Thursday, 20 November 2014

Remembering Sim Lim Square 森林商业中心

From a wood business to an electronics hub
Sim Lim Square, now an electronics hub, first started as a timber business. - ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Mr Soon Peng Yam in 1998. - ST FILE PHOTO
Sim Lim 50 years published by Sim Lim Investments Limited, The Straits Times

Sim Lim Tower was built by Sim Lim Realty, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sim Lim Group of Companies, and opened its doors in 1980 at Jalan Besar. It functioned as the headquarters of the company, and housed an "Electronic and Electrical City" which now specialises in hardware-type products, cables and electronics components such as resistors and capacitors.

Sim Lim Square, which is across the street on Rochor Canal Road and specialises in consumer electronics such as computers, cameras and mobile phones, opened in 1987. The mall was recently in the news after a retailer tried to give a customer more than $1,000 in coins after it was ordered by the Small Claims Tribunal to give a refund. Its management has also appealed to the authorities to "take a tough stand against the recalcitrant retailers", saying it has been "disappointed with the apparent lack of measures which the authorities are able to take against these incorrigible retailers".

Here's a timeline of the company that has its roots in timber.
  • 1930s and 40s: Sim Lim first started as a timber business by Mr Soon Peng Yam in partnership with two of his brothers. The name Sim Lim in Chinese comprises a total of five character roots, all of which are the same, and mean wood. Eventually the three men split up, and Mr Soon took over Sim Lim. He died in 2002 at age 90. The timber business was expanded to one dealing in other building materials such as steel, iron and cement.
  • 1950: Sim Lim Company, which became a family business, was incorporated as Sim Lim Private Limited Company.
  • 1960s: Sim Lim Co Pte Ltd diversified its business and started to be involved in building industries and other businesses, and became Sim Lim Group of Companies.
  • 1970s: The company was badly affected by worldwide oil crisis, then recession.
  • 1980: Sim Lim Tower opened under developer Sim Lim Realty. A $30 million project, it housed 158 shops in a four-storey Electronic and Electrical City at Jalan Besar, along Sungei Road.
  • 1983: Sim Lim Tower was not enough for businessmen who wanted to set up shop, and eight of them went back to Sim Lim Realty and requested them to bid on another piece of land.
  • 1987: Sim Lim Square, a six-storey, $140 million project, opened.
  • Sim Lim suffered losses in the years to come, and was taken over by other companies. It is currently a management corporation, collectively owned by individual shop owners.
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Memories of Sim Lim
Sim Lim Square has been in the spotlight recently, with special attention on Mr Jover Chew, the owner of Mobile Air, a mobile phone shop in the building

I WALK through the mall's automated sliding doors and arrive at a big and bright atrium. Like a trained soldier ready to do battle, I pause to scan the area - sideways and upwards - to quickly work out my entry route, my game plan.

My first movement is to head for the OCBC ATM near the lifts, calculating how much cash I would need for today's transaction. No credit cards in this warzone, I remind myself. This is Sim Lim Square, after all.

I look nervously around at who's around me as the cash comes out of the machine and I remember to opt not to display my account balance on the screen. I put the money in my wallet, walk straight to the escalators and go up.

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Remembering Sim Lim Square
Sim Lim Square used to house fly-by-night shops hawking pirated software. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

I threw away two bulging bags full of games on Sunday. Down the chute went PC classics such as System Shock 2, Baldur’s Gate, and FreeSpace 2. These were seminal titles that were still in pristine condition, with each game disc nestled in individual jewel cases.

Except that none of them were the original versions. They were all pirated copies from more than a decade ago when I had more time than money.

I had bought these games at Sim Lim Square. The electronics and IT mall is back in the spotlight again recently for all the wrong reasons. But as far as I can remember, it always had an unsavoury reputation.

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Sim Lim Square, Rochor Canal Road (since 1987)

Like Funan Centre (opened since 1985), Sim Lim Square, or popularly known as SLS, is famous for it large variety of computers, handphones, cameras and other electronic gadgets. While Funan Centre is considered more upmarket and expensive, Sim Lim Square caters more for the general masses.

It has, however, an unwanted reputation of scams and high-pressured selling tactics.

