25 August 2007

I'll Never Receive Your Wedding Invitation Then?

Something funny happened to me yesterday. First, I received an sms from my service provider informing me of a missed call:

The number was not familiar to me so I dialled it on my mobile phone to check its identity. (When you dial a number that is already saved in the address book of your phone, the person's name will be displayed.) Ah, so it was A, someone whom I've not contacted for some time. Immediately after A's identity was displayed on my phone, I aborted the call and typed the following sms:

Not long after the above sms was sent, I received the following sms reply from A:

It was then that I realised that I've earlier forgotten to lock the keypad of my phone. I must have accidentally pressed the buttons that dialled A's number. So I sent another sms to A to apologise and also to tease her:

It was obvious that A didn't have my number saved in her phone. Well, I am not the least offended by that because when people exchange phone numbers, it does not necessarily mean that they must go into each other's phone books. When I change my mobile phone, I will sometimes tidy up the phone book by deleting away contacts whom I seldom call. So I can perfectly understand if my number was not listed in A's phone book.

However, I did not hear from A after the last sms. I am beginning to wonder why A did not reply? Do you think she was embarrassed by my last sms? Was what I said "too much"? Oh no, did I offend someone again? Darn!

19 August 2007

Fireworks Festival At Marina Bay

The Singapore Fireworks Celebrations took place at the Marina Bay floating platform on the nights of 17 and 18 Aug 2007. My friend Walter saw it on 17 Aug 2007. (Read his very interesting review here. However, as I was unwilling to pay for couldn't get the $8 tickets, I did not get to see some of the sights which Walter did.) My family watched it on 18 Aug 2007. (My elder son did not join us as he was at a friend's place to do a school project.)

It started with a 10-minute queue into the Raffles City Carpark at about 8 pm.

I thought I was very smart by not parking too near to the Esplanade.

I drove straight down to Basement 3, thinking that I might be able to find a parking lot there. However, after circling the carpark for more than 20 minutes, I failed to find a place to park. Even the illegal parking lots were all taken up. In the end, I had no choice but to exit the carpark. To rub salt into the wound, $2.14 was deducted from my cashcard. Dammit.

I dropped my family off at Empress Place and drove to Bras Basah Complex where I finally found a place to park. Then, it was another 10-minute walk to the Civilian War Memorial near the display area.

Update: Mr Laokokok asked me about the location from which I took the fireworks photos (see comments to this post). As I am not very good at describing a place, I have drawn a map to show the spot (the red-paw mark). As they say, a picture paints a thousand words.

My wife and 10-year-old son were at another place. My son took this photo:

(That wasn't too bad eh, considering the fact that it was a nightshot taken without a camera stand. Like father like son, kekeke.)

When the fireworks started, some cars stopped in the rightmost (fastest) lane of Nicoll Highway to watch it. Some passengers even got out of their cars to gawk at the display! They were later waved on by a very efficient Traffic Policeman on a motorcycle.

On the way back, I saw someone carrying a camera with stand. He was Mr Kwek Leng Joo, MD of City Developments Limited, who was known to be an avid photographer. I asked if he managed to get some good shots of the fireworks and he replied, "Yes".

Below are some of the better photos that I have taken, although I am quite sure they are no where as good as those of Mr Kwek's.

Two Durians On Top Of Another Two

Two Rambutans On Top Of Two Durians

And the above pair is a hybrid of the durian and rambutan. Then come the sea urchins below.

09 August 2007

Much Ado About Something

As a sequel to my last post, I am writing about another recent mistake which I believe was not due to my fault, unlike the last one.

Do you check your credit card statements meticulously? If unlike me, you don't, then be forewarned - you might just be paying more than what you should. And I am not talking about the exorbitant interest charges imposed on rolled-over balances here.

You see, on 25 May 2007, I was at the World Book Fair at Suntec City. Our Reader's Digest subscription happened to be expiring soon. I thought it was a good opportunity to renew a 2-year subscription at the book fair since they were offering it at a special price of $180 with a free radio and some costume jewellery thrown in as free gifts. This I did.

In June 2007, I was billed for the purchase. Nothing unusual here but I noticed that the company which billed me was called "Mobile Credit Payme(nt?)". I checked the receipt (see photo above) and indeed, there was a line "Powered by WWW.MCPAYMENT.COM" printed at the bottom of the receipt.

However, when July 2007's credit card bill arrived, there was another charge of $180.00 by "READER'S DIGEST ASI(A?)". At first, I thought I have not settled that charge the previous month. But a check on the previous month's statement confirmed otherwise.

On 25 July 2007, I sent an email to Reader's Digest highlighting the double charge. I also attached a copy of the receipt issued to me which I didn't throw away (fortunately). The email reply from Reader's Digest the next day was indeed hard for this reader to digest:

"Please be informed that we have checked our records and payment history to the credit card number you provided (xxxx xxxx xxxx 5048) and can confirm that there has only been 1 charge for $180 which justifies the charge which reflects in your statement as “Reader's Digest Asi Singapore SG”.

The charge was officially made on the 19th of June 2007 and had a slight delay in being included in your statement. The receipt you sent us indicates that payment was made directly through Readers Digest and not via an agent. As mentioned earlier, we can confirm this charge was made to us and your account has been updated with the renewed subscription.

