Traitor to God?

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Blogging about this to serve as a reminder to myself about an incident that happened during Saturday’s sunset Mass on 3rd July at Queen of Peace church at Tanjong Katong. Attended Mass with the boy as the wife was busy with work that day.

The boy was being his usual mischievous self and started busying himself by climbing up and down the kneelers and pew before Mass. At first, the guy sitting directly behind us was somewhat amused by his antics. However, as time went on, he became annoyed and found it distracting. I tried to pacify the boy by carrying him and sitting him on my lap, but, being a restless 3-year old, the boy tried to wiggle and talk his way to freedom and made even more noise, especially during the homily.

The guy could not tolerate any more and made loud shush sounds during the Eucharistic Prayer in an attempt to hush the boy. I knew we were in for it, but what shocked me was that he made a scene during the distribution of the Communion. He started with “You think this is Macdonalds?” and when I tried to reply and apologize, he let of a barrage of admonition loud enough to attract stares from the rest of the congregation queuing to receive Communion. Some of the comments he made include,

  • “…If you can’t control your son, go to the back. Other people want to pray…”
  • “…We can go to speak to Father Lee (the parish priest) after Mass about this …”
  • “…You can go complain to the Archbishop if you are not happy…”
  • “…Don’t talk about the Gospel to me…”
  • “…You are a traitor to God…”

He made the 4th comment when I tried to quote Mark 9:37. I think the most hurtful comment was the last one. How does making noise during Mass equate to being a traitor to God? Was so shock by the whole incident that all I managed was a weak “Why come to Mass when you are so angry?”. But, it was enough to defuse the confrontation for the moment. I felt his stare on us for the rest of the Mass. I just smiled at him after I returned from receiving the Communion, and he simply stared back. The boy was also shocked by the incident and kept quiet for the rest of the Mass.

There were other kids in the congregation making noise around us, but I think we bore the brunt of his anger because we were sitting in the pew directly in front of him. I guess what goes around, comes around. Before the boy came into our lives, I used to also wonder why parents couldn’t control their kids during Mass. Now I’m experiencing it first hand.

A close friend asked whether I tried to occupy my boy with books or colouring during Mass. My reply was “What’s the point of bringing them to Mass then?”. I remember attending a homily in which the priest encouraged parents to bring their kids to Mass to cultivate the good habit from young. He also said that we should get them to sit and listen rather than occupy them with some other activity. Someone else asked why I didn’t let him play with my iPod Touch. Given his expertise with the controls of the device, it would be even more disastrous. Imagine him playing the JJ Lin YOG Cheer at maximum volume in church. I think we will be thrown out  by the wardens before the Mass even began.

It was definitely an experience I will not soon forget. However, it will not discourage me from bringing the boy to church, as that will certainly make me a traitor to God.

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Ask OCBC for what?

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Robinsons has always been one of our preferential department stores with their wide range of products, regular discounts and excellent service. However, this weekend we had an awful shopping experience at Robinsons.

No, it’s not caused by Robinsons. On the contrary, the staff there were very patient and understanding, as we have always had a pleasure of experiencing all these years. It was due to the inadequacy of the bank carrying the Robinsons co-brand credit card. Hence, the title of this blog post.

It all began on Thursday, when the wife wanted to go for an impromptu stress-relieving shopping session at Raffles City. When we were about to leave, she asked me for my opinion on an Agnes b. bag that caught her eye when she was window-shopping while waiting for me. The salesgirl at the Agnes b. shop informed us that there will be a late night shopping discount the next day and offered to reserve the bag for us to come back and enjoy the discount. Since the wife liked the bag a lot, we decided to come back the next day to do dinner and get the bag.

On Friday morning, while flipping the Straits Times, I saw a full page Robinsons advertisement on beds. We have been wanting to upgrade our bed to King for the longest time, as our little boy who sleeps with us is not that little anymore, if you know what I mean.

When evening came, we met up at Raffles City after I picked the boy after work. Since we still had about 45 minutes to our dinner reservation at Prego’s, we dropped by Robinsons bed section to check out the Simmons promotions and test out the mattresses.