Consisting of six levels and two basements of retail shops selling all sorts of electronic and computing devices, Sim Lim Square offers the customers many choices at negotiable prices and bargains. However, the well-known IT mall has been plagued by dishonest and unethical business practices of some shops in recent years. Along with Lucky Plaza at Orchard Road, Sim Lim Square has gained a notorious reputation of “carrot-chopping” (scamming) the tourists.

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Sim Lim Square
Sim Lim Square has six storeys of shops, offering mainly electronic and IT products

Sim Lim Square (Chinese: 森林商业中心), commonly referred to as SLS, is a large retail complex that offers a wide variety of electronic goods and services ranging from DVDs, cameras, phones, video cameras, and computer parts and servicing.

Located at 1 Rochor Canal Road, Singapore, SLS is opposite to historic features such as the Little India district and close to one of the earliest HDB developments. SLS is accessible via MRT at Bugis or Little India MRT stations.

The complex itself is a six level building with a range of many varied electronic supply and service shops. The centre operates away from the main shopping areas of Singapore and as such can be seen as an area for bargains to be gained with cheap and inexpensive goods. Examples of this can include phones, laptops, computer parts, cameras and other electronic devices.

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Update 17 Nov 2015: 3 years' jail sought for Sim Lim cheat Jover Chew
INFAMY: Jover Chew shot to international notoriety after allegations of his shop fleecing

PROSECUTORS called for the boss of a now-defunct electronics firm to be given a three-year jail sentence yesterday after he admitted to conning his customers.

Jover Chew Chiew Loon, 33, the "brains and architect" behind Mobile Air, pleaded guilty to 12 of 28 charges against him - including abetment by conspiracy to cheat and criminal intimidation.

On one occasion, when ordered by a Small Claims Tribunal to reimburse a customer $1,010, he gave her a bag containing $547 of the sum in coins - then dropped them on the floor of his Sim Lim Square shop and filmed her aunt picking them up.

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Police conduct raid at Mobile Air in Sim Lim Square, documents seized
Plainclothes police investigators leaving Mobile Air at Sim Lim Square with boxes and equipment. -- PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

Police raided the errant Sim Lim Square retailer, Mobile Air, on Sunday and seized documents and products from the shop.

According to Shin Min Daily News, eight plainclothes officers were at the shop for more than two hours. They left with four large boxes of documents and products. They also took with them three computer monitors, said the report.

The mobile phone shop has been under fire for the last few weeks over its unethical sales tactics. It re-opened for business on Friday, but apparently under a new owner.

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Govt looking into enhanced laws, stronger enforcement against errant retailers

The Government is looking into "enhancing our laws, strengthening the enforcement process and continuing with our engagement efforts" with regards to errant retail practices, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck on Monday (Nov 17), after meeting with Sim Lim Square's Management Council.

His meeting with 10 members of the Management Council came after they had sent a letter to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), requesting that authorities look into the problem of a handful of errant retailers at Sim Lim Square.

A press release from MTI said that during the meeting, the Management Council shared challenges they faced and reiterated their hopes that the laws could be strengthened to give such retailers harsher penalties.

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Only the signboard is different: Sim Lim Square spokesman

Mobile Air, the Sim Lim Square shop notorious for its unfair trade practices, is apparently no more.

In its place is a new mobile phone shop, which will be called HJ Mobile, said a man who identified himself as a partner in the new business.

When The New Paper visited the shop yesterday, Mobile Air's name had been removed from the space next to the shop's signboard where it used to be.

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Vietnamese tourist kowtows and begs for refund at Sim Lim Square shop
A Stomper sent in video footage showing the Vietnamese tourist kneeling down and begging for his refund at the Sim Lim Square shop making headlines recently, Mobile Air

The tourist, who earns $200 a month as a factory worker in Vietnam, was asked to pay an additional $1,500 for a warranty package on top of a payment of $950 which he had already made for an iPhone 6.

He had intended to purchase the mobile phone for his girlfriend as her birthday present.

In the video, a man, presumably the shopkeeper, is heard asking the tourist how he is "going to settle (his) money".

