Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why I don't take FREE stuff and the problem with it

I've been living in Singapore for 7 years now, and the one thing that always gets me in a bit of an awkward situation is when I decline free stuff at shops. All kinds of shops in Singapore will offer you free stuff - it's a popular method to boost sales it seems to me.

But... I often say no to it. I remember rejecting a 1-for-1 offer of Magnum at a 7-11 store. Why? I was just walking and wanted some ice-cream. How on Earth was I supposed to eat two ice-creams at once? ;p I wanted one, I needed one, so I politely declined, to the sales assistant utter horror.

I get this a lot. Whenever a shop offers 1-for-1 promos or free gifts, I ask myself: do I need it? Will I use it? Will it add to the clutter at my house? Most often (but not always) than not, I come to the conclusion that I only need the things that I put in my basket, so I try to decline without making it into a big deal, but the shop assistants always fight me for it. They give me this incredulous look and speak loud and clearly "but it's for FREE!", as if they thought I didn't speak English lol . They just can't understand that someone might not want something that is for FREE.

No idea what photo fits the subject of this post, so enjoy some pandas?

In my opinion, just because it's for FREE, does not mean we automatically should take it. If we need it, would buy it anyways, have someone in mind that we can give it to - then yeah, take. But if not.. then is it a better option to just leave it behind?

I wish there was a way for me to leave the stuff that I declined, to be given to someone else, who could actually benefit from it. Like with the Magnum, I wish I could just leave it "hanging" there for someone else to enjoy. The other day I declined an offer of free pack of wheat wraps (testing a new brand, so I didn't want to take two packs in case I didn't like them... a good decision, as they are not my preffered style xD), and was wondering if the shop could donate it somewhere in my name.

What do you think? Do you even decline an offer of something that is FREE?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shametertainment?


Let me start by admitting, I thoroughly enjoyed Xiaxiue's take-down of Grace Tan this Thursday. For a moment I feared that the delicate Grace, who stressed out so much just from a brief interaction with the top blogger many months ago, would snap under the pressure of public shaming. But as Grace continued making snide remarks, and showed her true colors of an online bully, I could not help to feel a sense of justice being served.

But then on Friday, the local social media scene was swept of their feet, with the act of kindness and heroism, as two foreign workers helped a stranded toddler. Aside from expressing fondness for heroes hiding in plane sight, many were extremely judgmental towards the parents of the toddler. Dissecting their personal possessions and lifestyle, without knowing the full story, many were more than ready to pass harsh judgment, and even demand punishment for the parents.


My heart broke when I saw the mom sobbing in front of the camera. You can have no doubt that she is going though a personal nightmare. A nightmare made so much worse by the feeling of public shame.

Public shaming is a centuries long practice, and our ancestors used to use it to impose certain behavioral norms on those who strayed. Being shamed was a persons chance for redemption and correction.

But in the era of social media, shaming is not focused on correction and redemption. It has become distinctively... entertaining. Anonymous people online can suddenly take a position of power towards the shamed person. Judgments can be produced freely and without consequences for the "judge". Hurtful words and unfounded theories passed around in a spirit of buzzing excitement.

I think social media transformed public shaming into a form of entertainment (shame-tertainment?). But as we throw virtual stones, are we becoming less compassionate, and more hedonistic? Is it still about public discussion on what is acceptable, or is it just about watching someone suffer public scorn?

I do believe we need to openly talk about social issues, and point out bad behaviors. That's why I would never say that bloggers or media pointing out bad behaviors are doing something wrong (on the contrary - we do need to bring public attention to many of those issues). But I do fear we, readers and consumer of media, are developing an unhealthy habit of enjoying those instances in a wrong way, and rather than develop empathy and social sensitivity, we get way to comfortable with being judgmental.

If you have a moment, do listen to this speech, by Monica Lewinsky:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How to get from Singapore to Redang, with no direct flight

Do you remember the good ol' days, when there was a direct flight to Redang island? Or at least a direct flight to Kuala Terengganu? Well, those days are firmly in the past, and now if you want to get to Redang, you gotta do it the hard way.

So how? Let me share with you how I did it.


I've been to Redang in 2012 and I absolutely LOVED it. The island is beautiful, clean and just enough off the map to not be over-crowded. So in 2015 I decided I wanted to go there again, but with no direct flight, some planing was necessary.

Connecting flight to Terengganu


Important tip: DON'T buy a packaged double flight to Terengganu. They are pricey! Malaysia Airlines offers them for around $330! Not worth it. Buy a separate ticket to Kuala Lumpur (if you time your purchase correctly, they can cost you around 50 SGD), and then a separate ticket to Kuala Terengganu (another ~50 SGD).

I bought my flight to KL with Tiger Air, and it was supposed to take off at 7:45. Supposed... because of major jam in the check-in queue, it took off with a huge delay. We landed at KLIA 2, and did a kiosk check-in with Air Asia. The flight to Kuala Terengganu was supposed to take off at 12:10, but... delay yet again, by 45 minutes.

