Singapore Shopping – The Remora Effect

Any, and yes I really mean ANY, magazine, tour book, guide, newspaper, and especially the touristy maps will identify Singapore as a shopping mecca. This is the spot in the ASEAN region to shop!  ASEAN = Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  You will find a shopping center at every subway stop. On Orchard Road, easily the Beverly Hills of Singapore shopping, you can find multiple Hermes, LV, and Chanel stores within blocks of each other. The malls do their best to one up each other on glamour and glitz. Bright lights. Big Screens. More food. Cleaner bathrooms.  (No, they don’t advertise that but I know which are better). At night it appears to rival the Las Vegas strip, or some of my PS3 games, for who’s display can cause the most seizures as the public passed by.

You can read about shopping on any number of blogs therefore I won’t delve much into it here except for the Remora effect. But before that, I do have to mention I am not sure why this is the shopping mecca. Prices even after the exchange rate are often higher than the U.S. by at least 25%! Our iPhone is one of the best cost-savings tools we own. We use it to find the same goods online in the U.S., figure out the conversion and tax differences, and often say “What the hell! Are you crazy?” Then we leave without a purchase. Hence, a very valuable cost savings tool. I recommend it highly.

Another cost-savings tool is the Remora effect. “Huh? What is that?” Have you ever seen Shark Week on the Discovery channel and noticed those small fish attached to the shark? Those suckerfish are called Remora. How does this relate to shopping?

When you walk into the majority of stores here, a salesperson will immediately come over and ask if they can assist you. “I am just looking” is not a sufficient answer if you have issues watching someone become befuddled. Don’t you want to buy a pretty bauble? You can say that you are wandering and begin to browse. The salesperson will follow you, often within striking distance for a good shot to the face. In the U.S., it is almost the opposite. You’re lucky if you can find a salesperson not busy fixing their nails or looking out into space wondering how to get out from the bright-light trap that is the makeup counter at Nordstrom (I shop with my wife by the way, so no I do not go there on my own! My shopping is usually a 5-minute in-out experience even as a Guy Tai).

Here the Remora clerk really will follow you every step of the way. What is strange is when you start to turn around, they will move quickly to the side but you can always notice something lingering in your peripheral vision. They don’t leave! After a while, you start to get used to this effect. Where it becomes painful is when you want to have a purchase discussion about “should we or shouldn’t we” with your significant other. It is uncomfortable standing there and saying “didn’t we see these sheets somewhere else for less?” or “Do we need another dung beetle paperweight?” while the clerk is hovering. You often want some privacy.

When you have this feeling, you can tell them, ideally with a smile, you’d like them to go elsewhere while you have this short discourse with your ‘money-manager’. Often, they will retreat a few meters but they still lurk ready to pounce. And heaven forbid you make eye contact! All in all, shopping here is a sport. It is great for people watching and you’ll realize the entire country is in the malls on the weekend. Keep in mind aircon (air-conditioning) is free and many young people live at home into their early thirties (has to do with age and marital status rules for buying homes here – another topic). Therefore the only place to escape is…The Mall. Think South Coast Plaza at Christmas but all year round. It also helps that most people take the MRT or bus, therefore parking is not an issue for them or us. This makes it even easier to pack them in.

When you decide to come here for shopping, watch for the Remora. Tell me I am wrong. Please don’t hurt them! Good luck!