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Sim Lim Square shop pays $1,010 refund in coins
Miss Zhou said the staff threw the bag of coins on the floor and told her to count them on the floor

She went to the mobile phone shop in Sim Lim Square to get a refund. After all, the Small Claims Tribunal had ruled in her favour. The shop gave her the money.

The only problem was that all $1,010 of it was in coins. The consumer, who wanted to be known only as Miss Zhou, said the shop's action angered and shocked her.

She also claimed that the shop employees verbally abused and taunted her after forcing her to count the money on the floor. Some even took pictures and videos of her with the coins. She said her ordeal on Tuesday afternoon lasted about three hours.

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TODAY: Police raid former Mobile Air
AsiaOne: Police raid Sim Lim Square's Mobile Air
AsiaOne: Teo Ser Luck meets with SLS management council on errant retailers
TODAY: Teo Ser Luck, management council discuss errant retailers at SLS
CNA: Gov looking into enhanced laws,stronger enforcement against errant retailers
Straits Times: Police conduct raid at Mobile Air in SLS, documents seized
AsiaOne: Blacklisted phone shop in People's Park Complex to close
AsiaOne: Only the signboard is different: Sim Lim Square spokesman
AsiaOne: Blacklisted Sim Lim Square mobile phone shop reopens
AsiaOne: Memories of Sim Lim

