Singapore Adventure

Thursday, August 04, 2005

by venitha

In celebration of finally finding area rugs for our apartment, I'm taking the week off from shopping. It's a truly shocking thing to do here, but, trust me, this hiatus comes not a moment too soon. Certain aspects of Singapore's shopping scene are definitely starting to rankle.

  • Hours. Stores are never open early enough for me, and posted opening times, usually 10:30 or 11, are more a suggestion than a rule, especially if it's raining, which is exactly when I wouldn't mind whiling away endless hours inside a shop, cozily browsing while a monsoon rages outside.

  • Service. A combination of poor service in general (people bitch about this in letters to the editor of the Straits Times all the time, so I know it's not just me) and my obvious expat status mean that I regularly am determinedly ignored by salesclerks. I get all of them to myself at the horrendously early hour of 10:30am, but when I look around for someone to ask for assistance, I am Invisible Woman. I only know about her from this enormous statue on Orchard Road, which, astonishingly, I can see. Apparently, I've shopped for superpowers: invisibility, super-sight, and don't forget my super-hearing. I can clearly make out salesclerks' mumbled prayers: Please God/Buddha/Ganesh/Krishna/Allah, save me from the ang moh.

  • Organization. Or I should say lack of it. I'm willing to concede that there is likely some system in practice here that I just don't understand, but jumpropes at the stationery store? How can that possibly make sense? And I don't even want a jumprope! Obviously, I have to add the fact that my mind is now crammed to overflowing with just this sort of trivial shopping information to my list of excuses for my inability to distinguish left from right.

  • Plastic bags. 27 plastic bags per person per day. Astonishing, no? I didn't believe this statistic over a month ago when I first saw it, but now I do. Vendors everywhere are nuts with the plastic bags. Apparently, every little item must be sheltered snugly in its very own waterproof, roomy, and brand new abode. I'm beginning to suspect that Minister Mentor Lee has vast holdings in plastic bag manufacturing companies. If only he would sell this stock and invest in chocolate...

  • The look. If something is going to drive me to salesclerk-icide, this is it. The oh-so-subtle head-to-toe-and-back-to-head check-your-body-out glance followed by the skeptical that'll-never-fit-you-but-you-can-try-it-on-if-you-like shrug, combined with a catty smile and excessive blinking. This look and the bad 80s music blaring in most clothing stores is saving me wads of cash.