When you are not on the corporate ladder anymore

It’s been over three years now since I stopped climbing the corporate ladder. To be honest I really don’t miss working in a big corporate environment. The pressure to perform just gets more and more intense as you are more and more senior in the company. And I am not one who will always try to seek opportunity to be visible infront of senior management. Hence life gets depressing during appraisal when boss then tries to play down your contribution, because visibility infront of senior management is important in order to justify a glowing review of performance.

Now that I run my business, whilst there is a whole new dimension of stress that comes with it, at least the peer pressure and expectation from bosses are off for me. I need to worry about money (cash flow) a lot more, but at least I do not need to be appear like I am intentionally stepping on others to climb up the corporate ladder. That is one aspects I do not like, as I prefer relationship with my colleagues to be less competitive in nature. And I stop worrying about how much I earn (salary) compare to my peers nowadays, because I have taken very different path. I owe the bank a lot of money (corporate debt) with a busines, and income (profit) is a lot more variable when compared to a fixed salary job. But in a way I think I am happier because I don’t need to get stressed out as much going to work with some insufferable colleagues always looking to impress.

Okay I also need to throw in more time running a business, and it can be exhausting too, so I am heading for a rest now. Goodnight!

Four PokeStops at De Garden

De Garden is a fantastic place for Pokemon Go players to go collect Pokeballs etc. Do you know there are four PokeStops around De Garden!
Four PokeStops at De Garden

At the De Garden entrance
De Garden entrance

Water fountain facing the main road
Water fountain front De Garden

Where Peugeot show room used to be, next to Digi service centre or below Cheeky Tots [now some work is going on there, apparently a Japanese restaurant is moving in]
Peugeot Silver Lion

Water fountain round the back
Fountain of XMs

While collecting my items, also found out that some work is going on where Ayam Penyet used to be.
New Korean Restaurant

A Korean restaurant is moving in, hence making it the third Korean restaurant after Dao-Rae Korean BBQ and Daebak Dakgalbi. Strong presence of Korean culture at De Garden, with a Korean fashion outlet there too. Next time if you fancy Korean food in Ipoh, De Garden is THE place to go to, on top of it being a great hangout place for Pokemon Go players LOL

MAPS to postpone their opening date, again?!

Heard from an acquaintance who has dealings with the Movie Animation Park Studio (MAPS) in Perak that he is fairly certain that they won’t be ready by December 2016. MAPS have already postponed their opening date to 1 December from June 2016 when they called me in April. Now sounds like they are going to postpone again. From what I understand, MAPS couldn’t settle payment with contractors even for small amount of money (circa tens of thousand). When money is not coming in, contractors naturally deserted them. Without workers I don’t suppose they can get much work done by December. And even if they can get it open in December, it is likely that they can only get a portion of the site ready. I have bought Perak passes for my family members. And we are yet to get the photo passes done (at their entrance?). Perhaps it is worth going there soon, to take a look as well to see how they are getting on.

P1 is another rubbish service provider

Received an email from P1 about a week ago telling me that they are going to discontinue their WiMAX offering. Essentially the modem that I am using will no longer work by 5th September. And I will need to return the modem and settle all outstanding charges before I can completely terminate the P1 account. I really thought P1 was packing shop, as the email also mentioned they are now in the hands of TM. To initiate the termination process I also need to fill up their online support form.

If you click on the link above, you will see that it is just a generic customer care form. And I will need to fill in quite a bit of information. Can they not create a dedicated form to facilitate the termination process? No, they prefer to make it complicated for their existing customers. Anyway I decided to switch to ADSL service as P1 was getting worse. I have been with them for three years. Lately, I found that when I make a call, for some reasons even if I had already hung up the phone, it remained in an active state. Meaning, I could not make a call out again, not until the state of the call changes. To expedite things, I normally just reboot the modem. And you know what, I have filled up one of these online support forms before, to complain about this problem, and I heard nothing from them. So do you think I can trust it when it comes to terminating my account?

So brought my modem to a branch, thinking that I could just terminate the account there and then. But was told that I need to bring the cordless phone and LAN cable too. Anyway I was required to make a call to P1 regardless, the staff at the branch could not terminate the account even if I brought all the bells and whistles. After initiating the termination process, I will need to wait for an SMS and/or email from P1 telling me my next steps. Should I not receive an SMS or email from them within three days, I can bring the equipment to the branch to complete the termination process. When I asked the rep on the phone what exactly do I need to bring to complete the termination process, he only told me about the modem, and could not mention anything more.

