Sim Lim Square: 5 reasons it is infamous

The interior of popular computer mall, Sim Lim Square, showing the 2,756 sq ft space on the ground floor atrium. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The interior of popular computer mall, Sim Lim Square, showing the 2,756 sq ft space on the ground floor atrium. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Sim Lim Square has been in the public eye for a long time for all the wrong reasons. Recently, it was in the news after one shop owner returned a refund of more than $1,000 in coins. Its management has also appealed to the authorities to "take a tough stand against the recalcitrant retailers".

Over the years, the electronics hub has gotten flak for shop owners' dubious antics. Here are some reasons for its rise in notoriety.

1. Overcharging

This is possibly what Sim Lim is most infamous for. From video cameras to iPhones, various shop owners at the mall have been known for ripping off customers, especially tourists.

In 2012, a complaint booth was set up at the mall to tackle the problem, but it did little to help. Name-and-shame lists that were put up were torn. Some shops took to making their names less conspicuous on signboards, or even changing their names to avoid detection.

Overcharging incidents are usually shared on Facebook, forums, blogs and review sites. In one such typical case, a reviewer on TripAdvisor said that a shop sold his brother a mobile phone for almost $750, up from the $270 first agreed upon. The extra amount was apparently the cost of warranty.

2. Threats and intimidation

Over the years, Sim Lim shop owners have drawn attention for being threatening or violent towards customers who did not want to buy their products, or wanted to change items. A video on YouTube (some strong language) showing a salesman spewing vulgarities after he was asked for a breakdown of the cost of a video camera was uploaded in 2011. It got more than 200,000 views.

But such incidents are not uncommon at the mall. In 1989, a salesman threatened to beat a Taiwanese tourist who tried to change an item he was overcharged for. The tourist had bought a Toshiba walkman for $380, more than double its market price.

3. Faulty goods

Another problem many buyers face at Sim Lim Square is getting products with defects. This usually lead to many wasted hours travelling to and from Sim Lim Square, with the problem sometimes never being resolved.

One Internet forum user sharing his experience said that he had wanted to buy a mobile phone that could support 3G, but instead got one that could only support 2G. He had to make repeated trips to the shop because even the replacement set was faulty.

4. Misleading claims

Shop owners at Sim Lim Square are also known to say things just to sweet-talk customers into buying products. Especially with tourists, they would agree on a discount, but then increase the price and say that the discount can be claimed in tax refunds.

One wholesaler at the mall, Cyber Maestro, on Nov 3 was issued a permanent injunction by the High Court. The Singapore Tourism Board filed the injunction in response to several complaints against it, including misleading consumers about prices and availability of goods. A permanent injunction will restrain the shop from engaging in such trade practices.

5. Pirated goods

Even back in 1989, Sim Lim Square was a hub for pirated computer goods. In one raid alone, on July 20 1989, about $3 million worth of fake computer products and software, including new releases that were not available in Singapore, were seized. Over the years, Sim Lim Square has been in the news periodically after shop owners sold pirated movies, games and videos.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg

Sources: TripAdvisor, The Straits Times, HardwareZone