tnp: Sim Lim Square shop refunds woman $1,010 in coins
mothership: Coin-giving Sim Lim shop has tourist begging on his knees Case investigates Sim Lim mobile shop which paid in coins
yahoo: CASE investigates Sim Lim shop which refunded customer
stomp: Watch how Mobile Air shopkeepers in Sim Lim made
singaporeseen: Sim Lim Square mobile shop owner can't
asiaone; Tourist kneels and begs tearfully for refund at Sim Lim
Channel News Asia: Sim Lim Square store's practices draw furious response
AsiaOne: MPs call for stiffer laws to tackle errant retailers
TODAYonline: Are phone warranties that shops sell allowed, valid?
TODAYonline: Place warning signs in front of Sim Lim's errant shops
AsiaOne: Errant retailers' tactics equivalent to daylight robbery
Online Citizen: Sim Lim Management says less than 2% of shops are black sheeps
Straits Times: Sim Lim managers say current laws do not give enough control
CNA: Errant retailers' tactic: Pile on costs after payment made, says CASE
TODAYonline: Only 10 black sheep out of 500 retailers: Sim Lim management
CNA: Only 10 black sheep out of almost 500 retailers: Sim Lim management
CNA: Still keen on shopping at Sim Lim? 1 retailer offers consumers tips
inSing: Chinese embassy issues warning about Singapore to shoppers
Straits Times: Exercise your rights against errant shops, shoppers told by Case
AsiaOne: Sales assistants working for errant shops can earn '$10000 to $20000'
Channel News Asia: Sim Lim case: Citizen action may be against the law
Asia1: Buyers should be savvy too, says Case
Asia1: Sales assistants working for Sim Lim's errant shops can earn up to $20000
AsiaOne: Mall gets 2 to 3 complaints daily
Tech in Asia: Don't get scammed: best places to buy mobile, gadgets & computers
TODAYonline: Place large signs near lifts, escalators to warn consumers
TODAYonline: STB 'ready to help' Vietnam tourist
TODAYonline: Help other victims of Sim Lim Square cons
Straits Times: Mobile Air boss Jover Chew gets chewed online for bullying tourist
Straits Times: Too easy for errant retailers to do business
Straits Times: Why is Sim Lim shop still in business?
Straits Times: Get tough on rogue Sim Lim retailers
Straits Times: MOM Minister says laws may be reviewed to better protect consumers
Daily Mail: Singaporeans aid Vietnam tourist victim of phone scam
ChannelNewsAsia: Crowdfunding organiser wants to get in touch with Vietnam tourist
Straits Times: Indiegogo fundraiser wants to sponsor trip for Vietnam tourist bullied
TODAYonline: Sim Lim: Manpower minister Tan Chuan-Jin shocked by behaviour
ChannelNewsAsia: STB reach out to Vietnam tourist who lost hundreds to Mobile Air
AsiaOne: Vietnam tourist scammed in Sim Lim Sq may receive all-expenses paid
Straits Times: The Straits Times' News In A Minute: Nov 6, 2014
AsiaOne: Things to know about Singapore's Consumer Protection Act
Straits Times: Remembering Sim Lim Square
AsiaOne: China warns citizens beware fraud when shopping electronics in S'pore
AsiaOne: Ex-employee reveals dubious tactics used at Sim Lim Square shop
Straits Times: China & Vietnam tourists warned to be careful when buying electronics
TODAYonline: Chinese Foreign Ministry posts advisory on buying electronic in Spore
AsiaOne: Sim Lim Square shop owner's particulars used to order pizza in prank
The Online Citizen: Recalcitrant retailers – spotlight falls on CASE
ChannelNewsAsia: Chinese embassy urges caution when buying electronic in Spore
Straits Times: Netizens expose details of Sim Lim Sq mobile shop owner who bullied
Straits Times: Over $12000 raised for Vietnam tourist allegedly scammed in Sim Lim
Straits Times: Vietnam tourist in Sim Lim Sq incident says he's not accepting any more
AsiaOne: Sim Lim store owner laughs as tourist begs for iPhone refund
The Online Citizen: The economics behind Sim Lim scams
Tuoitrenews: Breaking news
AsiaOne: Thousands raised to aid tourist in iPhone scam
AsiaOne: More needed to police black sheep
AsiaOne: Over $12700 raised for Vietnamese tourist scammed in Sim Lim Square
ChannelNewsAsia: Sim Lim store's practices draw furious response from the public
Yahoo: Sim Lim Sq Scammed Vietnamese Tourist Says: “I Will Not Accept Anymore
Malaysia Chronicle: SHAME HSIEN LOONG! China warns citizens beware of fraud
Malaysia Chronicle: Ex-employee leaks video of staff SCAMMING another tourist
Malaysia Chronicle: Bully shop owner's DISGUSTING habits exposed to shame him
Yahoo: China warns tourists to be careful when buying electronics in Singapore
Malay Mail: Sporeans raise thousands to help Vietnam tourist victim of phone scam
Thanh Nien: Spore targets scam shops after humiliation of Vietnam factory worker
inSing: Online drive to buy iPhone for tourist in Sim Lim Square saga
TODAY: Netizens expose personal data of Sim Lim Square mobile shop owner
TODAY: Outraged Singaporeans rally against Sim Lim retailer Mobile Air
malaysiandigest: Well Done, Kind Souls Come Forward To Help Vietnamese
ChannelNewsAsia: Should reputation count in granting renewal of a lease? Sim Lim
malaysiandigest: Vietnam Tourist Tearfully Begs For iPhone Refund @ Mobile Shop
Malaysia Chronicle: Student weeps after being charged $ 1K for iPhone warranty
Channel News Asia: Mobile Air attracts more complaints, sparks online campaigns
Straits Times: Donation drive raises >$3000 for Vietnam tourist who kneels & begs
AsiaOne: Video shows Vietnamese man kneeling and begging in Sim Lim shop
Straits Times: Man who took part in fight at Sim Lim Square fined $5000
Straits Times: Another incident: Student reduced to tears being charged $1000
GlobalPost: Netizens donate funds to help scammed Vietnamese tourist in Spore
Financialbuzz: Sim Lim Square Scams and Social Media Vengeance
AsiaOne: Sim Lim Square retailers speak up against bad reputation
Straits Times: Vietnam tourist kneels and begs for refund of iPhone 6 at Sim Lim
Straits Times: Sim Lim Square gets 2 to 3 complaints daily: Management
Tuoitrenews: Sporean raises fund to support Vietnam victim cheated by local store
New Paper: Sporean raises >$7500 through crowdfunding to help Vietnam tourist
Yahoo: Sporeans Show They Give A Damn About Unjust Sim Lim Square Scam
inSing: Sim Lim Square's Mobile Air slapped with warning
Techgoondu: Commentary: black sheep give Sim Lim Square a bad name
New Paper: Man fined $5000 after he & 4 others hurt alleged shoplifter at Sim Lim
Yahoo: Vietnamese tourist left in tears after begging for refund at Sim Lim shop

Remembering Sim Lim Square 森林商业中心
Errant Retailers and Rogue Traders
Paying & Being Paid in Coins