency after repeated prompting by Singtel staff and now I cannot help but feel that I have been cheated by the telco company that I have been loyally recontracting year after year with, since 1998.

This morning, I made a call to Singtel’s 1626 helpline. I first spoke to a CSO called Mike Maurice, whose tone was certainly less than friendly, before being passed on to his supervisor, Nash Mohammad. (I am not sure of the spelling of his surname.) At first, Nash said that there was nothing he could do as all the pricing for the phones were determined by Singtel’s marketing department. He also likened buying a phone to going to a supermarket. His gave the analogy of how sometimes supermarkets would slash prices on their products and if you bought the products a day before the offer, you would not entitled to the new promotion. My goodness! It is beyond my comprehension how purchasing a mobile phone can be the same as purchasing a bunch of bananas. And I certainly have not seen any supermarkets sell anything for $0.

Nash also said that all pricing for phones were determined by the marketing department of Singtel and the pricing would depend on the demand and supply of the phone. He said that “sometimes in order to clear stock, the marketing department would cut prices”. My question to Singtel now is that if this is a brand new phone launched only last week, why the urgency to clear stock now? And, if this were true, why was I told by 3 different CSOs last Sunday that there was limited stock for the phone?

Not satisfied and even more disgruntled by my experience with 1626, I took time off from work to visit the hello! shop at Parkway Parade to see if there was any recourse for this scam that I have fallen for. Unfortunately, the staff I spoke to, Sharon, said that there was nothing they could do on their end and I was given this email address to write to instead. Despite the indignation I feel, I was told that I have to give Singtel 3 days to respond. 3 days is an extremely long time in this age of Internet correspondence.

The way Singtel can change its tune to suit its own self-serving agenda is truly mind-blowing. I am appalled at the way subscribers like me have been conned into signing a recontract plan that is obviously to our great disadvantage. I am even more disgusted by how there is NO service recovery whatsoever for subscribers like myself who have been victimised by Singtel’s unfair marketing practices. I am not asking for a refund for the higher price I was tricked into buying the phone for, but I do expect some form of compensation in kind for the alarming price difference I was forced to bear for renewing my contract 5 days early.

After meeting with much resistence by Singtel at the hello!shop and over the 1626 hotline, I really do not know how effective this email to feedback@singtel is going to be. As I told Sharon, this is NOT feedback. This is a serious complaint and I expect action to be taken. If Singtel decides to treat this email as mere “feedback”, then I hope Singtel can also let me know how many channels do they expect me to take this complaint up to before serious consideration is given – do I have to make a trip down to CASE? Or write in to ST Forum, and have a hard copy of the complaint sent to Singtel’s CEO, Mr. Allen Lew, before I am given a more fair treatment?

I look forward to your reply, hopefully in less than 3 days.
Regards
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To: alew@singtel.com
Cc: stforum@sph.com.sg, bernardho@singtel.com
Date: Mar 27, 2006 4:59 PM
Subject: Misrepresentation by Singtel on Promotional Offer

Dear Mr. Allen Lew,
I purchased the latest Nokia 6280 last Sunday, 19/3/2006. Before I made the purchase, I called Singtel 1626 three times and was advised that the $248 offer (with $200 trade-in) was a promotional price, valid till 24/3/2006 and “while stocks last” only.

Initially, I was hesitant to take up this offer as I wanted the silver colour for the phone, which was not available. I called Singtel 1626 three times and all three Customer Service Officers (CSO) I spoke to said that they did not know when the silver colour would be available but I should be quick in taking up the offer as once the offer ends, the price of the phone will “revert to the original retail price.”

Psyched into thinking that this was a fantastic offer by Singtel, I decided to give up waiting for the silver model, and rushed down after work on Sunday night to purchase the phone, as well as sign a recontract on my existing line. Although I had to pay an extra $100 for the phone as my existing contract still had 12 months to go before expiry, I willingly paid the extra $100 as I was satisfactorily convinced by the three CSOs that speedy action was needed on my part before this special $248 offer runs out and the phone price goes back to its original retail price.

Alas, when I flipped open the newspapers on Saturday morning 25/3/2006, I saw a huge full colour advertisement in the Straits Times stating that the Nokia 6280 now cost $0 (with $200 trade-in) only! Whatever happened to the “price will revert to original price” once the offer ends? Does Singtel mean to say that the original price of this phone is $0 and the promotional price of the phone was a marked-up price?
Or, did Singtel intentionally price the phone at $248 to lure unsuspecting loyal subscribers like myself to recontract, only to drop the price to $0 seven days later so as to attract more new subscribers to sign up? Were loyal subscribers like me made to be sacrificial lambs, unwittingly lured into subsidizing the $0 offer for new sign-ups?