We have been using Simmons all the while and found no reason to change. They had a BackCare 2 mattress promotion with a standard bedframe going at $1. The total cost added up to $3.4K. Another promotion was on the mattress provided to Resorts World Sentosa. It comes with a plush pillow top that felt awesome when I tested it. The total cost of the mattress together with our preferred bedframe was 4.5K. We couldn’t make up our minds on an empty stomach and decided to discuss over dinner.

We made our way to Prego’s to have our dinner. We dined on the ever warm and fluffy bread with salsa sauce, a mushroom soup drizzled with truffle sauce, a seafood linguine with tomato sauce and a ham and mushroom pizza with an extremely thin crust. It was an excellent dinner to kick off a great weekend, or so we thought. Over dinner, we decided to splurge on the more expensive promotion since we will spend at least one-third of each day on our bed. That was the beginning of my credit card limit nightmare.

We proceeded to approach the Robinsons staff that we spoke to before dinner to purchase the RWS promotion mattress. Everything was fine until we were trying to make payment. As usual, we used the OCBC Robinsons Platinum VISA card under my account to make payment in order to enjoy the 5% rebate. The cashier swiped the card and it was declined. She tried a few more times before she informed us. I suspected it could be the low credit limit as I had the card since I started work and have not increased my credit limit ever since. That was my oversight, as I never had a need for a credit limit over $4K until now.

The cashier offered to call the bank and explain to the customer service staff before handing the phone over to me. When I tried to ask for a temporary credit limit increase for the transaction to go through, I was shocked to hear that they were unable to entertain temporary credit limit increases for purchases. I never had a problem requesting for a temporary credit limit increase with any of my other credit cards with the other banks, such as DBS, UOB or Citibank. Citibank even has a fuss-free option via their Internet Banking site to request for a temporary credit limit increase. And the increase was almost instantaneous, which I was expecting to be the case, how wrong I was.

The bank staff then proceeded to explain that only under 4 circumstances would they be able to do it. I only caught the first two, which was funerals and hospitalizations, which made me ponder why would I even bother to use a card with such troublesome restrictions when I’m dead or sick. She said that she could not do anything about it and said that if we really wanted to use the card, we could do a top-up into the credit card account for the purchase to go through. I did the usual Singaporean thing by asking to speak to a manager. The staff explained that it was after office hours and there were no managers around till Monday. I had to make a big fuss before she agreed to get her manager to call me back. It took about 15 minutes for her manager to call back.

In the meanwhile, the Robinsons staff were kind enough to offer us alternatives such as breaking the payment over 2 cards or topping up the purchase with cash. As the purchase amount was rather big, the 5% rebate was rather substantial which means that we had to stick with the card one way or another. Apparently, this was not the first time they have encountered such an issue. The bed department staff told us that she once had a customer whose purchase was a few dollars off the credit limit and the bank refused to do anything. After speaking to the Robinsons staff, we decided to put down a deposit to lock the purchase in and come back over the weekend once we resolve the issue with the bank. Even though the whole episode was not their fault, they kept apologizing for the inconvenience caused. Kudos to Robinsons for their excellent customer service. I think all businesses in the service industry should strive for such excellence. Especially the co-brand bank.

When the manager from the bank called back, all she did was to regurgitate what her staff mentioned to me that they were unable to do anything. Personally, I think that it was more useless speaking to the manager than to the customer service staff. The manager didn’t do anything to defuse the situation and insisted that she was the highest authority. I am still waiting for the email she offered to send stating the 4 circumstances in which the bank will allow a temporary credit limit increase. I made an even bigger fuss until she said that she will get someone from the credit card department to call me on Monday. I will update this post after I take the call.

Ultimately, I had to do a top-up into my credit card for the purchase in the middle of the night as the bank was unable to do anything. Thankfully, I had an OCBC Savings account which I used to make payments for my school fees back in my NP days. I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I did not have the account. I transferred $1K into the account and ensured that the amount allowed on the card is more than the purchase amount after deducting the deposit. We had to go back to Raffles City on Saturday to complete the purchase.

