Happier times, queueing up for iPad Air outside iStudio, before iStudio hit us with a scam.
I had queued up for the first and second iPad launches at iStudio Paragon, due to a general dislike of the Epicentre stores run by Jimmy Fong. Long-time Mac users should share the same dislike due to the various inelegant sales tactics being employed by Epicentre (formally AppleCentre Orchard) for the last two decades. Back then, iStudio was just a decent alternative Apple Premium Reseller, and did nothing out of the ordinary. For the iPad 1 and iPad 2 launches, I queued up, went in when the store opened, purchased my iPads and cases/Smart Covers, left.
So when it came time for me to buy my iPad Air this year, the choice was obvious – iStudio Paragon will be my location of choice once again.
I had reached the store around 8:45am, having checked iStudio’s Facebook page the night before for the launch timing (at 10am). There were no notices being posted about the iPad sales other than the launch timing being 10am.
There was no queue at 8:45am.
It was pretty strange considering that Epicentre Ion already had more than 30 people in the queue by that time.
I was thus first in line.
Some of the others came around 9am and later and all of us waited patiently for the launch, excited at being able to soon hold our own iPad Airs.
The iStudio staff were already in store since before 8:45am, and while some of them kept walking in and out of the store, none of them bothered to communicate with us. Which was fine with us, as we recognise that sales people these days are just plain expressionless or even borderline rude.
When the shutters lifted, we went straight in to the cashier and placed our orders.
Then it hit us.
The lady sales person at the cashier said, “our iPads are only sold as a bundle with a screen protector for an additional $39. Do you want the matte or glossy screen protector?”
We didn’t understand the first time, and thus wanted the lady to explain.
iStudio is refusing to sell the iPad Airs without an additional purchase of a no-brand screen protector for $39.
These are the no-brand screen protectors that they are forcing everyone to buy. The photos are taken at another retail store. They are priced at $24.90, more than ten dollars lower than what iStudio wanted to charge everyone for.
We argued, and everyone else in the queue agreed that this is a scam and started making a scene. After which the white-collar middle aged uncles and aunties proceeded to buy them anyway, after iStudio told them “this is our company policy, you can either purchase them or leave”. Typical older Singaporeans, giving in to higher powers’ request for money even if they know it’s unreasonable and wrong.
Eventually some of the younger guys left the store empty handed, but the result was that iStudio got away with what they were doing.
I went and reasoned with the staff in the store, and in the process that found out that iStudio had started this scammish policy a year or so ago, and this scammish policy only takes place during every single Apple product launch.
Apparently, during every product launch, there have always been confrontations between the iStudio staff and customers due to the exact same scammish tactic.
iStudio staff apparently have already repeatedly feedbacked to higher management, but the execs at Elush Retail, the owners of the iStudio chain, refused to budge on their scammish tactics.
My attempts to contact Apple Singapore’s people and related reseller/distribution people regarding this matter basically returned one answer; Apple Singapore does not give a damn how their Premium Resellers sell their iPads, so long they order large quantities of iPads from Apple.
I have always known Apple Singapore’s marketing and sales people to be pretty scum-my in the past, but apparently it got way worse these days. This is exactly why I gave up trying to enter the company.
Now, you may want to argue that what iStudio is doing is just normal business tactics, but I will argue otherwise.
What really made them cross the fine line between overly pushy sales tactic and outright scam was their strong intention to deceive.
1. There was no mention of having the iPad Airs only being sold as bundles on their websites or their Facebook page. The only post prior to the launch was the announcement that there the opening hours are at 10am for the iPad Air launch.
2. We have been queueing up outside the store since 8:45am, and the staff in iStudio had been entering and leaving the store repeatedly. If they even had any thought of informing the crowd that they are only selling the iPad Airs as bundles with lousy screen protectors, shouldn’t they have told us way before launch hour? We were just outside the store ALL THE TIME.
3. After we were told that we have to purchase the bundle, we asked the staff why were we not told before hand, and the lady sales person’s reply was “Well we just open the store mah, so only now we are telling you that you need to buy the screen protector with the iPad Air lor. If not we won’t sell you the iPad Air. We don’t need to tell you earlier.”
iStudio, you are downright disgusting. In so many more ways than Epicentre ever will be.
And Apple Singapore, you are just fucked up. Why the heck do you think so many of the talented channel sales people are leaving the industry? Go screw yourself if you are totally letting such scams happen right on your supervision.
And people, avoid iStudio if you can. (which I believe many has already been doing, since all the iStudio branches are always dead empty 24/7)
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