Pham Van Thoai, the Vietnamese tourist, cried as he begged a Mobile Air shop employees to give him his money back on Monday. Photo credit: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will investigate the retailers who have tarnished the city state's reputation as a shopping destination, an official told news website Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon (Saigon Times) Wednesday.
Glenn Koh, STB's area director for Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, made his comments after a Vietnamese tourist was allegedly cheated by a mobile phone shop in Sim Lim Square, a large retail complex, during his holiday in Singapore.
Local media reported that Pham Van Thoai, a 28-year-old factory worker, went to Mobile Air shop to buy an iPhone 6 as a birthday gift for his girlfriend on Monday.
He forked over 950 Singaporean dollars (US$760) for the smartphone at Mobile Air and was going to leave when he was asked to pay an additional S$1,500 as a warranty fee.
Thoa, who is not fluent in English, had signed an English-language agreement that he did not scrutinize.
He was told that if he did not pay for the warranty, he could not leave with the phone.
Thoai said he knelt down and wept and begged for his money back, but the store's employees just laughed at him.
They finally agreed to give him S$600, but his girlfriend refused to leave without the rest of the money and called the police.
When the police arrived, Mobile Air's staff said Thoai had signed an agreement with them, and offered to give him just S$70.
After members of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) got involved, he received another S$400, but was still short of S$550, and left the shop without the phone.
Koh told Thoi Bao Kinh Te Sai Gon that STB would work closely with CASE to review customer complaints filed against retail shops like Mobile Air.
If evidence of unhealthy business practices arise, STB may take steps to stop them, he said.
He said STB has suspended the operations of retailers found cheating customers.
Koh advised customers to report fraud so that STB can blacklist problematic shops.
A list of such shops is available at http://www.case.org.sg/consumer_guides_consumeralerts.aspx.
Mobile Air is among the worst on the list; 25 complaints were lodged against the shop between August and October.
Prior to the incident involving the Vietnamese tourist, the shop made headlines after it paid a S$1,010 refund to a Chinese customer in coins.
The woman told police that shop assistants had thrown a bag of coins, weighing 18kg, onto the floor and forced her to count them on site.
Following Thoai's story, outraged Singaporean netizens circulated photos and personal details of Jover Chew, the owner of Mobile Air, prompting the shop to close on Wednesday.
One day earlier, Singaporean Gabriel Kang launched a campaign to raise at least S$1,000 for Thoai to buy an iPhone.
By 9 am on Thursday, almost S$12,938 has been raised, The Straits Times reported.
Thoai told Lianhe Zaobao, the most-read Chinese newspaper in Singapore on Thursday that he had accepted S$550 from a businessman, and bought a phone with it. He said he would not accept any further help.
"I lost S$550. So I will accept the S$550 donated by these kind people. Nothing more. I'm grateful for all your kindness, but I do not want to take more than what I've lost," he told Lianhe Zaobao.