This is not the first time I faced issues with OCBC. A few years ago, I made payment for the same credit card account using my Savings account and had an email acknowledgement on the payment. However, due to some glitch, the payment didn’t go through. The bank had the nerve to charge me late fees and interest. I had to insist and showed them the email as proof before they agreed to waive off the additional charges. At that time, I asked for an explanation on how such a thing could happen. To this day, I am still waiting for that explanation.

This incident also reminded me of the misleading advertisement from the bank that Kitchen Tigress so aptly proved at the beginning of the year. The OCBC slogan and catch phrase is “Ask OCBC”. I asked, and they did not deliver. I think it should be rephrased to be something more Singlish like, “Ask OCBC for what?“. Especially since they are unable to provide what they advertise.

Coincidentally, maybe I should try and ask them for a birthday cake on Monday.

Update:
Another person from the credit card call centre called and repeated everything I heard on Saturday. And she was the one who sent the official email to me, not the person whom I request it from. The other two circumstances are Weddings and Overseas Trips. I seriously wonder how they are going to enforce this. I could possibly request for a increase for an overseas trip and then proceed with my purchase. Would they be able to stop the purchase from going through?

Personally, I am not going to depend on OCBC for either, especially with all the hassle I might have to go through to get the increase. Imagine the IDD charges I might get just to increase the limit for a few hundred dollars. Who is going to pay for the charges?

In the end, I also didn’t bother asking for the birthday cake. No point spoiling my birthday over non-existent customer service.

Morale of the story: If “Ask OCBC” doesn’t help, I recommend asking another bank. No point wasting your energy. It’s just a contact centre, they can’t do much. Their contact centre and credit cards feels more like an after-thought. There just because others are doing it.

Rain and Queue Mars Navy Open House 2010 Visit

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After reading various tweets on the visit to this year’s Navy Open House, we decided to pop by, since the first day it is opened to the public coincides with my son’s birthday. So on Saturday, we woke up bright and early to prepare for our trip. We prepared sandwiches for our snack and prepared sunblock, since it was recommended. We originally intended to take the MRT to Singapore Expo, but it was raining when we were leaving the house, we drove there instead.

We got to Singapore Expo at around 8.25am, and there was already a queue for the bus all the way from Hall 1 where the boarding point wass to Hall 2. It seemed that they were prepared for the large crowd coming in as the entire Hall 1 was converted into a huge check in centre with cordons for queues, metal detectors and bag scanners. The entire process took about 10 minutes from queue to boarding the bus.

The bus ride took about half an hour from Singapore Expo to Changi Naval Base. We proceeded to register for the balloting for the Frigate guided tour and the ship cruise. As it was still drizzling, we popped into the closest aircon to view the exhibits. We queued for the ST simulator exhibit and our boy had fun fiddling around the control panel for the simulator. The ST folks even had a portable printer set up so they could print instant photos for keepsake, which was a nice touch.

As the aircon in the tent was very cold, we decided to brave the weather and do a guided tour on board one of the vessels available for public viewing. This was where I felt the logistics arrangements and wet weather plan could have been better. While waiting in the queue, the rain started to pour and the wind blew the rain into the tent where the queue was.  From the way they were scrambling to try to keep the rain from coming in, there was no wet weather plan in place. Kudos to the quick reaction of the staff in trying to rearranging the cordon to keep everyone dry. The estimated waiting time sign on each queue was a good indicator as it helped us decide on whether we want to join the queue or not. It was quite accurate as we waited about 30 minutes as indicated on the sign. The guided tour of the Patrol Vessel RSS Independence was nice. We had a chance to try out the cannons and weapons on board, and tour the bunks and the bridge.

By the time we were done, it was almost noon and it was still raining. Initially, we wanted to try out the duck tour as we did not get the ballot for the cruise, but the waiting time for the duck tour was about 1 hour 30 minutes according to the sign. And the waiting time on most of the other attractions have swelled to at least an hour. So, instead of queuing, we went back to the parade area and watched some performances before calling it a day. The attention span of a 3 year old is that short. Normally excursions lasts half a day before he gets cranky.

In all, the visit was an eye-opener and I think the organizers did a great job. There is something for everyone in the family. I am definitely for the idea of balloting, as I would rather spend my time watching the performances or viewing the exhibits rather than in a queue waiting. This is especially so if you have kids in tow, and from the looks of it, there were a lot of kids when we were there.

