Avoid Buying Apple Products from iStudio (iScam Studio)


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)

Want to share about your experiences with iStudio and other scammish resellers? Join MacNet at sgmac.net today!

  • AnnKenny Low

    Hello MacRyu, my experience with istudio has been very good. Your email is very supportive of Epicentre and you are also very deliberate with all the photos you have taken. Are you real? FYI, do you know Epicentre lost more than S$5 millions dollar last year as a listed company and they are in debt of more than S$6 millions. As a listed company they have an obligation to shareholders but just looked their share prices. It is now not worth much yet the CEO and other directors are getting paid millions. This is the true scam. Why don’t you research more before ranting off with what is obviously a scam yourself. How can a Epicentre rip off so many shareholders yet the CEO himself spent shareholders’ fund on country club, car, driver, etc. You will do yourself justice by finding out more about the unacceptable corporate and public practices of Epicentre as a public company. Lastly, you have a choice as a consumer to make or not make the purchase. No one is forcing you to make the purchase a iStudio. Supermarkets and Courts do all sort of product packaging all the times. If you have a genuine complaint, then go to Case. Go the Epicentre and asked why they are ripping off the public…that is a fact..go do your research

  • Supportive of Epicenter? Did you read the first paragraph “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.”

  • Saint

    I am not supportive with any APRs, almost all are just as bad. Ever notice that at every product launch, there will be exporters jumping queue to sweep away large quantity of iPads and leaving all lovely Mac supporters who have queued for the longest hours look like fools. These is how APRs in SG hit quota and get rebates from Apple Singapore, and normal consumers have to wait longet or go buy from scamming Far Exxt Plaxa or accept funny bundled deals. Go try buying iPhones/iPads from Changi Airport Duty Free from you know who, and once again you will be asked to purchase their “special priced” screen shield or cover as hard bundled to the products.

  • The Changi Airport Duty Free stores are iStudio branches.

  • Annkenny Loww

    Yo Lester, you disliked everything bat APR, you complained always, you used 4-letter words openly and in public. Man you are sick to the core. Your blog is a bluff and you lied about what you claimed. I think people liked you who are vulgar and immature should stay off the net

  • As Lester as pointed out, I hate Epicentre. I just think that what iStudio is doing here is worse.

    Definitely not supportive of Epicentre in any way.

  • WTF? It is not even my blog! Do you even search or read before commenting?

  • LOL. The fellow went crazy I think.

  • By four letter words do you mean “scum” and “scam”?

    For Apple Singapore, I tried to think of another word but I guessed the best description I had was “fucked up”. Or maybe “screwed up” works as well.

    As for me getting off the net, I’m sure the MDA will want that. I’m pretty sure if they can, they will shut down all non-Mediacorp sites.

    This is why Anonymous needs to take action.

  • Tammy

    i support consumer rights on fighting against any idiotic scams that lowers our intelligence as customers armed with rights knowing all this shiat is just some taktik to earn more moolah!!!!!

  • AppleRule

    very curios question as at the end of the day, did you get your iPad Air at iStudio

  • My own personal one? Nope. I will never be duped into buying lousy screen protectors as a bundle with my iPads. I only insist on using name-brand screen protectors like Power Support or Spigen ones. I had a friend working at Harvey Norman reserve a set for me after I know

    Full disclosure – I did however, managed to convince iStudio Paragon’s manager to sell me two sets for my friends without the screen protectors by telling him that I will buy two Apple Smart Covers (which makes iStudio only a very very small amount of profit, compared to the insane profit from the lousy screen protectors), which were items that my friends wanted to purchase right from the start, after a very, very, long discussion. Which reiterates my point that the iStudio staff were not responsible for the scamming, it was the execs at Elush Retail. I did not mention this in my post for the simple fact that there was a chance it might get the relatively friendly store manager at iStudio Paragon into trouble with his superiors.

    No one should be subjected to any form of forced bundling of crap with their Apple product purchase.

    We know that. I bet most of the staff at iStudio know that. But somehow the execs at Elush Retail fail to comprehend such a simple fact – you may be able to cheat the customer once, but they are never coming back again.