The 1st charge you mentioned was made to “Mobile Credit Payment Singapore”. We regret to inform you that we have no record of this payment nor are we familiar with the description.

You may check with your bank on that particular charge to identify the source as it was not made by Readers Digest."

Infuriated by Reader's Digest's response, I immediately sent another email to them, attaching copies of the 2 credit card statments. In it, I said inter-alia:

"I would like to reiterate that the first payment on 25 May 2007 was made by me personally at the Reader's Digest booth at the World Book Fair at Suntec City... Are you implying that this booth at the World Book Fair was not authorised to represent Reader's Digest? If so, why then did the receipt have "Reader's Digest" printed on it? In any case, a lay customer like me cannot tell whether I am dealing with an agent or directly with Reader's Digest. Neither does that trivial fact matter to me as a customer one bit. This looks to me like a foul-up happening completely within your good company. If that is the case, it is in your best interest to put the situation right soonest. I cannot be expected to chase my credit card issuer about a problem which I didn't create in the first place and which I know that the credit card issuer is not responsible for.

I would also like to know who authorised the 2nd charge on 19 Jun 2007? I did not authorise it.

Finally, I would like to state that I expect no less than a satisfactory resolution to this issue. If I was unfairly inconvenienced due to some oversight on someone's part, I think that a sincere apology should be in order. However, in the event that it is established that I am indeed a victim of fraud, I will not hesitate to seek redress by writing to the press, blogging about the bad experience, complaining to CASE or even filing a police report. This is so that other people will not become similar victims like me.

Of course, I would also stop subscribing to Reader's Digest altogether just so that I will never have such a similar bad experience again."

The reply that came back on 27 Jul 2007 was as follows:

"Please be informed that we have forwarded the attachments you sent us to the relevant department and are currently checking to see if there was any trace of the charge.

However, the charge for $180 to Readers Digest should be the correct charge made to you for the payment you made at the book fair of which you were issued the receipt. This payment has [sic] reflected in our records.

We will check and revert back to you immediately upon resolving the issue.

Thank you and we apologize for any inconvenience caused."

So far, I have not heard from Reader's Digest again. Hence, I decided to dispute the 2nd charge with my bank. Meanwhile, the bank has temporarily credited the disputed amount back into my account, pending investigation. However, the bank was quick to add (in a way I found threatening) that should the transaction be found to be indeed authorised by me, I would be charged for the amount transacted plus $15.00 retrieval fee for each disputed transaction. Phew.

So here are some pointers for my readers to digest:

1. Keep all purchase receipts for some time in a safe place for counter-checking against your credit card statements. A double charge like the one I experienced could very easily slip by unnoticed, so check your statements carefully as soon as you receive them.

2. In my case, do you think it was a mistake of the bank or the merchant? Two weeks after I raised the issue, I am still not any wiser as to whose mistake it was.

Hmm... I don't know why they picked me but somehow I am never so lucky in their "$175,000 lucky sweepstakes draw". It remains to be seen whether Reader's Digest will terminate my subscription with them. If so, it is just as well - I can always find some other magazine to read.

04 August 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

My elder son has been carrying a handphone for several years now. Initially, I subscribed a postpaid line for him. Gradually, he started to chalk up average monthly bills of $30-$40, even more than the amounts spent by both my wife and I. The reason for the high charges was that he had been using his handphone to read his emails via GPRS. (GPRS charges are based on the amount of data transferred.)

Despite having been reminded several times to cut down on his handphone bill, his behaviour persisted for several months. Finally, I decided that enough was enough. It was time to switch to a prepaid line. I would pay any monthly amount up to the minimum postpaid subscription of $21 while he would use his savings to pay whatever amount that was in excess of that. I figured that this measure could teach him a thing or two about spending money responsibly, especially since he didn't know how to earn any yet. So I subscribed a "Starhub Green Card" line for him.

It was indeed a correct decision - his monthly handphone bill amount never exceeded $10 since then. In fact, I only needed to top up his account once every few months. Just in case his account ran low, I bought a top-up card several months ago. The $18 card was bought from a shop in Marine Parade Central which sold it for only $15. Good deal, I thought.

(For those who don't know how topping-up works, the top-up card has 2 secret numbers hidden by a black coating - one is a top-up card number while the other is a PIN number. When you buy the card, make sure that 2 numbers are not visible, otherwise the card may have already been used by someone else and you won't be able use the card again. When you want to top-up your account using the card, you use a coin to scratch away the black coating to reveal the 2 secret numbers. You call 98500000 on the handphone that you want to top-up and follow the voice prompts to key in your top-up card number and PIN number.)

Two weeks ago, I tried topping-up several times but the voice prompts kept saying "Your top-up card number is invalid". My suspicion was aroused, especially since I bought the card at a $3 discount. I immediately called the Customer Care Officer (CSO) at 1633 and asked if there were fake top-up cards being sold in the market. The CSO said that no fake cards had been detected so far. He requested me to bring the card down to any Starhub outlet for further investigation.

As instructed, I went to the Starhub outlet at Tampines Mall. The CSO at the counter took a close look at the card and scratched it again to reveal the mystery of the invalid top-up card number.

Alamak! I was so embarrassed that I didn't know where to hide my face.