Personally, I think the balloting system can be enhanced to a central virtual queuing system in which it distributes the opportunity to visit the guided tours and cruises evenly so that everyone actually gets a chance to try out something. Or alternatively have a virtual queuing system for each attraction in which queue numbers are assigned and displayed on LED like the ones found in various customer service centres. This way, visitors are free to tour the nearby areas while waiting for their turn. I understand that queuing is the norm when it comes to theme parks and attractions, but this Open House is a time-limited event where one will not be able to go back on another and try out the other attractions.

Someone in SMRT Did Not Get the Memo

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Not having a good week with our world class transport system this week.

On Monday (24th May 2010), I was on my usual routine to work from my parents’ place in Bukit Panjang. I walked down Cashew Road to Upper Bukit Timah Road to get to my bus stop. Though there is a bus stop along Cashew Road with services that I could do a transfer with, I usually give that a pass. Without reliable arrival information on the two services that ply the route, I could end up waiting for a period that is longer than the walk to my bus stop. I can’t repeat this enough, why are we paying the same fare for SMRT buses when they don’t provide the same suite of services?

To my dismay, this was the site that greeted me when I got to the bus stop.

On the notice posted at the bus stop which was dated 18th May 2010, there was no effective closure date. However, the bus stop was cordoned off (Will try to take some photos the next time I pass by the bus stop). I didn’t remember seeing the notice last week. Anyway, I had to trudge another 204m to the next bus stop (according to the notice) during which my bus zoomed by, and I had to wait for the next one.

So, on Wednesday (26th May 2010), when I had to make my way to office at around 0910hrs, I saw service number 75 approaching the Cashew Road bus stop, I dashed to the bus stop to board the bus. When the bus was turning into Upper Bukit Timah Road, a lady rang the stop bell and to my surprise and horror, the bus captain actually stopped along the road as the bus bay was cordoned off. I did not alight there since I wasn’t sure if other buses would stop there. The lady alighted and flagged service number 67 (License No: SMB3C) and that bus stopped for her to board. Apparently, the closure of the bus stop was not communicated to SMRT by LTA. It was really dangerous as the bus stop including the bus bay was cordoned off, and the buses actually stopped along the main road for the passengers to alight and board the bus outside the cordon.

And my misery didn’t end there. When I did my transfer two bus stops later, I boarded service number 961 (License No: TIB763P), which seems to be one of the older buses that I referred to in my previous post. It was a non-aircon bus with windows that can be manually opened refitted with air-conditioning. And the aircon was not working! It was only 9+ in the morning and the bus felt like a hot and stuffy sauna. I really don’t understand how such buses can be allowed on the roads. It didn’t help that the day was especially warm. So there I was, sweating from the start of my journey to the end, even with the aircon vent blowing directly at me.

I am beginning to doubt the process and checks carried out by the Public Transport Council on the service standards by SMRT. In just the past month, I’ve encountered 3 bus breakdowns around the Bukit Timah and Holland area, irregular bus arrival times and crowded buses. And the report on the SMRT bus service by the PTC was satisfactory? How did they come to that conclusion?

A Kid and 3 Quail Eggs

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It is difficult to fathom what goes through the mind of a kid. During dinner, my usually talkative nephew took an oath of silence for the duration of the meal just so he can have 3 extra quail eggs. Mind you, we are talking about a Primary 1 boy whose incessant talking and questioning irritates us to no end and will not stop for more than a minute regardless of how we reprimand and coddle him.

What was even more surprising was that he even offered one egg to my wife, his 姨姨, who was teasing and goading him to break his silence for the entire duration of the meal. I don’t know whether to attribute his generosity to his innocence, his respect for elders or simply that he was just too full from his dinner.

Kids, they never cease to amaze us.

Nature Causes Morning Peak Hour Chaos

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Sometimes, it’s a matter of being in the right place, at the right time. This morning, because I left my home keys in the office, I had to make a detour to the in-laws to get the spare set of keys. This caused me to be slightly later than normal. This coupled with a glitch on SBS IRIS (Yes, there are glitches on IRIS where bus arrivals occasionally go missing, but it is still better than SMRT who doesn’t even have one) that caused me to miss a bus by mere seconds, I got onto the next bus which was about 5 minutes later.

