Where NOT to buy a Mac from in Singapore

Singapore Mac users, let me pose a question to you.

Where did you buy your last Mac?

In recent years, due to the sudden increase of the popularity of Macs, many local computer and consumer electronics chain jumped on board the Apple bandwagon and became Apple resellers.

Which spiked a lot of comments of the non-Mac people and casual consumers to say “Wah. Apple opening more Apple Stores in Singapore leh. Cool”.

They probably never thought that they could not be more wrong.

Apple don’t have a single Apple Store in Singapore. More new Apple resellers are just opening up. And this might not be such a good thing after all.

Let me explain, with my limited knowledge of Apple reseller policy from working with various resellers and Apple Singapore, how the retail side of things work.

Before I start though, forget the Apple Online Store. The Apple Online Store is really Apple. And is probably the only place you should buy from if you want protection from sudden changes in line-up.

For example, if you buy a MacBook today, and a new one comes out tomorrow, you are stuck with the old one if you buy it from a retail store in Singapore. That includes buying it from Universities, if Sapura still has not changed their policy. If you buy it from the Apple Online Store though, you can ask for an exchange. Therefore, the much safer purchase route.

Okay back to retail. There are basically two types of retail resellers, the normal reseller and the Apple Premium Reseller(APR). The former, well, no exact rules to buying and selling. The latter though, have to follow a strict policy of how to sell their Macs. Their stores’ design and display have to be advised and checked by Apple Singapore, and the inventory they carry have to follow strict rules as well, such as having no competitors’ computers.

Resellers don’t have to be strictly APR though. For example, Pacific City has a branch in IMM Singapore that is APR, having the Apple Store concept and design, with no Acer computers in the same store, but for their other stores in eg. Marina Square and Plaza Singapore, they are non-APR and Pacific City could carry Acers in them. And since the non-APR stores don’t have to follow Apple’s rules, they could place whatever they like in the display, even if it’s not the current lineup.

Which brings us back to the problem that prompted me to write this post in the first place. While in the olden days (just 3 or 4 years ago really, not THAT old), even the old non-APR resellers(like SGL Marketing, an old-time MUGS favourite vendor, or Pacific City, who occasionally broke the rule and tried to sell old stock a day after the new ones are released) will be nice enough not to openly display old models without specifically stating that they are for clearance, these days I see a lot of new non-APR resellers doing exactly the opposite.

For example, I saw certain non-APR resellers (but fashioned their stores to look very very APR-like with white furniture and green t-shirts) displaying, in the following order, their MacBooks. MacBook White, MacBook Unibody, MacBook Pro OLD, MacBook Black, MacBook Pro Unibody, with nothing to differentiate between the old lines and the new lines. I suspect that, unless you say specifically, no one is going to tell you the difference.

What is wrong with this?

The problem here is that, a casual non-Apple-fan consumer might decide to buy a present for a relative, walks into a Song Brothers store(of Sim Lim Square “fame”), looks at the MacBook range, and decided to buy a MacBook Black thinking that it’s not really that different from other MacBooks. Note that, here I am assuming the staff who served the consumer is nasty and did not warn the consumer that it is old stock and not the latest range when buying. Note again, however, that resellers have a higher priority to sell off their old stock since Apple will never take it back, and might give their promoters more incentive to sell off old stock. So the consumer buys the MacBook Black, gives it to the relative only to have the relative complain that it is not the latest MacBook Unibody and that the consumer did not even buy the MacBook Black at refurbished prices (maybe cheaper than it used to be, but not as cheap as refurbished ones), causing unhappiness.

And then, because the consumer have no knowledge that it’s really the reseller and not Apple, blames Apple for selling old stock openly.

Some may argue that the resellers have to sell off their old stock. Can’t the resellers be nice enough to place them away from the latest range and put a big tag “For clearance! Good discounts!” on them?

Maybe they can’t. Sometimes when the line refreshes prices drop, and since the resellers are making marginal profits (Apple sells the systems to reseller at near MSRP), they can’t knock that much off the price.

It seems that Apple is being terrible to their resellers here, as Apple won’t take back old stock, but do you hear iShop, Multimedia Integrated, and Epicenter complaining? (They do grumble, but not openly) You don’t. Cause local resellers make their profits by marking up the prices of cheap accessories.

In the end, the resellers themselves chose to become resellers, so they can’t complain. But consumers do have a choice of not buying from these formerly long-time Sim Lim Square mindset-based Apple resellers, that offers the Sim Lim Square buying experience instead of one that is Apple-crafted.

