The beginning of the end for fiat currency in Singapore?

Green colored currency

This came as quite a shock to me the other day when I was shopping for hiking pants. Why hiking pants? I find that hiking pants/shirts are the best for travelling in S.E. Asia because they are light, easy to pack and dries quickly whether from sweat, rain or a washing. So instead of the branded lines like Columbia that retail over $100 Sgd per piece, I opted to check out the “no name” brands which are about $30 Sgd.

My “go to” chain of stores when I’m looking for sports stuff in Singapore goes by the name of Decathlon. They carry a lot of “no name” brand goods as well as branded goods at good prices. Anyways, I heard a new branch opened up in a mall named Velocity @ Novena, which is really close to where I am and I needed to be as time efficient as possible. Check out my post Bangkok Dangerous – a temporary relocation experience if you wanna know why, it’s kinda funny now but not so much while it was happening, lol.

When I arrived at the Decathlon store in Velocity @ Novena, I found it underwhelming, I was expecting the usual huge shop with lots of stuff in it. This branch was claustrophobic-ly small, ok maybe not that small but close. Anyways, they had what I was looking for and after trying it on, I went to pay. Here comes the WTH moment…

So I’m standing behind this lady, probably looking as confused as I looked, because there wasn’t a cashier or cash register at the counter. There were employees walking around but none came to collect the money. So she waved an employee down and he came to assist. So apparently the whole system is self service and if you want a bag, you’ll have to pay for one and then ask someone to get you one. I don’t have an issue with the self service system as I’m getting pretty used to it. Singapore is highly into the self service/pay systems. Almost all fast food chains have a self order/pay system, many restaurants have ipad (or equivalent) menu order systems. The local grocery store near me only has self check out booths with machines that collect payment, although there is still a cashier at each kiosk to help. Same with convenience stores, the cashier rings you up and you shove your cash into a machine. What I have an issue with, is the “we are cashless” stance that this particular Decathlon is taking. When it was my turn, the Decathlon employee was still there watching as I scanned my item and when I handed him the cash, he pointed at the sign. I asked him, “seriously, you don’t take cash?” in which he replied, “yes, we don’t take cash.” Well, nothing I could do about it, plus I was in a rush and had to finish packing and catch a flight so I charged the pants to my credit card. Thankfully, Decathlon isn’t a store that charges an extra 3% if you use a credit card. If you’re not aware of this practice it’s pretty frustrating the first few times.

Now someone correct me if I’m wrong but “this note is legal tender” printed on fiat currency means that business’ must accept it as a form of payment, right? Well, that’s the way I understand it. Apparently, this isn’t the case in Singapore? OH, another thing I’d better mention, when it comes to paper money, in Singapore, you can use the Brunei dollar as equivalent to the Singapore dollar. I found out the hard way years ago when I received change in Brunei currency and caused a bit of a ruckus, lol. Back to this issue of business’ not taking cash. Since my purchase at Decathlon, I’ve asked some Singaporeans for their thoughts. One person vehemently defended the right of business’ not to take cash citing that it’s the government of Singapore’s push for a cashless society and that even the hospitals are telling people to pay at the 7-11 if they insist on paying cash. Wait, what? Really? I haven’t followed up on that but a few others believe, as I do, that it is illegal for business’ doing business in Singapore to not to take Singapore currency. These people have suggested I lodge a complaint with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and when I asked, “why me,” they said it’s precisely because I’m a foreigner that I should be the one to complain. I don’t understand that logic but I’m probably not going to lodge a complaint since (in my opinion) it won’t matter one bit. Equally confusing to me is that, of all the people I asked, the majority just didn’t care.

I think a cashless society would be just one Mt. Gox hack away from anarchy and I’m of the opinion that when the masses are being herded in one particular direction, it’s not gonna be too good for the herd. Of course I’m no expert and I don’t know if cashless business’ are going dominate the shopping landscape or not but I do know that the push for going cashless is real and relatively quick. There is an increasing amount of crypto atm’s popping up in more malls in Singapore and I’ve seen establishments accepting crypto, which may or may not be a good thing. Have a read of my post, Funan DigitaLife Mall’s rebirth. What’s the big deal? Something you’ll want to think about for more info. If you’re looking for crypto atm’s they maybe hard to spot as they are not heavily advertised. I plan to compile a list with pictures and detailing what services are offered at these atm’s in the near future. It’s on my to do list, lol.

So what do you think about a cashless society and as a tourist being forced to use online payment (potential loss of anonymity assuming your particular online funds is accepted) or use your foreign credit card (potential additional fees). Thankfully, it’s not that prevalent now but it’s happening. I kinda feel sorry for the smaller ‘mom and pop’ shops that will need to “subscribe” to all the services necessary to make them cashless and what will happen to the extra 3% increase that a lot of business charge to the consumer for using credit cards? All those fees are inevitably gonna be added to the purchase price, that sucks.

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Funan DigitaLife Mall’s rebirth. What’s the big deal? Something you’ll want to think about.

A new mall in Singapore, different from the rest

So what’s the big deal? I’ll give you something to ponder further down in the post but first a little bit about why I even know about this mall.