If the reason for dropping the price to $0 was the result of a badly executed marketing campaign by Singtel, then why should I be penalized for it? I bought the phone with much urgency after repeated prompting by Singtel staff and now I cannot help but feel that I have been cheated by the telco company that I have been loyally recontracting year after year with, since 1998.

I have written in to feedback@singtel.com, as well as called the Singtel 1626 hotline again regarding this issue. However, the only recourse I have been offered from Singtel 1626’s CSO, Mr. Nash Mohammad, is that Singtel is willing to offer me the caller-id service (which costs $5 per month) free for 12 months “out of goodwill”.

A compensation in kind of $60 for a price difference of $248 is simply incomprehensible to me. I would never have bought the phone in such a hurry, if not for the misrepresentation by Singtel’s three CSOs. I am hereby writing this to you in hope that a fairer recourse can be given.
Thank you.
Regards
———————————————-
From: Bernard Ho Tjin Charn
Date: Mar 27, 2006 6:56 PM
Subject: RE: Misrepresentation by Singtel on Promotional Offer

I read with concern your unhappiness over the experience of purchasing a new Nokia handset and re-contracting with us. I’ve shared with the Product Marketing Director for the service and our Customer Service should be calling you shortly to resolve your issue.

I will call you personally by Wednesday, 29 March to see if your problem has been resolved. Please call me on my mobile, if you need urgent follow up.

Thank you and best regards,

Bernard Ho
Snr Corporate Communications Mgr
Singapore Telecommunications Limited
DID: +65 6838 3065
Mobile: +65 9782 3393
———————————————-
From: Halimah bte Shaik Z A
Date: Mar 29, 2006 3:27 PM
Subject: Greetings from SingTel
O/Ref : STM/06/03/CRD78195

Thank you for sharing with us your concerns via our website feedback form. It was nice talking to you yesterday.

We regret for your discontentment as we place great emphasis on customer satisfaction. Please allow us to clarify that we may carry different promotions and offers at different times to match the competitive mobile market. We seek your understanding on this matter.

Notwithstanding the above, it is noted that Nash has offered to extend you with free 12 months of Caller ID service for your mobile number, as a gesture of goodwill. The necessary adjustment will be reflected in your next or subsequent bill.

We appreciate it that you have taken the time to share with us your concerns, as it helps us to keep abreast of customers’ views and expectations. Your feedback has been noted for our reviews.

Yours sincerely
Halimah Z A (Ms)
Executive
Customer Relations
For and on behalf of
Singapore Telecom Mobile Pte Ltd
Company registration number: 199406031E
———————————————-
To: Halimah bte Shaik Z A
Cc: bernardho@singtel.com, alew@singtel.com
Date: Mar 29, 2006 11:37 PM
Subject: Back to Square One

Dear Halimah,
I spoke to Nash on 24/3/2006 (Sat) regarding my unhappiness over the way I was pressured into purchasing the Nokia 6280 set, only to realise later that your staff at the 1626 helpdesk had misrepresented certain facts to me.

On 27/2/2006 (Mon), Nash called me to say that after checking with management, Singtel was willing to extend the caller ID free for 12 months “out of goodwill”, of which I already told Nash that this is not acceptable to me.

I reiterated the points above in my email to Mr. Bernard Ho on 27/3/2006 (Mon), as well as to your goodself when you phoned me on Mon. Your reply was that you were “investigating the matter” and would get back to me latest Thursday.

I am thus appalled that it appears that you have done NOTHING other than to repeat what Nash has already told me, and what I had already rejected on Monday. What were you investigating then? If you intended to sit on the matter on the pretext of “investigating”, and then repeat something that I have already rejected thinking that I would accept it 1 day later, I think you are greatly mistakened.

Now I am thoroughly fuming at the lack of action, initiative, and obvious complacency on your part. Just because I have stupidly recontracted with Singtel does not mean that Singtel can force what it deems as “a gesture of goodwill” down my throat.

Has Singtel taken its status as the leading mobile service provider for granted? Is this how Singtel managed to be the market leader? By getting its CSOs to trick subscribers into recontracting and then offer some dastardly VAS free “out of goodwill”? I am not even asking Singtel to refund me anything in cash. Surely Singtel can offer me compensation in kind of similar value to the $248 loss I was conned into paying.