During the bus ride, I heard on Class 95 that there was a fallen tree along Jalan Bukit Merah between Lower Delta Road and Kampong Bahru. That was in the route of my bus to work. When approaching Jalan Bukit Merah from Kampong Bahru, there were traffic police diverting traffic onto Tiong Bahru Road via CTE and Kim Tian Road. However, the bus captain of the bus I was on drove straight into Jalan Bukit Merah and was stopped by the traffic police as the road was impassable. Contrary to the traffic report on Class 95, the tree fell on Jalan Bukit Merah towards Queensway, not in the direction towards Kampong Bahru.

So there I was at the site of the fallen tree. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to snap photos from both sides of the road, as it’s not every day that one would get into situations like this.


Photos were taken with a Nokia N97 and resized and watermarked using XnView Portable

No more eggs at 10am?

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Read this article about MBS conference woes in the Straits Times this morning. Recent news about the Integrated Resorts have been focused on whether they were allowed to open too early, before everything was in place. It is like a software company releasing beta versions of applications and passing them off as public release.

A similar incident happened to me over the Labour Day weekend. Initially, we wanted to have breakfast at Old Town Coffee in Playground @ Big Splash. When we arrived, the place was full and the only table left was alfresco, and in the hot sun. Since, the car park there had a 30 minutes grace period, we decided to go somewhere else. After much deliberation, we decided to try Killiney Cafe at Marina Square. On our way there, we drove past Suntec and a new Old Town Coffee outlet near the Promenade CCL station caught our eye and we decided to try that instead. A decision that we soon came to regret.

The first impression I had when I first stepped in was that the place was new, even the high chairs from Ikea were white and shiny, definitely not the state they will be in after being in use by toddlers. We signaled to the staff that we wanted to order and were informed by them that we had to fill out the order form found on the table. So, we started filling out the form with our orders, which consisted of two breakfast sets. When we passed our order to the staff, they informed us that the sets were not available on weekends and public holidays. This was stated on the menu and not on the order form. Anyway, we proceed to change our orders. I ordered the Tom Yum Mee Siam and an Iced White Coffee, while my wife ordered a Nasi Lemak Special and a milk tea for herself. We also ordered some kaya toast and 2 half-boiled eggs (Omega eggs, according to the menu) for the boy.

To our dismay, the manager came back 5 minutes later to inform us that they had no more eggs left for the half-boiled eggs. Mind you, this is at around 10am in the morning at a restaurant supposedly specializing in serving breakfast. The first thing that popped into my mind at that very moment was to rebutt “Can’t you get some at Carrefour (which was just next door)?” There was nothing much we could do except to forgo the eggs.

The breakfast itself was disappointing. The Tom Yum Mee Siam tasted like instant Tom Yum soup cooked using paste and hot water, with bee hoon, 2 crab sticks, a few slices of fish cake and some strands of vegetables all thrown into a pot and left to simmer. Definitely not worth the $5.50 price tag. The iced coffee was much better. It was nice and fragrant and didn’t taste watered down like some iced coffees tend to taste. However, the serving was small for $2.50 and left me wanting.

Though I didn’t try the Nasi Lemak Special that my wife ordered, I found it strange that they actually served half a plain hard-boiled egg with nasi lemak. And the egg was so overcooked that the yolk was hard to the extent that it didn’t dissolve when I tried to scoop some of it into my Tom Yum Mee Siam.

Our ordeal didn’t end there. After we finished the breakfast, I brought the boy out first because he was getting restless. When my wife proceeded to the payment counter, she was informed that they didn’t have any form of electronic payment set up, not even Nets. There was no notice of this at the entrance or at the counter. And the staff didn’t even inform the customers when we first stepped in. Thankfully, we have the habit of carrying a bit of cash and the total cost of the breakfast was not that high. It would have been embarrassing if someone was dining alone and did not carry enough cash to pay for the meal.

We are definitely not going back to that outlet in the short term until they have sorted out all their logistics.

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