I was actually pretty pleased to have the lay-over in KLIA 2. We had lunch and bought some snacks (apples, biscuits, etc), since I remembered missing those things when I visited Redang in 2012.

Ferry to the island


Getting from mainland to the island was pretty much the most confusing part of the trip. I called the island resort asking them to book tickets for the public ferry (from Shahbandar Jetty) for me, and they told me very specifically that there is no chance of us making it in time for the public ferry at 3 pm if we land at 1:20 pm. They specifically assured us, we need to show up at the jetty 1 hour before the ferry leaves. LIES!!!

Because of those lies we agreed to have the Taraas Resort charter a boat for us. But when we arrived at the airport, we were told that due to bad weather only the public ferry was a viable travel option. We were forced to scramble for our own taxi transfer and rush to the Shahbandar Jetty, which takes around 20-30 minutes to get to (depending on the traffic.. we traveled on Saturday, so the traffic was almost non-existent). We were already stressed out, because of the flight delay, so it was not a pleasant ride. When we arrived at the jetty (around 2:40 pm), we bought our tickets at a little booth owned by the resort we were heading for, and we purchased the marine park tickets as well (don't be a miser and try to weasel your way out of buying them!).

The trip via the public ferry was the worst nightmare of my life. Don't get me wrong here, I am by no means a coward. I never felt the slightest tinge of nerves when traveling by plane. But man! That ferry ride! It was like 2 hours of pure hell! The waves rocked the boat to the point where I thought I would literally fly of my seat! The windows went dark, as the boat leaned at what felt like 85o angle! The huge-ass storm waves were crushing on the boat relentlessly, and the noise was deafening. Its a miracle I didn't end up projectile vomiting.

Getting back to Singapore


On the day of our departure the weather cleared enough for us to take a charter boat to Merang Jetty. The resort has arranged everything for us, inclusive of a mini-bus transfer from the jetty to the airport. It is a viable option to arrange for a cab at the jetty, but me and the party I traveled with, preferred to have everything arranged for us.

The chartered boat was an open-deck, rear engine motor-boat. The trip was a messy affair, as we had been rained on (note: don't wear mascara for the trip ;p), and we were not offered any cellophane ponchos, just plastic trash-bags to cover our luggage with. Other than that, the boat trip was a pleasant one, as we got to admire little islands poking out of the sea, and the clear, turquoise waters. The boat ride took around 50 minutes. The ride to the airport from the Merang Jetty took about 45 minutes.

The flight to Kuala Lumpur was supposed to take off at 1:10 pm, but... delayed again. We landed at KLIA 2 at around 3:30. Grabbed lunch at the food court, and then rushed for our connecting flight that was supposed to take of at 5:20. But it got delayed... fortunately, as the KLIA 2 is a massive airport and our gate took almost half an hour to reach. Had the plane not been delayed, we might have missed it.

Summary

Despite all the delays and complications, I do find that getting to Redang from Singapore is still not quite as difficult as to discourage a trip. My tips would be to take connecting flights with ample of time in-between, since delays seem to be imminent. If possible, take a chartered motor-boat to the island, but if you need to take the public ferry, it's not a big problem either. Just coordinate with your resort on booking the tickets.

Take note, that despite various sources stating otherwise, there is no public ferry from Redang to Terengganu at 11 am.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Why I don't believe in sponsored posts - a blogger's perspective

I am by no means an active blogger any more, but there was a time (circa 2010) that this blog was pretty active and had its own following. I started out as anyone else, and after a few months had advertisers sending me emails.

Mai faice in case you have forgotten haha
But through those experiences I've learned one thing - there is no such thing as an honest opinion when it comes to sponsored posts. Let me share my experiences:

Case #1 - "The phone"


My first ever sponsored gig was about a phone. Please take in consideration that we're talking back to early 2009. I was asked to participate in promoting a new phone targeted at young working adults. The agency that contacted me prepared a meticulous campaign that involved other bloggers.

We had an initial briefing and were handed the phones.

There was only one problem. I HATED the phone after I tried to use it. All photos came out blurred. I could not get it to connect to a wifi. And even if you somehow managed to get that piece of junk to connect to wifi, the auto re-sizing feature made it hang and die.

Since we were told it's OK to state our honest opinion, I spared no time and shared my dismay online. 15 minutes later I received a phone call from the agency with their rep scolding me for... not using the phone correctly. She accused me of not understanding the features and taking blurry photos. We had multiple phone exchanges though out the duration of the promotion, and each one was her basically trying to convince me that I am doing something wrong, inviting me to come for another briefing, or sharing the dramatic story of how the brand behind the phone wanted to hang her agency by the guts.

I don't think she wanted to force me into changing my online statements. I think she genuinely believed it was a good product. And I genuinely thought it was crap. No one takes something to the market unless they believe in it.