  • Sethisfy

    Kinda apparent this guy is affiliated with iStudio.

  • Might be, I was prepared for backlash anyway. But so many people have ran into the same situation with them that it warrants a proper post to inform others.

  • Ivy

    This is sad. Have you made a complaint directly to Apple yet? I can’t imagine Apple condoning something like this…

  • An Apple Singapore engineer himself told me in a PM there’s nothing they can do about this. Various other sources confirmed that Apple Singapore’s Retail department gave iStudio the thumbs up to go ahead.

  • anti-Apple

    You silly Apple fanboys. Can’t you see how Apple is treating you? Like how the PAP government is treating you! You deserve this kind of treatment from Apple! Eat it!

  • Sethisfy

    iStudio is being despicable but I think Apple Singapore is really at fault for allowing its “premium resellers” to get away with such nonsense. They also allowed them to sell iPhones at above RRP.

    Have you escalated such matters to Apple US?

  • I am not that high and mighty. I don’t know anyone from Apple Inc that has direct access to someone who can make the required changes.

    I do know way too many Apple suppliers based in the US though. LOL.

  • The only thing I could probably do is email Tim Cook? I bet Apple Singapore has his blessings though. He came down last year to give the peeps at Apple Singapore a closed-door briefing.

  • While it’s tempting to just block you, I will like to assure you that real, Apple-run stores provide the absolute retail experience, where the customer is not just king, but actually treated like one.

    Trillion times better than how so many of the Ah Bengs at all the Samsung shops treat me every time I go in and ask them questions about Samsung phones.

  • Sethisfy

    Get a grip.

  • Christine

    Guess you should have stick with ordering from Apple Online, delivers within 24 hours anyway, what’s the hurry? hehe

  • Christine

    sorry, my bad, it’s ships within 24 hours only… perhaps receiving it today wasn’t so bad either? oh well, everyone’s still hoping Apple will open a store themselves here.

  • Yes! One should always try to get their Apple staff from the Apple Online Store if possible. It should delivery the next day.

    Only problem with the launch last Friday was that people who ordered at 12am Friday morning were all reporting delivery dates on the 5th Nov, which is tomorrow. And I didn’t want to wait that long.

  • Yah… Current day orders will be delivered the next working day.

    Too bad we have way too many Apple resellers to negate the necessities for an Apple Store (that seems to be the reason for cancelling Apple Store Singapore plans)

  • Number nine

    Apple stores in SG are just full of crap. I queued for the iPad air at epicentre @ 313somerset at 4am only to be told that they only have the WIFI version available there. What fuck !?!?

  • Linus Chew 伟伟

    if they wanna be fools to be played by the retailers… nobody can help them. Certainly not by blogging and complaining abt it.. LOL You think Apple SG gives a shit abt these small fries of individual customers? They prolly more worried abt how to hit their sales targets of those glory days b4 Samsung, Nexus and Android was prominent. Actually I’m quite sure its illegal to misrepresent by bait and switch tactic w/time investment element (the queuing up) that iStudio is employing. No doubt, they did not explicitly advertise tat packaged deal, it still is implied that they will launch on that day the ipad air w/o those screen protectors.

  • Andy Heah

    This sort of bundling tactics are unheard of in the Apple retail stores elsewhere. The ones in Australia have given me a positive experience so far and rate as the better standard bearers of service Downunder.

    Perhaps Apple users in Singapore will do well to lobby for their Apple retail store, contacting Tim Cook to share their dismal experiences with local APR.

    Apple doesn’t see too kindly if their customers are pissed off with APRs, they have been famous for cannibalising them in every city they set upon.

  • Zhou Wei Xian

    this are problem for the riches …………………… we average folks got no qualms with the place …………..

  • Ivy

    That’s so sad, man.

  • Ed

    so far… among all the outlets. Nubox at nex outlet still has the best service!