  • Jerome Chan

    Never buy a Mac before MacWorld. 😛

  • ryuworks

    True true, but there won't be a Macworld with Apple announcements anymore. Besides, don't expect a normal consumer to even hear of Macworld.

  • Hey Ryu, great story! Kudos for going in-depth!

  • ryuworks

    LOL Thanks! It's not as in-depth as I will really like it to be, but I rather keep this length.

  • Gary

    Same with your megastores in Singapore, the iPod they sell are not the latest. One funny case I encountered was that, the sales person being kind, recommended the new one to the aunty (because the old iPod was on display), it was cheaper, greater capacity, etc etc and yet the aunty accused the sales person of trying to cheat her… funny case.

  • John Read

    Letter from John Read
    I had recently gone to an Apple concept store – a major Authorised Apple reseller in Toa Payoh — where I purchased a charger for my phone that was recommended to me by the store manager.
    On Monday, the adaptor blew up. The explosion produced a one-foot high flame behind my LCD screen and went 'bang' as the pressure wave pushed outwards. The ensuing power surge blew the power supply to 16 work stations in my at Suntec City. This event caused 16 of my colleagues to lose one hour of work while the IT Manager called our Contractor and arranged for him to reset power to the affected workstations.
    What a dramatic and frightening experience — I was typing an email when it happened. My iPhone was connected to the adaptor when the blast happened.
    When I took the burnt adaptor back to the store on my way home that evening, the manager smelt it and crinkled her nose at the smell.
    She shrieked “Oh yes!”. Several things she said after that initial confirmation though, surprised me.
    She said no adaptor had ever blown up before and asked me how many adaptors I had connected to the socket.
    I was quite surprised that she would ask me this but she was clearly proving she didn’t really understand what she was saying technically, since it wasn’t the powerboard I was showing her but the iPhone adaptor she had sold me.
    I replied that this was the only piece plugged into the socket. She replied, “So you say”, questioning my integrity. I suggested I would be happy to bring 10 colleagues from the office to attest to this fact if she would like me to do so.
    But she was still “confused' although this fact was not relevant. The item that caught fire was her adaptor — as her nose had told her.
    The adaptor she had sold me was China-made, and well stocked in all Apple reseller stores.
    Back to the store manager….she rolled her eyes and told me that since she hadn’t been in this kind of situation before, she would take my report to her and the damaged item ‘on advice’ –questioning my integrity again. She said to me she has used the same adaptor fault-free for six months, and asked me would I like another one as replacement? So I could do this again? Mmmmmm.
    When I suggested that I wouldn’t use another one and perhaps she may have to reconsider stocking and selling them, she said she didn’t know what to do next.
    So now I had to tell her what to do about my complaint – suddenly I am working for her? I told her she needed to report this to her management. I suggested she needed to write an incident report. I explained that the Fire Safety Bureau could potentially be involved from a product safety point of view and they may have cause to do a product recall.
    Her eyes rolled once more.
    I was rather unhappy by this stage and turned on my heels to leave having left my contact details saying I was not there to do her job. I hope Apple Singapore can do this. I’d hate to see it turn pear-shaped.

  • ryuworks

    Which reseller was it?

    Non-official products that are not of the better-named brands are usually not 100% trustworthy. Despite what the shop might tell you, it is obviously not the stand of Apple.

    There is a reason why the Applecenter project was totally cancelled (the resellers were deemed as being unworthy of the “Apple” word.

    Always take advice with a pinch of salt.

    By the way, there isn't a long-term Apple Premium Reseller in Toa Payoh, from what I know. It might be a newcomer to the local Apple reseller scene.

  • hadi

    So where can mac lovers buy their macs? iShop? Epicenter? iStudio?

  • masaccio

    My first personal computer(late 80's) is a Mac, though i'm a user of both platforms(Mac & Win). I've bought several Macs over a 20yr period and I do agree buying notebooks(Win/Mac) from retailers can result in disputes over new/old models that look identical.

    Be it purchasing a Windows Notebook or Macbooks, consumers should, or @least try to know a little specification of the computers they're buying via manufacturers' websites. It is even simpler when it comes to Apple's Mac, as its product lines are well documented.

    I've ceased buying from retail stores, despite premium or non-premium resellers. As each consumer's experience with resellers are different, in terms of the number or times they actually return and buy from the same retailer.

    My experience tells me, premium resellers don't always mean better service, but definately not sell customers previous models as current models. Usually disputes are over warranty services, and in my case, i do not patronize Epicentre (Supra) for new purchases or warranty services. It may not be known to many mac users, but local (sg) Apple Service centre's pricing do varies. Epicentre's Supra is one of the most expensive, and not necessary provides best retailing or servicing experience.

