Thursday, February 28, 2008

Being B

Working in IT allows me to come into contact with interesting users, but I do feel that one of my co-worker is probably a more interesting character.

To protect his identity, I shall refer to him as B.

He is 1 of those that works in shift, which means that he sometimes come to office earlier than us and of course, he leaves the office earlier as well. That, to me is just part of work requirement and I am fine with it, during 1 of my previous job, that was also in the job description and that I know what that entails. Working shift is fun and I do enjoy it as it affords me the time after shifts to sometime go out and actually visit the bank, catch an early movie and generally bum at home when nobody is around.

What I really have problem with, is his attitude. Which boils down to :

1). B is always right
2). When you proved B wrong, B will come down hard on you
3). B is always there to tell the boss who did wrong

Which incidentally, is fine by me if he keeps to himself and do his daily share of work. Unfortunately, he hardly keeps to himself and he loves to whine.....

Whining isn't so bad if you are cute or do it cutely, imagine a hairy 900pound walrus whinning..... You get the picture.

Being in IT, we more or less expects that he can take care of his own computer, after all, someone managing huge IBM and HP super computer should be able to take care of their puny notebook? No!!! In my 10 yrs of IT support, I had never come across somebody asking me for a screw driver, just so that he can remove the battery from his notebook to find out if the battery is due for a recall....And when I showed him that all it take was 2 opposable thumb, What I got was," I am not trained in Hardware. Don't expect me to know that." After a fully illustrated email showing how the battery was to be removed.

Being the guy in charge of security, I constantly come to know of security bleaches and that some of the guys getting to the top of the shit list. But for most of them, they are there because they are the 1 doing the checks on the machines. Now, it is one thing to have a software key generation program in one's computer. It is another to have it in the company's laptop and definitely takes the cake when confronted to actually says that the offending piece of code was there in the computer for quite some time and that only recently did the scanner picks it up...... I am just wondering how the policeman will feel when haul up a drunk driver only to have the drunk retorting that he had been drink driving for a few years, did a few hit and run and what took the police so long to catch him....... I would probably lock him up, throw away the keys with a whole bunch of hungry hyenas.....

Speaking about drunk.... I have no qualms with people drinking.... Heck, drinking during lunch time might not be so bad if you watch the limit and remains decently sober when its time to get back to office or just ask for the day off if you felt too tipsy.... But what really take the cake would be to get another colleague on the team to go out, drink, come back to the office after 4 hours, still roaring drunk, telling another colleague that he is in trouble with the married women in the office and should turn to him for help..... Then waltzing off when the shift is up......While his just as inebriated team mates stumbled and nearly fell down a flight of stairs.
That really got our dear B into the shits....from what I heard, this isn't the first time with the last incident happened only recently.... And I do hope that he really wakes up...But the whole thing just made me feel, and it sums up nicely with this picture..

Lost In Singapore

I am worried, I am very worried....
It was once said that we live in one of the safest if not the safest city in the world.. Seems like the bubble of security was quickly pricked by reality and probably with help from a healthy dose of complacency.

The top guy of JI in custody had escaped, and according to our dear Minister Wong, he escaped on the pretext that he needs to go the toilet during family visitation. Wow, from what I heard, it is now almost 24 hours and he is still at large.... What makes it even more ridiculous is the fact that, he got out... Limping.... You hear right, we are not talking about David blane, David copperfield or X-men, a cripple got out of what was suppose a high security installation.

Makes one wonder how secure we really are.

I used to be able to go about proudly to say to foreigners that they can walk without fear even at night alone... Now, even I am a bit worried about who they let out.

Is this really an isolated incident? I have no idea and I certainly hope so...

It took them 4 hours to disclose this to the public when they realised that someone this high profile is lost and they are nowhere near catching him...

How many more had fallen through the crack..... we have no idea, from what I know, this is far from being the only case of people under custody managed to get out...

With our first class public transport and road that can brings you from one part of Singapore to another in 20 min, I will not be surprised if he probably had dinner yesterday at Lau Par Sat, Checked into Shangri La, visited Sentosa, had lunch in Geylang and now having High Tea and having a good laugh in Good Wood Park.......

While people like me have nothing more than a pair of eyes and hope that our boys in blue and green can wisen up anc catch hold of him soon..... If he has not skipped the country

Monday, February 04, 2008

Square 2 or Scam 2

I must admit, I am no exception like all Singaporean to the love of shopping and being attracted to a good deal.

When something like this came up,

I know that I just could not miss it.

A few reason that I feel that it is a good deal:

1). My Wife works in the next building
2). I need to meet up with her on every Friday for her ante-natal class
3). There are a few items worth more than $50 that we need to purchase and some shops there sells it.