Funan DIgitaLife mall WAS my go to mall (almost the whole mall was geared towards IT stuff) when I wanted anything electronic (computers, console gaming, camera gear etc). It is a far more “upscale” and the shops were less controversial than its’ main rival Sim Lim Square (I do buy pc parts from shops in Sim Lim Square since you’d be hard pressed to find parts or repair shops in Funan and not all shops are shady. Nowadays it’s pretty much cleaned up, I’m still cautious in there though. Funan was demolished in 2016 and just reopened at the end of June 2019. It was slated to open in 2020. So yeah, I was excited to go stomping in my old IT haunt!

Artistically, I found it very impressive . The color palette used is quite obvious, you can see it everywhere, starting from the outside. The earthy tones are nice and fit their theme but too dim for my liking. To break the usual ho hum square-ish mall design, the interior incorporates a lot of angles, quite stylish and interesting to look at. The outside still looks like a boring rectangle with a few angle elements and the use of color and reflections at one entrance make it a bit more interesting. Since the opening, I’ve been to Funan twice, the first to check it out and the second to buy a Macbook. There’s just something here that bugs me, other than my first reaction of, “wow it’s dim in here,” when I first entered the premises. Something more than my saltiness at the sheer number of eateries, non IT shops and clothing shops. Gone is Funan the Digitalife Mall. Damn it, arrrgh! I’m guessing that IT related shops account for less than 1/4 of the shops here. In their defense, they are not marketing the mall as an IT mall anymore. Instead, it is a mall with shops “clustered around six passion themes Tech, Craft, Play, Fit, Chic and Taste.” So what else is in here that wasn’t before? How about a huge gym, movie theaters, a climbing wall, lots more eateries (of which there’s Carl’s Jr. and Little Caesars), a media studio, local brand fashion stores and a shop that sells fold up bicycles. I think those bicycles look pretty cool and on top of that, you can ride your bike through the mall albeit only on the main floor, only between certain times of the day and at a max speed of 10km/h. Now that’s gotta be a first, well it is for me, anyways. Noticeably gone is the local, big name IT retailer, Challenger, I guess it’s because Funan is to “posh” now for the likes of the budget friendly, general IT shops like Challenger. Near the center, on the main floor, is a flight of stairs that has areas for people to sit and hang out on, which I found weird and interesting at the same time. Hopefully this will free up tables in the multitude of eateries in the building.

I gotta admit, I got so bothered by this new mall in Singapore that I had to Google it and found some interesting yet concerning things. First things first, I’m going to express my opinions and what I’ve experienced, I’m in no way condoning or trash talking anyone or any organization. The words in quotes are from Funan’s Press Release pdf. Here are the links to the Funan’s website: www.funan.com.sg and the press release pdf that I came across in my search for info: https://www.capitaland.com/content/dam/capitaland-newsroom/International/2019/jun/capitaland-unveils-reimagined-funan/190628_News%20Release_CapitaLand%20unveils%20reimagined%20Funan.pdf

The really cool things I found in the pdf but didn’t see or get to use in the mall are:
1) VR pods for movies and games
2) 24h drive through to support the online shoppers
3) E-paying service at the food court accepting cryptocurrencies (this may not be so cool after reading the points in the “NOT COOL” section below)
4) Food ordering through Facebook Messenger
5) “Using one of the about 40 smart directories in Funan, shoppers can browse and search for trending merchandise before mapping the shortest route possible to reach a store with the wayfinding system”
6) “By year-end, shoppers can expect a robot-enabled handsfree shopping and 24/7 click-and-collect drive-through service”
7) The handful of parking spots you can reserve via the mall’s app.
8) Roof top urban farm
9) “Unmanned futsal facility”
10) “Dedicated Bicycle Hub with end-of-trip amenities”

The NOT COOL things (in my opinion) are:
1) “video analytics to measure and analyse footfall throughout the mall and entering each store”
2) “In-store smart terminals further capture transaction data so that tenants can use the analytics to refine their offerings and enhance customer experiences”
3) “smart directories can also make product recommendations based on the shopper’s demographic profile”

So it sounds to me, like as soon as people are picked up on camera, they are profiled and followed by someone/software and that is stored somewhere accessible by someone(s) so that the data can be shared. Admittedly, shared (in a repackeged form) on a public display and to their tenants as detailed reports on shoppers’ choice of store(s), purchases and movement patterns? So how am I supposed to know that the data that’s been captured of or about me isn’t being shared/sold anywhere else and only used for what they say they’ll use it for? How does the smart directory get my demographic profile in the first place?! This is a lot of surveillance going on which raises privacy issues. If you’re the sort who uses crypto currencies for the anonymity, well, if you use it in Funan, you won’t be so anonymous anymore. Couple all this data with the mandatory finger printing going on when you enter and exit customs/immigration at many airports these days a very detailed report can be compiled very quickly by many people/organizations. I can see the point for surveillance as a security measure but to track people and profile them? That seems excessive and I’m pretty sure the majority of people entering Funan do not know they are being surveilled to this extent.