  • masaccio

    John Read's experience in general was pretty similar to mine. I had 3 experience of such in Singapore but of course, nothing close to an exploded adaptor. Mine was mainly Macbooks issues.

    Apple-resellers refusal to handle manufacturing-defect product is shutting its doors to any returning customer. Honestly, out of frustrations, i did suspect probably the retailers did not handle or store their stock in appropriate manner and doesn't wanna deal with their mistakes. Since it was sold, they can excuse themselves from it.

    Pretty much explained my preference to purchase directly from AppleSg Online. I had purchased 2 CTO Macbook Pros, 1 MacPro, 1 iPod Touch and a HP WiFi Printer via AppleOnline.

    AppleSg Online has not disappoint me in these 3yrs of transactions. My orders were delivered on time, MacPro(2days), Macbook Pro (2days), CTO Macbook Pro(5days), iPod Touch2G (1day), iPhone & iPod accessories (1day), HP Printer (2days). My most recent orders were in July 2009 and all orders were shipped in perfect condition, i'm surprised that my CTO Macbook Pro's parcel-box, though shipped from Apple's Shanghai manufacturing plant, came in looking as though they just packed it, meaning dust-free and no dent.

    It is addictive buying online especially with Apple Singapore when delivery is fast, just avoid crossing over the weekend(Sat & Sun) when u place your orders, as those were their non-business days and they do not deliver on those 2days. Place orders in the morning, u'll expect a confirmation email promptly on EXACT delivery-date or though u're given an estimated date of delivery after u've checked out 'ur purchases online which probably dates 1 week or so later. Email dates are confirmed and tracking details will be given to track your shipment with TNT or DHL.

  • masaccio

    And additional to all that, discounts were sometimes given via Apple Singapore Online store. Like Printer-rebates of S$199 which i've gotta when i purchased my CTO Macbook Pro in July 2009. HP Premium Photo AIO Fax Printer originally cost S$469, i paid S$270 purchasing via AppleOnline Sg.

    iPhone3GS Power-Support Crystal Screen Protector(2 films) just cost S$25 via Apple Online, $35 if purchased from all Apple Reseller, $20 (anti-glare only) if purchased from a shop in Far-East Plaza. But i don't want an anti-glare PowerSupport version. It was delivered on the next day(Tues) morning after i placed an order on Monday morning.

  • masaccio

    iShop has ceased being an Apple Reseller for Mac computers end of June 2009.

  • Eric Lim

    I've just moved to Malaysia / Singapore from London. Perhaps I've been a little spoiled by the UK online shopping experience, the much-better stocked iTunes store, the London Regent Street Apple Store, and the Brent Cross Apple Store (which was only 15 minutes away from me :p).

    However, I was really surprised there was no official bricks and mortar Apple Store in Singapore. I would have thought Singapore would have been able to sustain at least one such store. The online experience seemed to be generally good though, although they failed to ship Snow Leopard to arrive on the 28th. Still, they did give warning to me that it might not arrive on either Friday or Saturday so fair enough.

    Hoping the quality of Apple retailing here will improve.

  • masaccio

    Hi Eric,
    I'm getting the Snow Leopard too, since i'm entitled to purchase it @S$18 via the Up-to-date program.

    Just curious about it, are u gonna upgrade your current OSX the moment u get your hands on it? Or would u prefer to wait awhile?

  • Eric Lim

    Hi Masaccio

    I bought a copy and upgraded one of my Macs to SL but left one Mac on normal Leopard. Having done that, I don't think there is a huge difference in practice between the two for most people. Sure, there are some speed ups, but as far as I can tell, the biggest difference would be if you are someone who:

    1) Wants MS Exchange 2007 support, or
    2) Uses Xcode 3.2 – this is a big improvement over 3.1.3 imo, and has the Clang static analyzer built in, vastly improved compile times and much better code optimization, together with a revised help system, block / GCD and openCL support

    If one of the apps or perhaps a piece of hardware you use regularly isn't SL compatible so far, maybe it would be best to wait. Check out the compatibility list at http://snowleopard.wikidot.com.

    I found the vast majority of the stuff I use is SL compatible actually. The only thing which is preventing me from upgrading the other Mac to SL is that World of Warcraft has a small issue where Expose and Spaces don't work properly :p I will wait until Blizzard fixes that before I upgrade my second Mac.

    Hope that helps,


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