Okay got both the SMS and email the next day. Brought the P1 modem, power adapter, a phone cable, a LAN cable and Motorola cordless phone (together with the base) to the branch, thinking that I should be terminate my account this time. Then the girl at the branch found that there was no rechargeable battery in the cordless phone. Brilliant, I have been with P1 for over 3 years, I have thrown the original rechargeable batteries away, I explained. But regardless it is a requirement. Fxxk why did they not list down all the things, including the rechargeable batteries, that I need to bring back? If I am a new customer, then I might still be able to remember everything that comes in the box. But I have been with them for three fxxking years. Even their customer reps couldn’t tell me top of their head what needs to be returned, yet they expect customers to know exactly what to bring back. You see, another bunch of time wasters.

Maybank don’t seem to train their customer reps

On more than one occasions now customer reps at Maybank show they don’t know their products and services well enough. It’s basically wasting everybody’s time if they don’t train their staff to be on the same page as what they are trying to offer to customers.

Let’s talk about balance transfer on Maybank credit cards. I saw a good balance transfer deal when I was at a Maybank branch months ago. It is 0% balance transfer for 12 months with only 1% handling fee (usually 3% as it is a promotion). So I enquired whether I can balance transfer money to a third party like my wife’s credit card, as it is okay to do that in the UK. The guy, specialised in credit card balance transfer said no. But he then told me that if my wife is a supplementary cardholder of mine, then she would be able to do that. Okay so I applied a supplementary card for my wife.

A week or two later, my wife suspected that the Maybank branch called to tell her that the credit cards are ready at the branch but she missed the call, she was cooking in the evening. They didn’t bother calling again. They didn’t bother calling the principal card holder, that would be me, too, in case they have got the number wrong. We just waited for another week or two before we just turn up at the branch to see if the cards are ready. I tried calling their national customer helpline before, was put on hold for over half an over on a queue and eventually they just cut me off. Fantastic stuff.

So we just turn up at the branch expecting the cards to be ready anyway. That took us half an hour waiting for the customer rep to service a customer. Majority of them sitting around are financial advisers trying to sell you Maybank products, not really there to serve customers’ interest. This rep who is supposed to be the proper customer rep, however knows very little. We asked if I the principal card holder can view my wife’s transactions, so that I know how much to pay in the next statement. She was not sure, suggesting that my wife might need an online maybank2u account with them to view her transactions. Problem is my wife does not bank with Maybank and does not plan to have another sets of account with Maybank. Life is already complicated enough. We told them that RHB allows transactions from supplementary card holder to be viewed by principal card holder online. So is it possible I add my wife’s card so I can view her transactions? She didn’t know and had to call for help. Fair enough, meanwhile I had to go back to my car to scratch for more parking time. Don’t want to be fined by traffic warden.

We asked for the balance transfer form with promotion but this same rep pulled us an outdated one. She did not seem to know about these promotions. And she did not know who best to ask around her desk either, as it appears that there are people who know more about balance transfer than others.

After confirming that principal card holder cannot see transactions by supplementary card holder until the monthly statement, we decided to cancel my wife’s credit cards on the same day. Another issue is I haven’t received a single statement, by post or by email, from Maybank ever since I started using their credit cards months ago. When I tried hitting the point to this rep, she kept telling me that I can go online to check the e-statement. No, I don’t want to keep checking my online bank account for statements. I want to be notified when the statement is ready! As I don’t want to miss credit card payments! You cannot expect customers to always remember when in the month the statement is ready! So I had to fill up another form to tell Maybank that I want to receive my statements by email (they have my correct email address in the system BTW).

Back to balance transfer. Now that my wife’s credit card was cancelled. I pulled together necessary documents and try to balance transfer money to a credit card where I am a supplementary card holder. The guy, who is a balance transfer specialist, as I was directed to him straightaway without having to queue
the next day, seemed happy to process my application. The credit card statement I provided has my name and credit card number as a supplementary card holder. Then two days later I received an SMS yesterday:

RM0.00 MBB:We regret to inform that we are unable to accede to your Balance Transfer appl. Thank you for your interest shown.

Without any reason, with just an SMS they decline your application. Very helpful. So I had to call their national helpline again to find out why, despite knowing that I might have to wait a long time on the phone and be cut off without warning. Okay managed to speak to a rep this time, he did not however know that my application for balance transfer was declined and I had to read him the above SMS message. Waited a while again and he came back to me that balance transfer must be from principal card holder of Maybank to principal card holder of another credit card provider. Wow, after everything, weeks of running around, applications, face to face and phone communications, frustrations, now only you deliver me this crucial line!

You see, that is Malaysia’s culture. They like wasting everyone’s time. If Maybank have trained their staff properly, with the correct information, they could have avoided all these very early on. But the problem is endemic as you can see. It’s not just this particular case highlighted about balance bank transfer. You might argue that I am a difficult customer in this case, but you see, in the UK, I can balance transfer to any third party credit card. So unless they tell me clearly otherwise I wouldn’t know!