I am sure all the calls made to 1626 are logged and if Singtel dares to pretend that the misrepresentation did not happen, I reckon that Singtel better start retrieving the logs of the 3 calls I made on 19/3/2006 (Sun) and have them ready because I will definitely bring this matter up to CASE, the newspapers, and all the online technical forums there are.
Regards
———————————————-
To: complaints@case.org.sg
Cc: bernardho@singtel.com, alew@singtel.com, halimahsz@singtel.com
Date: Mar 30, 2006 1:12 PM
Subject: Advice Needed on Misrepresentation by Singtel Staff
Dear Sirs,
I am writing to seek your advice on whether there is any recourse for me on the purchase of my mobile phone.
On 19/3/2006 (Sun), I called Singtel’s 1626 helpline three times to enquire whether Singtel had the silver model of the latest Nokia 6280 handphone that was launched that weekend. I was told by 3 different staff that all the Singtel shops only carried the black model. I was also advised that I should be quick in making my purchase because their promotion of $248 for the phone lasted only till 24/3/2006 (Fri) and was on a “while stocks last” basis, after which the price was going to revert to the original retail price. Convinced that this was a great offer not to be missed, I rushed down after work on Sunday night to purchase the phone, as well as to sign a recontract with Singtel.

6 days later, on 25/3/2006 (Sat), I was reading the Straits Times when I saw that Singtel had suddenly dropped the price of the Nokia 6280 from $248 to $0! I felt so cheated! The promotion I supposedly was enjoying was to have ended on 24/3/2006 and instead of reverting to the original price, the phone dropped to $0?

I wrote in to Singtel, as well as called the 1626 helpline to make known my unhappiness over how I was misled into recontracting at a higher price than what I would have enjoyed, had I waited for the silver model that I originally wanted. Singtel said that they acknowledged my complaint and “out of goodwill”, they were willing to offer me 12 months caller ID (worth a mere $5/month) free.

In my subsequent calls & emails to Singtel, I made it very clear that this was not a fair deal to me because I had acted solely based on the advice by Singtel’s 1626 staff. I am in the property business and if I had misrepresented a fact as pertinent as the price of a product, my clients would have had me up in court rightaway.

Sadly, the final email I received from Singtel stated that they were going ahead to effect the 12 months free caller ID offered to me in my next bill. I am disappointed and I feel thoroughly helpless that a big organization like Singtel can bulldoze its “goodwill” over my protests.

Although $248 is not a big sum of money, it is a matter of principle that I am not conned of the amount because of a misrepresentation made by Singtel. Is there any way that CASE could help me obtain a fairer compensation regarding this issue? I have asked Singtel to retrieve the call logs of the conversation I had with their 1626 helpline staff on 19/3/2006 to verify that I was indeed misled by them but I have not heard anything from them on this issue yet. If CASE is able to help me, I would be more than happy to join as a member so that we can proceed from here.

Looking forward to your reply. Thank you.

Best regards

cc. Ms. Halimah (Singtel Customer Relations)
cc. Mr. Bernard Ho (Singtel Corp Comms.)
cc. Mr. Allen Lew (Singtel Singapore CEO)
———————————————-
To: Halimah bte Shaik Z A
Date: Mar 31, 2006 2:31 AM
Subject: Re: Back to Square One
Dear Halimah,

Thank you for your call earlier tonight, and for the suggestion that I take up Singtel’s offer of 24 months caller ID free. Indeed, this is an improvement over the 12 months caller ID free that was offered initially. However, after serious consideration, it occurred to me that the value of the 24 months free caller ID offered is only $120, of which the enjoyment of this is spread over a period of 2 years. Comparing the time value of money at stake, this does not commensurate with the $248 immediate cash loss I was misrepresented into paying. (I must admit that the way you put it – information was “miscommunicated” to me was a good way of deflecting any blame from Singtelt. Your employer should reward you for that!)

Notwithstanding all that has transpired, I hope Singtel can extend its “goodwill” to not only cover caller ID free for 24 months, but to also waive the monthly subscription fee for the Data3 Lite VAS for 12 months.
Please put forth my request to your management for consideration. I will not be able to give a definite answer on whether I should accept the goodwill extended thus far till I speak to the representative from CASE for further advice.

I appreciate your assistance on the matter. Thank you.

Regards,
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Stay tuned for the next episode of… Days of UptownGal’s Life where Hell hath no fury like in Orange County…