Before forking out money for your new iThing, you need to know Singapore is bargain city. The big malls don’t always offer the best prices, and Sim Lim is populated with more sharks than Sea World. So if you must be on the cutting edge of gadgetry, at least be informed. In this article, I look at some prudent buying tactics when it comes to electronics:
1. Beware the GST Scam
This tactic is common at Sim Lim Square and Lucky Plaza, but it’s also gaining ground in heartland malls. This is when salespeople quote a price without the 7% Goods & Services Tax (GST), then add the GST while swiping your card.
In some cases, the sales staff are just downplaying the price. That’s not technically legal, because stores are supposed to quote the full price with GST. But this isn’t so bad.
Some of the stores add a special GST rate, commonly referred to as whatever-the-hell-we-feel-like. In these cases, you’ll see the GST is not listed as a separate column in the receipt. The price difference may be above or slightly under 7%. In these cases, the store doesn’t pay GST at all; it’s just milking you for extra cash.
In Singapore, stores with an annual turnover below $1 million don’t pay GST. Some do voluntarily, but that’s about as common as the Dalai Lama recommending an ass-kicking. So if a store has fewer customers than a WoW player has real friends, their GST is probably a lie.
If you’re in doubt about the store, don’t pay in cash. Use a credit card. And if they pull the GST stunt, immediately call the card company and freeze payment.
2. Examine the Warranty
Don’t ever count on a retailer’s warranty from a small store. Electronics shops have a high turnover rate in Singapore; you don’t know if the same retailer will be open for business in three to five years. While the store might still be there, it’s not uncommon for new management to have bought over the store or changed its name.
If you’re buying something expensive and need a warranty, go to a bigger store. Even if Harvey Norman or Courts charges more (for the product or warranty), there’s a better chance they’ll still be around. But there is one exception to this. You should…
If you’re a tourist, you also want to note whether the warranty is local or international.
3. Buy Game Consoles from Small Stores
Let’s say you want to buy a modified game console. And totally not for illegal reasons, like playing pirated games or anything. Well in that case, you want to get it from a small store instead of a big retailer.
Never get the console from a big retailer, then go to a small store to have it modified. In most cases, modifying the console negates your warranty. The solution is to get the console from a small store, and accept the smaller retailer’s warranty. If your console is wrecked, the small store will fix / replace your set even if they’ve modified it.
Of course, you’re counting on the fact that the store stays open.
4. Compare Prices for Extras
When you’re buying something like a camera or computer, you have a lot of extra options. In most cases, the extra bits (memory cards, software, etc.) are how the stores make money.
If you compare prices of base models, you’ll see little variation. Most local stores charge the same price for the basic model of anything (unless you’re being royally ripped off). But the price of extra RAM chips or different camera lenses can vary significantly, and it’s worth some extra legwork.
Collect quotes from four or five retailers before buying. And always inform each retailer of your previous quotes; with any luck, they’ll start to price war each other.
5. Buy from Heartland Malls
Despite the raving about Sim Lim and Funan, it’s better to place your trust in heartland malls.
In malls like Parkway Parade or Lot 1, stores are reliant on repeat business. They’re less inclined to use hit-and-run sales tactics; and if you frequent the same store, the owner will start to recognize you and offer better discounts. But shop in town, and you’re just another faceless sales target.
Another advantage to heartland malls is that stores have more initiative; even if you don’t have a warranty, the owners will try to tinker and fix your devices for you. And most have a good idea what they’re doing.
6. Ask Questions You Know the Answers To
Some stores are staffed with students or part-timers, whose knowledge of electronics don’t extend beyond which way the batteries go in. To make sure you’re getting accurate answers, ask a few questions you know the answer to.
Know what RAM is? Ask for an explanation anyway. Know how to fit a camera lens? Ask the salesman to demonstrate regardless. While an ignorant staff doesn’t mean you’ll get ripped off, it does mean you shouldn’t count on them for information. If their prices are good, you can ask your questions elsewhere, then come back and buy from them.
Got any questions about buying electronics in Singapore? Comment and let us know!