Given all these, we went ahead and spend our money there.... not because it is most convenient and cheap, but we felt that prize redemption beats ang bao wrapper and lucky draw at any given day.

Well, what turned out as a good deal was nothing more than a gimmick.

Yes, I got what I wanted, a steamboat for the reunion dinner but that is after 2 trips and a very long queue from 8am.

If you think that I was pissed, you should see these people

And if you asked me, I believe that they have good reason to, as when I was there on Saturday, at about 12, which was 1 hour after the opening of the redemption, this was how it was
Nothing to change

On a closer look

Long line

And 1 short video of some very angry shoppers

And all these you can find here

And what I felt was bad management pure and simple was,

1). They started off being really slack about the terms and condition and started to make up more rules as they go along.

2). Was it that there were cases during the promo that some of the tenants actually went to exchange for the higher priced items resulting in those high value items being completely replenished just 1 to week into the event.

3). The whole idea of having a quota each day for redemption is in a way, rather silly as it will require people to keep going back to not shop, but just to queue to redeem the items. What they could have simply done was to :
a). Have a while stock last and close the event when the items run out and reduce all these grief
b). Stock up more of the items just so that shopper that spent money actually can redeem their items.

4). When the higher valued items ran out, asking the shoppers to redeem the lower value items, Now, the problem with that is, the value does not really equates, and given the limitation of 3 items per person, it means that the shopper will have to walk away with 3 packet of Yeos Drink instead of the Yu Yan Seng Hamper, does that measured up? Hardly. And I can assured you that nobody will be grateful for this swap.

Some people actually made a deliberate choice to shop there based on the fact that the promotion makes it worth their while to go there and bringing their money with them.
Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you.....
Those disgruntled shoppers may very well not take the bait come the next round. Maybe they do not care as there are one new sucker born everyday.

From the response on STOMP, I am not the only one and there are some more nuance and incidents of a poorly managed event

muahahahaha said on 04 Feb, 2008
wow, i was told that one of the reason that the abalone ran out so fast is that some of the staff working there actually kept reciepts that customers left behind and through 'relations' get teh abalone... maybe novena should actually check on it. not sure how true it is...

muahahahaha said on 04 Feb, 2008
yap! same scenario as Sash, my aunt was told "the next day", which is today, my aunt made a trip back again and was told, everything is fully redeem! end up only have few packet of water~ cheat!

Sash said on 04 Feb, 2008
However, I think she cld b friendlier & more consistent cos I think she only checks in d morning when ppl r q-ing. According to a fellow customer in q with me, Cynthia "abused" her authority on 28 Jan morning when she cut q and redeemed for her friend.

Sash said on 04 Feb, 2008
I heard a lady named Cynthia who checked ppl's receipts b4 they can redeem explained they had lost a stamp used to chop the stamps for every $50. That's y d need to check and also to prevent Square 2 tenants fr abusing the promotion.

Sash said on 04 Feb, 2008
It's ridiculous to expect customers to come back the next day to q to redeem gifts. I'd to go twice cos the abalone ran out. There was this aunty who q-ed at least 3 days in a row like 9am. Each time she redeemed at least 2 big items.

Sash said on 04 Feb, 2008
There are lots of terms and conditions. It was the same for Xmas at Square 2. Many customers felt con as the retail sales ppl made them buy stuff saying they can redeem gifts, which were fully redeemed already.

End of the day, Caveat Emptor. Even if it sounds like a good and reasonable deal, you may have to run through loops to get it or get royaly shafted.

But the real hero, are those customer service staff there. From what I understood, they were there day in and day out, putting up with shoppers which could be either angry, unreasonable or just down right abusive. This together with the unforgiving terms and condition, and from what I understand from 1, a management that were never present but reprimand them at the end of the day, they are the one that deserves our salute.

As for the Managements of Square2, shame on you.

Public housing???

Got this off from a thread in Hardware Zone EDMW

Feel that it make sense..

Posting it here in case the mod there decides to lock that thread

Topic: ROOT CAUSE of "sky-high" HDB flat prices

Note for readers:
1 Reproduced below is the full text of my letter to TODAY Voices section --- which was rejected(read: censored) for publication for the obvious reason that I had exposed "The HDB Flat Pricing Scam" (which not many S'poreans are aware of).

2 Key Issue --- The HDB (under $2m Minister Mah Bow Tan) had used the clever term "market subsidy" to confuse buyers of HDB new flats into thinking their flats are "heavily subsidized" (Mah's own words) by the PAP Govt.
In fact, there is no "cash subsidy" at all and the HDB is actually raking in a cleverly-disguised profit !

3 For greater public awareness, please help to forward to as many people as possible and ask them to do likewise (for "the multiplier effect").
More informed voters can then vote appropriately at the next 2011 General Elections to send a strong message to the PAP Govt to provide truly-affordable housing for the people.

