Ben’s Burger has closed shop in Ipoh Parade

Haven’t eaten at Ben’s Burger before. It was very visible from the road and located next to one of the main entrances to Ipoh Parade (opposite of Sam Tet secondary school).


Drove past it about a week ago, and it looked rather dim from the outside. Suspected that it is no longer in business. Happened to be in Ipoh Parade yesterday. Took the effort to walk over there just to confirm (there is actually no entrance to Ben’s Burger from Ipoh Parade). Saw a few Snow Mountain workers outside. They were there to take an extractor fan away.

So Ben’s Burger is indeed closed. Tables, chairs and other bits and pieces are still there. From what I heard, it was closed about a month ago. Ben and Lynette however is still in business, located on ground floor, inside Ipoh Parade. BTW both of them belong to the same company, The Secret Garden (TSG) group. The take up of vacated lot in Ipoh Parade seems rather quick, as there is already a banner outside Ben’s Burger indicating an ice cream shop, it seems, is going to take up the space. Better than any of the AEON it seems.

Public Bank SecureSign device how-to

Finally got our SecureSign device from Public Bank for online business e-banking. Looks similar to HSBC’s security token:
SecureSign PBB
However the way it is used is very different from HSBC’s. There are two stages in carrying out an online transaction. The logic behind is there may be more than one person who can access the business bank account (logging into the account does not require the SecureSign device). But not all of them have the authority to carry out online transactions. So the first stage involves creating transactions, e.g. to pay for utility bills. Subsequently, the person with SecureSign device will approve these transactions, presumably one by one (haven’t tried this out yet).

In the first stage, I made payment in a similar way to how I was accustomed to. But when I was expecting to key in a secure code from the SecureSign device before I confirm a transaction, I managed to confirm without one. But the transaction was then put under “Pending” status.

In the second stage, I needed to click on the “Transaction Approval” tab to proceed:
On the left hand column, there were “Maker Transaction Status” and “Authorizer Transaction Status”. I could view pending transaction under “Maker Transaction Status” or “Authorizer Transaction Status”. To authorise transactions, I needed to click on “Authorizer Transaction Status”, followed by “Approve/Reject Transaction”. There I was required to search for the transaction to approve, which in my case was just one pending. Here came the unintuitive bit, after clicking on the transaction that I wanted to approve. I was required to key in the secure code. The secure code was to be generated from the SecureSign device. However it wasn’t entirely clear from the Quick Guide that came with the SecureSign device how it could be generated:
SecureSign Quick Guide

First, I keyed in the PIN number into the SecureSign device when prompted. Then I pressed the “1” or “Sign” button on the device, before keying in the first set of data. This first set of data was actually the first line of numbers on-screen in red. After keying in the numbers followed by “OK” on the device, I keyed in the second line of numbers in red (it was the amount figure, but remember to omit the decimal dot) followed by “OK”. Then only the secure code appeared, which I entered on-screen to approve the transaction.

Now do you understand how the SecureSign device facilitates online business transactions for Public Bank?

TGV cinema tickets discount with Maybank cards

It is one of those things after having a child. We very rarely go to cinema. The last time we went we were given free tickets to watch Mission Impossible as a BMW white card member. Didn’t have to buy tickets. Few days ago we went to TGV Station 18 to watch 007 Spectre to only then realised that it is much cheaper to buy tickets using Maybank cards! (In fact we went to queue at the pop corn counter to buy tickets, not knowing there are separate ticket counters!) A ticket that costs RM15 or RM17 (standard or preferred seats) will become only RM10 with Maybank card (see details here). And every Thursday buy 1 free 1. Massive savings! I have a bank account with Maybank but has been dormant for many years, and I have been paying RM10 every year. So went to Maybank Greentown to activate my account today, and converted my yellow ATM card to a Maybank debit card, for RM12 one off charge, and activated my Maybank2u online bank account too. The card will come in handy for our next movie, Hunger Games Mocking Jay Part 2 hehe.

Such cheap credit available in the UK

Before I came back to Malaysia, I was clever to raise some cheap capital in the UK to start my business in Malaysia, via personal loans and credit cards. Particularly from credit cards. At the time, the best deals were offering 0% balance transfer for 2 years. I only needed to pay the one off handling fee and that would become the interest to pay over the two-year period.

When the two-year period was up, somehow I was able to roll the debt to other credit cards. Deals were not as good anymore as I was only able to take advantage of promotions given to me by my existing credit cards having moved back to Malaysia. And this goes on for almost three years now. Lately I even managed to transfer cash into my current accounts, again 0% interest for a period of time with a low enough handling fee! It is so much easier to get credits from UK credit cards, almost beyond belief, when I can’t even get a credit card yet in Malaysia.

Problem with record low interest rate in the UK is a lot of the consumer spending nowadays is fueled by such easy credits from credit cards. And credit card companies are making it so easy for us to roll debt around. All we need to do is fulfill 0% interest minimum payment to service the debt, which is normally a small sum relative to wages in the UK.