Boston De Garden has closed shop

Boston De Garden
Another F&B business bites the dust at De Garden. Boston is one of the earliest tenants there. Apparently they stopped doing business since 1st June 2016. It seems that they are a franchise business, because another opened in M-Mall Penang earlier this year. Hence this leaves Daorae as the longest surviving F&B business at De Garden.

Interestingly the furnishing in Boston remains intact. I wonder if they are left there to part settle rental with De Garden? Or maybe there is some arrangements agreed with De Garden to sell on their goodies to the next F&B business? The ground floor of that part of De Garden now has no more F&B outlet. Chatime, Aliyaa and now Boston have vacated. It is tough to keep an F&B business going in Ipoh.

AEON Kinta City’s makeover

Now that we know that AEON Kinta City is not packing up as once feared, I’m sure the Ipoh folks are curious what is in the pipeline at the end of the current makeover effort.

Exterior wise apparently they want to bring the appearance of the shopping mall to be more inline with the rest of AEONs around the country. They are also adding awnings to the ground level shops/restaurants, presumably to provide a more appealing look and feel from the outside too?

Inside, this row of shops/F&B outlets are undergoing renovation.
F&B outlets AEON Kinta City
So like I said in one of my earlier post, the ground floor is going to be populated by F&B outlets. But it is not known what outlets will occupy them, apart from the existing names like Sushi King and Johny. And they will be ready in August, which is only 2 months away. I’m sceptical.

Following that, they will renovate the shop lots upstairs. There I really couldn’t care less, as I seldom buy things these days anyway. I do however genuinely hope some decent F&B outlets move in to the ground floor space.

Pitfalls in opening a cafe in Ipoh

Upmarket cafes were very hot in Ipoh for a while 2-3 years ago. Cafes mushroomed almost everywhere out of a sudden. Many were tastefully decorated, quaint looking, cosy, with everyone one of them seemingly trying to outdo one another. Some have “unique” selling points, like offering self made bread, pastry, high speed Internet connectivity etc. But the fever has died down a little lately, to me anyway. Here is an article that offered some insight into what it is like to run a cafe business in Ipoh.

Some of the business owners are fairly honest when asked about the challenges facing them when running their businesses in Ipoh. Some seemed to either just put on a brave face or they didn’t know where they failed, if I’m being honest. I’ll let you figure out who was or were talking rubbish. But I would agree on the following points for the Ipoh market:

  1. Competition from the popular white coffee, both taste and price
  2. Standalone coffee enjoyment without main meals not so popular here
  3. Appettite for western coffee is there, but market is not big enough to sustain so many cafes

I have no problem with the price points of their coffee. They are their premium offerings, and should rightly charged as they are. But I have a lot of issue with the price points of their other offerings, like desserts, light bites (sandwiches included) and even main meals! They are deluded, thinking that the Ipoh folks earn as much as those in KL and Penang. In fact if I go to KL, I get better (much better) value for money, on both coffee and food! Incredible isn’t it? But it is!

Basically, your business needs to survive and sustain in such competitive environment first, with so many cafes around, and price reasonably. Lower your cost and overhead, target the right audience and offer value to these customers. Ipoh folks always like good bargains, and they will come back to you if you offer them good value. Tourists business is good, but it is often one-off, and there are not that many tourists coming to Ipoh. Businesses in Ipoh need to first and foremost focus on the locals. Otherwise it will be the same old story. You have been warned.

MAPS postponed their opening date

Received a call from Movie Animation Park Studio (MAPS) that they have postponed their opening date to 1st December 2016. As a Perak Pass holder, I can go get my photo pass done from 1st July onwards. There is going to be a soft opening on 1st June, which I am not quite sure what you can do there from the phone conversation. As for single day tickets, the expiry date will be revised, so it won’t expire on the 30th September since they only open on the 1st December. But the customer rep couldn’t confirm when exactly is the expiry date though. So the opening date will coincide with year end school holiday. It will be interesting, the park is going to be packed with people. If the staff is not well drilled I can foresee that it is going to be chaotic there. Let’s see.

Massimo bread price increase from 4th April 2016

Just received a notice from The Italian Baker that they will be adjusting the prices of their bread from 4th April 2016 onwards. They have been absorbing the 6% GST since April last year when GST went live. There was confusion initially I think because they thought their bread are zero rated. Turned out that not all bread are zero rated.

So from 4th April onwards, a loaf of Massimo Sandwich with wheat germ will retail at RM2.65 (small) and RM3.70 (long), an increase of 15 cents and 20 cents respectively.

Massimo bread new prices

Can’t blame them, flour subsidies from the government have been cut lately too. Just more misery for the commoners…