I’ve stopped trusting strangers who ask for money ever since I was a teen. I had given $5 to a monk asking for donations and instead he asked me for $10. I should’ve suspected something then, but I gave him the extra money anyway.
Turned out the “monk” made a monkey out of me. I lost $10 that day, but gained a valuable lesson – never give anyone money for nothing. So you can imagine how much trust it took to fork over almost $2,000 for my first gym membership earlier this year. After all, if the gym closed down before I could use up all my sessions, I’d be a poor monkey again. And a pretty unfit one too.
Singaporeans are no strangers to the hassle of trying to get a refund on their unused portions of spa and gym packages when these establishments close suddenly. Each year, there’s bound to be reports of spas closing down. Yet, we are still willing to keep on taking that risk with our hard-earned money, and we still continue to sign up with gyms and spas. It says a lot about our level of trust.
The times, they are a-changing
Well, our trust is now getting some protection. Earlier this May, the TRUST Programme was set up. It’s a joint project by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), its accreditation arm CaseTrust, the Spa and Wellness Association of Singapore (SWAS) and EZ-Link. Basically, what this TRUST Programme does is that it allows consumers to purchase spa and wellness packages with peace of mind.
Why? Because the money you pay will not go directly to the spa. Instead, it will go to EZ-Link, who will pay the spa only when you go for your session. In other words, if the spa closes down unexpectedly, EZ-Link will be able to refund all your money back easily. Think of it as shopping insurance.
Exactly how does the TRUST Programme work?
Pretty much the same way your EZ-Link card works right now. Sign up for a spa package and you’re given a TRUST Card. The TRUST Card contains information about your prepaid spa package. Every time you go for a session, it is recorded via the TRUST Card, and EZ-Link pays the spa on your behalf. Just like our EZ-Link cards, you will be able to keep track of your transaction history by logging into the TRUST Card website.
What’s more, if you have a UOB credit card you can even choose to convert the prepaid package into a 0% instalment payment plan, making it easier to avoid huge bills due to rising credit card interest rates.
Why is the TRUST Programme a good thing?
Because this removes any chance that the consumer might be at a disadvantage should a business close down. With the TRUST Programme, consumers can purchase pre-paid packages without fear that they might not get a refund. Furthermore, having an online recorded transaction history means you won’t need to worry about poor record-keeping on either your part or the spa’s.
But the benefits aren’t only for the consumers. By signing up with the TRUST Programme, spas are able to immediately assure potential customers that they’re not going to lose out. They will be able to attract more people to sign up for long-term prepaid packages. Not only that, but compared to the existing and rather expensive CaseTrust insurance for spa operators, the TRUST Programme claims to be cheaper and requires less paperwork. This means that spas will not need to pass on these extra costs to customers.
Is the TRUST Programme only for spas?
Right now, only 6 spas have signed up for the TRUST Programme. But when you think about it, there are many kinds of businesses which would probably benefit from the TRUST Programme. We’ll look at 4 of them:
As any fitness fan knows, a long-term commitment is the key to staying healthy. No one gets those washboard abs from a single session in the gym. How do you maintain that commitment? By purchasing a long-term gym package. However, gym packages, like the one I’m on, can be rather expensive, often costing at least $1,000 a year. Having the TRUST Programme provide the assurance that you can get a refund on the unutilised portion of my package would go a long way. Too bad it’s too late for customers of Sky Fitness, which closed down earlier this year.
2. Yoga Studios
Unlike gyms, where a substantial amount of capital is needed for buying equipment, yoga studios don’t have such high initial costs. As a result it’s a lot easier to set up a yoga studio, and many young people are jumping on the yogi bandwagon and training to teach yoga. Unfortunately, it might only be a matter of time before the yoga bubble bursts, which means there’ll definitely be several studios that will have to close on short notice. Yoga studios rely heavily on a steady stream of customers, so having the TRUST Programme would definitely help to build long-term customer confidence.
3. Dance Studios
A dance studio’s potential customers would definitely need to sign up for a long-term class should they want to learn anything. Like gyms, potential customers might be turned off by the thought of making such a large down payment. Once again, the TRUST Programme would increase customer confidence.
4. Nail Spas
In fact, the TRUST Programme could very well be applied to all prepaid packages, regardless of the cost. Which customer wouldn’t want the assurance that the unutilised portion of their package can be refunded should the business close down? Businesses like nail spas would benefit from having the customer loyalty that the TRUST Programme would help to build, even though the cost of their packages aren’t as high as dance studios or gyms.
Hopefully, should the TRUST Programme prove popular with spas and wellness centres, other business would show interest in coming on board.
What do you think of this TRUST Programme? Would you sign up for it? Let us know.