The U.S. has been threatening to raise interest rate for many months now. And the UK is monitoring the situation too. But I seriously doubt they will raise it anytime soon. The implication on consumer spending is going to be huge, and it is going to hit the banks as bad debt rises.

Good news for me, as I can still keep myself afloat as a result. Otherwise with the weak Ringgit, I would need to take a massive hit if I were to repay the credit card debt by early next year! And raising capital in Malaysia is so much harder and more expensive. Double whammy!

AEON Big Falim, the largest in Malaysia

AEON Big Falim
Here we go, AEON is opening another mall in Ipoh, on 18th December 2015. This time is AEON Big located in Falim, apparently the largest in Malaysia! As I wrote in my earlier post that the recently opened AEON Klebang couldn’t fill up all their retail spaces on their opening day, I think we are going to see even more empty spaces there. With a population of not even close to 1 million, at around 700k, yet Ipoh is going to have four AEONs (Kinta City, Station 18, Klebang and now Falim), a Parkson Ipoh Parade and countless supermarkets cum retail spaces, the retailers are going to be the biggest losers since customers are more and more spread out amongst these places. A recent article on The Star highlighted the similarity between the overcapacity problem in China and Malaysia. Shoppers in Ipoh are not stupid, convenience will ultimately be key after the initial excitement of new shopping malls wane. We shall see which of these shopping malls do worst. My bet is AEON Station 18 will suffer the most.

Public Bank’s security device for e-banking is finally free

When I applied for my business account with Public Bank two and a half years ago, I was told that we can only view our business bank account online. We can’t do any electronic transactions, that involve making payments for example. If we want to be able to make payments, we need to apply for a security device, a.k.a. MSC token I believe, which costs RM220. If I remember correctly, we need to pay a monthly or annual fee for the “privilege”! Rubbish I know, but we didn’t know it was this rubbish until we had opened the account. We didn’t bother to open another bank account, which we had considered, e.g. Maybank, because it can be rather tedious. So we paid KWSP, SOCSO, and whatnot over the counter or by cash. Had to endure queueing in the bank, many times, for long period of time too often.

Today when I tried to pay GST due for this quarter, via the customs’ portal, I thought I could pay via FPX, an online payment gateway, as I was able to proceed after having entered our Public Bank login credentials. But when it came to the final step, of executing the payment, it gave me a “Transaction unsuccessful” error. I was told to contact my merchant bank. Phoned up Public Bank’s Internet banking department, told the guy about the error. At the time I didn’t note down the precise error message. But the guy kept telling me that I should be able to make payment to the customs, even though I explained to him that I haven’t got the security device. But I already paid our GST at RHB Bank over the counter (Public Bank don’t accept GST payment over the counter, shocking!), so couldn’t try out paying online from Public Bank’s e-Banking portal as suggested. Half believing that guy, I hanged up the phone and went on to try paying one of our company’s utility bill. But again transaction unsuccessful. The precise error message is “No rule for transaction”. Armed with this error message, phoned them up again to grill them. This time the lady who answered the phone was able to explain to me that I need the security device. And it is free, I only need to apply for one from my home branch. Great! Why didn’t they make announcement, say via letter or something, that the security device is free? If you look up on the MSC token (see link above) on their website, it is still written there that you need to pay RM220. For such a big bank in Malaysia, they do seem very poorly run. Telephone support are not consistently trained, website not up to date, poor communication with customers on available products, only playing catch up when other banks are well ahead on the e-banking front, and pushing customers to other banks to pay for GST!

To be honest the banking industry in the UK is a lot more competitive than in Malaysia, and many years ahead. Seems that the owner and shareholders of Public Bank are just happy to rake in profit without giving much return to their customers since competition here is not as fierce. Rubbish isn’t it?

AEON Klebang couldn’t fill up retail spaces on opening day

Went to AEON Klebang on their opening day today. As expected, they did not manage to fill up all their retail spaces on their opening day. Instead of putting up green walls, like they did in Kinta City and Station 18 when a shop moved out, they are more clever here by putting up nice wall papers or allowing companies to set up booths to cover up the shame.

AEON Klebang ground floor
Underwater world wall papers and Subaru car road show to obscure three empty lots on the ground floor (opposite Baskin & Robbins).

AEON Klebang empty lot
Astro marketing booth and property road show to occupy retail space on ground floor.

Now to think about it, those nice scenery wall papers on the second and third floors are probably there for the same reason, rather than for shoppers to take photos!

Shops that are yet to open on the opening day are H&M (29th Oct), UNIQLO (30th Oct), Mango (Feb 2016!), Hush Puppies, Nandos, Black Canyon, and a few more which I couldn’t remember. But that is not going to dampen people’s excitement to flock to the new shopping mall. One caution for you all though is don’t let your little ones lean on or stand too close to the barriers that are erected to prevent you from falling down to the ground floor. They look and feel flimsy, and seem to be made of cheap materials. Very concerning!