Original Text of my email letter to TODAY newspaper:

In his letter "Resale flats out of reach" (TODAY Jan 17), Mr Anthony Tan highlighted the problems faced by many first-time HDB flat-buyers. Allow me to trace the root cause behind their dilemma.

As a 60-year old educated Senior Citizen, I surf the Internet regularly to gauge the true concerns of young Singaporeans, who are mostly hesitant to speak up openly.

I empathise with their growing despair on home ownership. Many are resigned that private flats are now way beyond their reach. All they simply want is a basic no-frills inexpensive flat --- with enough money left to decorate it to their own personal taste into a cosy home!

However, even with HDB flats, they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea --- either wait 4 years for "expensive" new flats or else pay "sky-high" prices for resale flats. They are rightly concerned that a $1 million HDB resale flat may not be that far-fetched.

One worry is that, despite such high prices, few buyers will feel the pinch immediately because up to 90% of the cost can be financed by long-term home loans stretching up to 30 years.

So many seldom give a second thought that if they borrow, say, $300,000 under a 30-year loan, they could ultimately cough up nearly $600,000 in total capital and interest repayments.

Another worry: If a young couple have to sink so much of their hard-earned income and CPF savings into their brick-and-cement flat, how much monies will there be left to raise a family and sent their children to university --- not to mention providing for their own healthcare and retirement needs in their golden years?

In the 1970s, the starting graduate salary was $1000 per month. Then, in the HDB Marine Parade Estate, prices of new 5-rm, 4-rm and 3-rm flats were $35,000, $20,000 and $17,000 respectively. In 1990, average price of new 5-rm flats was $70,000. Such prices then reflected a "cost-based pricing approach".

Now, starting graduate salary is 3 times higher at $3,000 per month but prices of similar HDB new flats have gone up by 10 times to 30 times. The massive price hikes were largely the result of the HDB switching over to a "market-based pricing approach".

Since 2002, many have queried the HDB in newspaper forums on how its new flats are actually priced. Last December, the HDB finally confirmed that "the prices of new HDB flats are based on the market prices of resale HDB flats, and not their costs of construction."

This is a simple-to-understand example using data from 2000, when 5-rm new flats were priced upwards of $200,000.

However, from actual tendered contracts of HDB Building Contractors, the Construction Cost per flat was about $50,000. Adding on an estimated $70,000 for Land Cost & Other Related Costs, the Total Breakeven Cost per flat was about $120,000 --- which HDB should set as the selling price, since it is supposed to be a not-for-profit, low-cost public housing developer.

But, under the market-based pricing approach, HDB will first look at the then prevailing market price of, say $260,000 of a 5-rm resale flat. It will then pick a lower figure of, say $200,000 as the selling price for the 5-rm new flat --- never mind if its actual Total Breakeven Cost was only $120,000.

The HDB can then say the new flat buyer is getting a "market subsidy" of $60,000 arising from the difference between the resale flat price and new flat price. Notice, under such an approach, there is absolutely no "cash subsidy" granted at all to the new flat buyer. Instead, the HDB is actually collecting a profit of $80,000 per flat (representing a 67% profit margin). In contrast, private developers normally earn around 20% profit margin for assuming business risks.

Most importantly, this HDB market-based pricing approach had resulted in new flat prices and resale flat prices chasing each other in an upward spiral ---- that is financially disadvantageous to buyers of both new and resale flats.

Should HDB deem the above example as simplistic or misleading, the onus lies with it to rebut and substantiate with its own detailed data.

HDB should also provide its public response to this remaining burning question --- Why is the HDB not really helping first-time buyers of new flats by passing on to them the substantial cost-savings from economies-of-scale in massive HDB developments through pricing new flats on a "cost-based break-even" approach?

We have also since moved from small "pigeon-holes" to tiny "bee-hives" --- extremely costly beehives, to be precise! HDB new flats are now built smaller, closer and at higher price.

The HDB itself had stopped building the larger 1200 sq ft 5-room and 1400 sq ft Executive flats. Current prices of 1000 sq ft 4-rm HDB new flats range from $200,000 (in Senkang) to $400,000 (in Telok Blangah) and up to the whopping $590,000 (in Boon Keng, under Design, Build and Sell Scheme by private developer).

Our politicians constantly exhort Singaporeans to treat Singapore as "home" literally and figuratively. To help solve our Procreation Problem, young couples are also reminded not to delay marriage and have three or more children. Pray tell us how do you squeeze two parents, three children, one maid and possibly one or two elderly in-laws in a 1000 sq ft "bee-hive"?

When young, educated and mobile Singaporeans are short-changed on such basic "quality of life" aspirations as a truly-affordable and decent-size home for their loved ones, is it any wonder many are contemplating to be "quitters" rather than "stayers"?