Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Buying stuff in Singapore

If you've ever followed my old blog on Xanga (written way back in September 2008 when I used to be funny and Xanga had passed its peak and was on a rapid decline), you might remember that I chronicled my experiences trying to buy a Samsung Omnia, and like some of the shopkeepers I dealt with... it wasn't pretty.

Coincidentally enough, now that I've started trying to blog again and I planned to purchase another Samsung product, I thought it might be interesting to talk about my latest experiences.  This time the product was the mirrorless NX100 camera, retailing online for as little as US$400 with a 20-50mm kit lens and external flash.   My new mission: try not to get ripped off again while buying electronics in Singapore and retaining my sanity.

The Product: Samsung NX100 w/ kit lens and extenal flash (originally US$550)
Target Price: US$400 (SG$482.96  -- from here on out I will refer to the prices in Singapore dollars)

This time I decided to avoid Simlim Square altogether since buying stuff there is often much like buying a box of chocolates from the Triads--you never know what you're gonna get. I went straight to Funan Digital Mall and quickly discovered the prices for the NX100 varied from SG$590 - SG$850 for the body and kit lens, with no external flash.  SG$850??? What in the world are some of these people thinking? That's almost double the online price.  Didn't they know the NX100 was being discontinued and discounted all over the rest of the world?  Did they know that its successor and replacement, the NX200, will be announced soon?  No.  You see, while Singapore is a very modern city, when it comes to discounts and adjusting prices in favor of the consumer, they are living in the frickin' stone age.  

Seriously, I've seen ten-year-old computer games being sold here at nearly the full original price.  I've seen old cameras being touted as the latest models.  It's like the shopkeepers are so loss-averse that they never follow the practice of marking down prices to clear out old inventory.  When I first arrived in Singapore in 2005, the US Dollar was almost worth 1.8x as much as the Singapore Dollar.  Now (as of July 26, 2011) US$1 = SG$1.2074.  Yet when they price items in Singapore, it's like they still price them based on some old, outdated exchange rate.

Take a look at the iPad2, for instance.  On the US Apple website, they sell the lowest end iPad2 for US$500, or about SG$615 at the current exchange rate, but let's be conservative and say it should cost SG$630 in Singapore.  How much does the iPad2 cost here though?  $668.  And this is just a relatively tame example compared to the ridiculous camera prices I've seen.  Strange, considering Singapore is much closer to place these goods are being manufactured than the US so shipping costs shouldn't be a factor.  Another thing they like to do here is throw in "freebies" to sweeten the deal... yet most of this is just throw-away crap like cheap tripods, cheap memory cards, stuff that already should come with the camera for free in the first place (some salesmen will try to convince you that you're getting "extra" because they're including a battery and charger with your purchase).  Why anyone would come to Singapore to buy stuff is a mystery to me, because everything seems cheaper in other countries around here, and bargaining here is akin to amputating your own arm with a dull imitation swiss army knife that you got as an extra with your previous camera.

The sad conclusion I've come to is that things are just more expensive because people are willing to pay for convenience and companies know that very well.. people would rather pay a premium than buy something for much cheaper online (even including shipping), then have to wait a couple of weeks for delivery.  As one store owner told me once before: "If the price is so good online, then why don't you just buy it online?" I think that was the first and only time I've actually thought about murdering someone.  But what he said was true.. if people are stupid enough to keep paying more than they should then these shop keepers are never going to mend their ways.

If there's one positive thing to take away from this mess, it's that there's a decent second-hand market in Singapore for electronics--especially camera equipment.  People buy stuff that they will sell within a few months, so if you're patient and willing to take a little risk, you can get some good deals.  We looked at Clubsnap and found a girl who was willing to sell us the NX100, the kit lens, the popular 20mm f2.8 pancake lens (which is one of the main reasons for getting a higher-end mirrorless camera in the first place), AND a Nikon to NX converter so I can even use my Nikon lenses on it, AND the warranty that's still valid until April 2012.  The best part was she only asked for SG$600.  So while there was no external flash included in the deal, the pancake lens alone made it completely worth it.  We bought the camera from her and have been loving it... It's amazing how light the NX100 is compared to my D90, which now seems like an overweight monstrosity by comparison.

I was extremely lucky to find such a nice seller who saved me SG$400 (check out this "promotion" for the same camera and lenses I got, except it's SG$1000) but not all experiences with second-hand sellers have been as pleasant... in the past I've dealt with some stupid idiots who try to sell you damaged goods so always be wary and inspect everything thoroughly.  But enough ranting for now... I'm satisfied with my purchase... at least until the NX200 gets announced or until I get the urge to buy a new toy.

Here are some pics taken by Carissa, uploaded straight from the camera (btw, Blogger sucks at aligning images...that's right Blogger.com you heard me and you can kiss my butt)



  1. The price of the Nintendo 3DS just dropped from US$250 to US$170.

    Qishan, a respected local videogames dealer in Singapore, has already dropped the price of the 3DS to US$215 (SG$259) in anticipation of the impending price drop.

    It will be interesting to watch how long it will take for other dealers in shady places like SimLim and Lucky Plaza to drop their prices as well, or if they will try to keep selling th 3DS at the ridiculous price US$332 (SG$400)

  2. So the 3DS will be SG$250 here (about US$210), or still a big US$40 more than the US price... which still seems rather ridiculous to me.

    In other news, the playstation 3 just dropped to US$250, so I wonder what the price will be here after the ps3 price drop.

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