How to form an honest opinion, when so many personal factors come into play? Had I bought the damn phone, I could had ranted all I wanted. I would not be entangled in personal and professional relationships that affect people so deeply.

Case #2 - "The cosmetic company"


After the phone promo fiasco, I feared that the root cause was my lack of smart-phone-proficiency and wanted to focus on something that was closer to my interests. I was contacted by a cosmetic company and invited for a brand introduction. It was a small meeting with their reps, cupcakes, canapes and $200 worth of products that we could take home. Unfortunately, the products did not impress me...

I had another introductory meeting with the brand some time after and then me, and a few bloggers were invited to do a promotion for their latest product (which I loved and have repeatedly purchased even after I stopped being an active blogger). All bloggers involved had similar following. The cosmetic company was to assign us photos on their Facebook page, and we were to gather likes. The person who gathered most likes was to win a considerable amount of products worth. Simple, right?

Well, it almost went well. All bloggers gathered their supporters and promoted the product and gather likes to their respective photos. But something odd happened at the end of the promotional period. Suddenly two bloggers with massive following were added to the competition and blew everyone out of the race with massive amount of "likes".

I think it was the moment I realized I was just a pawn in a bigger game. A game that had nothing to do with recommending good products. It was a marketing game where my good word was a tool, and no one cared for the people who chose to give me support. In the end, I "wasted' time of my readers inviting them to join a contest that we never had a chance to win.

The company expected me to be a "good sport" about it, and justified bringing in the "big bloggers" by pointing out my poor clout.

Case #3 - "The race organizers"


After the two fiascos, I was just about done with any sponsorships. I was upset and unhappy with how the relationships with sponsors played out. I was growing annoyed with the whole concept of sponsored content.

But I decided to give it one last shot, when an events' company asked me to help them publicize an outdoor event. Since I had no interest in the event or the organization, I just told them they can send over the message they want me to publicize. It was an outdoor, health-related event, so I felt it would be good to let more people know about it. They proposed a Twitter message that said that I would be joining the event and anyone who wants to see me should come to the event. There was NO TALK of me attending and I remember feeling bemused by the proposed tweet. I put it on Twitter nevertheless, with an appropriate followup, that the previous tweet is just some wishful thinking produced by the event organizers.

Not surprisingly I got an email scolding me head-to-toe. But seriously, what were they expecting? That I would so openly LIE? If they can take a piss at me, so can I at them.

****

I won't bore you with case #4 - "The book", since it was a straight case of me just loathing the thing I was send, and the aftermath was just sad.

In the end, I decided to go sponsorship-free and I am sticking to that. The experience taught me one thing: reviewing sponsored stuff is nothing like sharing opinions on things you have bought yourself. Yes, you can still have a genuine opinion, but the circumstances are nothing like those of being a customer. There is far more at play - on personal and professional level.

Taken from Xiaxue expose

Bloggers say, that if they gave false recommendations, they would loose the trust of the public, but the latest Gushcloud debacle only points out that deception is a huge part of the game. It is however shocking, that even the clients of bloggers are being deceived. Gushcloud has approached me multiple times with their offer of sponsored content (I work in marketing) and a gut feeling told me to turn them down. Good on me, I guess...

I dearly miss the times, when bloggers were the counterweight to commercial media. When reading a bloggers recommendation meant reading a comment from another customer. A person just like me.

Maybe some day bloggers will realize, the only reason the public turned to bloggers was trust. Trust that commercial media failed to maintain. But with commercial blogging being the new standard, are we looking at a gap in the market, which could be filled by non-commercial bloggers?

Wanna keep in touch? I am mostly active on Instragram.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Glasses

I wish real glasses looked like this...Not the heavy, eye-shrinking things that I hate wearing!




Sunday, November 16, 2014

I got my nose pierced!

I've been wanting to pierce my nose since ever, but my mom is very much against any body modifications. But since I celebrated my 30th birthday this year, I decided it's about time to rebel! xD


I got my piercing done at Exotic Tattoos and Piercings salon at Far East Plaza today. I chose them because they entertain walk-in's, and for me getting a piercing must be something I can get on impulse. I hate arranging and waiting for appointments! 

The salon looked very clean and tidy and the staff was very patient with my nervous chatting (I could not shut up hahaha) . My piercing was done by a lady, who herself sported a fair bit of piercings. She cleaned my nose with sanitizers, and we negotiated where the piercing should be. I did accidentally touch my nose... and she didn't do a second round of disinfecting, just told me not to touch it. So I do worry a bit, if the piercing site was clean enough.... 

The lady who did the piercing knew exactly what she is doing, and was very fast, so in the end the pain was not so bad. My nose feels sore, but hey, I got my piercing!

The piercing cost $55, and I paid another $18 for disinfectants.

I'm quite pleased with myself! Hopefully I can get a tattoo next time xD.