  • annkenny’s mother

    you are a joke annkenny loww…GO HOME and Drink my breast milk

  • Kairyu

    Just curious…what inelegant sales tactics by Epicentre are you talking about? Is it comparable to the crazy tactics by those shops in Sim Lim Square or Lucky Plaza?? For what I have been reading, it’s just an additional screen protector worth $39? Not as if the price of the iPads had been marked up like those prices in SLS or LP…those are really the scams…

  • twirlywirly

    Hi there
    you’re not alone. but my mine was on customer service. the stuff at paragon was very condescending even when i purchased more than 1k stuff in cash. I even offered to walk from orchard central outlet to paragon because they didn’t have stock. through the whole process of purchasing i had eyes rolled at and scoffed.

    i asked if there was a new iPad coming up. they didn’t want to answer me too.

  • apuonbus

    Last year I bought an iPhone 5 from iStudio at Changi airport, partly because I was working, and it was just before Christmas. The price “without GST” was infact more than the iPhone sells outside with GST.

    I too wanted to complain to apple, but they didn’t care

  • Charleston

    I ordered on 1st Nov and I got it today. What’s the hurry?

  • hub_bo

    agree!
    the ones in Australia are really awesome!
    Shame that they are not opening in SG 🙁

  • Carl

    This sales tactic is disgraceful. It is blatant profiteering and should be seen for just that. I had the same thing happen with them a previous product. I am banned from their Facebook page for taking issue with them on Facebook. I have also written to Apple in California about it with (unsurprisingly) no response. I’m sure it contravenes their reseller agreement – if it doesn’t it should.

  • KGNTSTNY

    & i thought only Sim Lim & Lucky Plaza have such scams…

  • KGNTSTNY

    Change their to iScam. Sounds better.

  • Eujiboo

    Sorry but you’re kinda bullshit . It’s obvious that you’re standing up for the company .
    Firstly , it IS an opinion from a customer . He has supported the store for the first two launches and suddenly this happens , I think it’s pretty legit he feels pissed about it . You need to stop being such an ass , if you say no one is forcing him to buy , then no one is forcing you to believe this article as well .
    Also , how young can you get ? 4-letter word ? ‘Scum’ isn’t vulgar . If you think people aren’t allowed to say things like ‘FUCK’ , maybe you should fuck off from being on the internet .
    I don’t shop at iStudio , I am not a fan of Apple , but I do own an iPad 2 , so I can , to a point , understand what MacRyu is putting across . Apple wants to make money , and if you call their hotline you’d know how rude and asshole they sound .

  • According to some chatter I just heard in the last 24 hours, one might be opening up after all. Will post more if I can verify the info

  • cscs1956

    Going away from Apple and all the problems will be solved. As they don’t even need iStudio or Epicentre!

  • jack

    how about stop using apple product? i have been pissed by epic store and i switch to android….

  • al0haall0y

    If you r not happy with an outlet dun buy simple. Make a big fuzz doesnt solve anything. Is their company they can choose to sell any product at any price they want, they are not scamming anyone those middle age white collar knew the price hike yet they buy is their choice

  • 86123maxxi

    No need to bring the PAP into this, whoever you are. Kindly keep politics away from our hobbies 🙂 Politics can ruin friendships as I personally experienced due to the fact that I am not a supporter of the opposition parties.

  • kongwee

    I don’t see why the queue. I can buy online.

  • Nik

    I have to agree that Apple Singapore customer service is quite screwed. If in need, call the U.S helpline. Singapore branch hires foreigners as tech support who can’t even speak decent english and do not even know the products well. I order products directly from the U.S Apple Store. None from any so called ‘Premium Resellers’ in SG. If only Apple opens a proper retail store here. It will greatly affect the business of those APR.

  • Jerry

    I think iStudio as a Premium Reseller should not be allowed by Apple Singapore to operate this way. I was forced to buy the screen protector, and I didn’t even need it because of Gorilla Glass. iStudio needs to be penalized and allow the customers to refund the unused screen protector.


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MacRyu is the Mac Blog by Singaporeans and for Singaporeans. It was started in April 2007 as a side project of the then President of the Official Mac User Group of NUS, Ryu, and grew to become possibly one of the most popular Apple-related sites based in Singapore. MacRyu hopes to provide you with more Mac-related info, thoughts and stuff, from the Singaporean perspective.

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