UTC is one highlight of this government

Went to Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) in Ipoh town center, located at where Super Kinta used to be, to renew my daughter’s passport few days ago. It was a breeze. No queues, plenty of service counters. Photo of my daughter was captured on the spot using SLR cameras infront of their counters. No form needs filling up, as everything is already in their database. My daughter just needed to sign a document alongside with her tiny thumb print :) After that waited 5 minutes to pay for the renewal. Costed us RM100 for a 5-year renewal. And we were told to come back in an hour to collect the passport. So from start to finish the whole process only took us an hour and a half. Superb efficiency. There are other government agencies and utilities offices there too where you can pay bills, renew identity card, settle fines etc. Very convenient. Definitely one of the few highlights under the Najib administration. Will go down well with their attempt to make Malaysia more attractive as a retirement destination.

Whilst on our way back, spotted that BeBe shop was no longer in business. This is the branch in town center, on the same row as McDonald’s.

Kinta City Shopping Centre not closing down!

So according to my “deep throat”, the ground floor of Kinta City Shopping Centre in Ipoh is going to be populated by F&B outlets, with existing (international?) retail outlets closed down after Chinese New Year in 2016. GUESS has moved out first, as written in my previous blog entry, with that lot currently labelled “Renovation in progress”, probably paving the way for the change next year (it is difficult to foresee tenant moving in just for a couple of months anwyay?!). And these F&B outlets can apparently have longer opening hours, probably till later into the night. Old Town White Coffee is going to move in, I heard.

This is good news to me, as I seldom buy clothing and such likes anyway. I definitely welcome more options on food. I think it will appeal to local customers too who like to do groceries shopping in Kinta City. In fact many families do like doing groceries shopping in AEON supermarket. So no, Kinta City Shopping Centre is not closing down. Far from it. It is, in my view, going to be transformed into a more functional shopping mall, with more emphasis on local customers. Bad news for those who harbour hopes that IKEA might move in. And it won’t be turned into a hospital, or airport, however ridiculous that may sound :) What I’d really like to find out though is their new layout on ground floor. Should be interesting.

As for AEON Klebang, which is due to open next Sunday (21st October), there will be some duplicate retail outlets with those in Kinta City, e.g. Esprit, G2000, Giordano etc, for the next few months until CNY next year. I wonder if these shops get a bargain deal from AEON for keeping two shops running at the same time. It will be silly not to 😉

Updated on 16/10/2015:
G2000 Kinta City
G2000 has closed too, with a new fashion tenant to move in in November. Perhaps the ground floor make over happens after CNY next year.

Rubbish Abi Motors Perodua Service Centre

Thought I’ll send my MyVi to this Abi Motors Perodua Service Centre for a service having received a leaflet (below) from them in my letterbox.
Abi Motors Perodua Service Centre Promotion
Called them up, looking to confirm their location and the price for a service. The rep was okay on the phone, claiming that they are competitive on pricing, but unwilling to tell me further on their prices, saying that they can explain (their packages) better at the shop.

Okay, took the plunge anyway as I wanted to service my car before a trip to KL. It was fairly easy to find, with sign postings after I turned in from Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah Utara towards Bercham. Marketing wise, they seemed to have done alright, distributing leaflets, clear sign postings and okay rep on the phone. But that was about it. When I arrived at the shop, it was a different story. Those who were supposed to serve customer didn’t feel like they wanted to serve customers. I was brought in by a mechanic, to be fair. Initially there was one sitting in the shop, serving customer. Then came a in rep who didn’t bother to ask what I was there for. Another service rep sat down. So there were two idle reps not doing anything, at least not to me anyway. After waiting for a while, I asked what was I waiting for? Did they expect that I was their regular customer? As a new customer, I didn’t know what to expect! Considering that they put out leaflets to try to reach new customers, can their front desk reps at least be prepared that there might be new customers walking in through the door?!! The guy asked if I have made a booking. No, I haven’t. Actually I wanted to check on the price first. But that guy asked me to wait, presumably for my turn. So only one of the three could serve customers. For fxxk sake couldn’t they just hit me with a price list, or at least try to win me over with their service offerings, or anything?!! No, more waiting. They were like bloody bureaucrats.

When it was my turn, the “real” service rep called me over. Oh, he didn’t expect that I wasn’t driving a “new” car. And no, I haven’t got a service history booklet, as I bought the car second hand without one. Now get over it, okay?! Put my number plate into their system, came up with a name. No I’m not called X Y Z. What is the matter, do you expect everyone to come into their service centre first hand owners of Perodua cars? If they want to keep putting off new customers, keep that guy in the job. He’s brilliant at it! Asked for my IC number. No, I’m technically not your customer yet, why would I want to give you my IC number? I just wanted to check on the price first! Quoted RM250 for a basic service. Then my phone rang. Wife already found her way here after picking up my daughter. And I was still stuck checking on the price, which I should have already been given from the phone call.

Anyway with so much anger that I was unwilling to stomach any further, I sent my car to a known garage that is a little out of the way but at least they know how to deal with customers. Why customer services in Ipoh, or in Malaysia in general, so bad? Do they not give out training? And you know what, no one, and I really mean no one, smiled to me during my entire time in the service centre!