Yesterday, I went to visit Funan Mall just to get some imagery for this post and to see if I could find any of the surveillance, I mean, video analytics cameras. I couldn’t. I did find the facial recognition devices use to access the other areas of the building like the office towers and serviced apartments though. Maybe I’ve just interpreted things very badly and this may all be just fluff, like “who cares kinda stuff” but I really think that we all should care, or at least give a reasonable amount of consideration to. At least consider our willingness to wantonly give this type of access to our personal habits, to a shopping mall no less. How about you? How would you feel if a mall in your area did this? How would you feel if all malls started doing this?

As I was finishing up this post it occurred to me that I watched how data can be used to get sales. I watch this happen on Harajuku’s main shopping street (in Japan) but without the high tech. As I was standing on a corner waiting for my “girls” to finish shopping at one shop, I watched these guys holding binders with images of their wares (basketball related stuff like shoes, jersey’s etc). There were at least 3 of them walking around within a block or two of their shop. Every now and then they would stop a target that they picked out of the crowd (acquiring visual data etc) and try to peddle their wares and at the same time herding them towards their shop. At times they got grabby too. I just pictured myself walking into Funan and as I pass a shop, a sales rep runs out and tells me of a deal “just for me” or something like that, lol. OR if you have the mall’s app, you’ll start getting a barrage of notifications informing you of deals and discounts. Since it’s so easy here in Singapore to pay using your phone, this could be bad, very bad for impulse buyers like me. Food for thought…

All images used in this post were shot using my Samsung Note 8. Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

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The Great Moscow Circus visits Singapore

The Great Moscow Circus is in town, Singapore! My kids have goin to a “real” circus on their bucket list so they were really quite excited and really wanted to go so I booked the tickets online. Now looking at the seating and prices, I picked the $69 dollar tickets which looked like they were in the “nose bleeds”,5 rows down from the top. I kept thinking to myself that I’d rather watch ice hockey at that price. Anyways, I bought the tickets and proceeded to look for the restrictions, low and behold, photography is ALLOWED! Just no flash. Wow, I’m impressed. So I attached my 70-200 lens onto my Canon 7D and put it into my bag. I chose the 70-200 because I figured I’d need the f2.8 more than I would need the reach of a 100-400.

Upon reaching the venue, my first thought was how small the “Big Top” was. My eldest asked if it was supposed to be that small, my youngest didn’t care. We got in line for the security check and watched people who were ushered off to the side, trying to eat the snacks they tried to bring in as quickly as they could. Yup, read that in the fine print but in all fairness the only food they had inside was bottle drinks, popcorn and cotton candy, I was so looking forward to jumbo hotdogs or corn dogs. If they’re gonna restrict food they should have a better selection or at least hotdogs, who doesn’t like hotdogs, am I right? The souvenirs were not so enticing either, just some light up wand things, a yoyo, some really small t-shirts and the program. Oh Well.

Walking around the Big Top, to find the entrance to our section, I found it strange that there wasn’t the heavy smell of animals, I didn’t notice any cages or anything either but then again the area was really quite small. Found our entrance and seats, and boy oh boy did I miscalculate the distance. I wish I brought my walk around lens (24-105) because we’re way to close but I’m so glad I brought the 70-200 instead of the 100-400. I had problems getting the action in at 70mm, plus the guy in front of me was tall and kept raising his arms. If I had to guess, I’d say we were around 50-60 feet away from the ring so if you’re buying tickets don’t worry if you’re in the top rows, you’ll still be close. Close enough to swat the giant beach ball that they throw into the crowd.

Here’s some shots:

 

The start time for our show was 7:30 pm and it ended at 10 pm. There were the usual jugglers and clown routines, acrobats and contortionist as well as some “death defying” stunts that really made for some edge of your seat entertainment! Personally I found it very entertaining despite, for better or worse, no animal routines nor playing with fire routines. Although we’ve seen plenty of the tumbling/bar/acrobatic routines (my youngest daughter was a competition gymnast), we still found these segments of the show very entertaining. Looking across the seats and seeing the huge smiles, the awe and the astonishment on my kids faces was awesome. The show also included some acts from one of the major televised talent shows, I can’t remember which one but they were truly amazing to watch. Even spider man came to watch the show:

Just kidding, that’s just the silhouette of the guy swinging around the tent, at times holding/suspending/dangling his female partner! If The Great Moscow Circus ever reaches your town, I highly recommend that you go enjoy the show, especially if you have kids.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, ?? please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

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Stadium Walk – mypictureday submission

Just for the fun of it, I took a walk along the section of Singapore’s Kallang River where the national stadium is located. I could have picked a better day, I suppose, as it started to rain pretty heavily. The relatively new National Stadium which is dome shaped and features a retractable roof is the reportedly the world’s largest dome structure. Unfortunately, the retractable roof’s reliability as well as the quality of the artificial turf has been less than desirable. The structure does look pretty cool though, I think.

 

 

In contrast to the National Stadium, is the much older Indoor Stadium, which is just next door. Instead of a rounded mound look, it sports an angular circus tent look and reminds me of the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars. Both stadiums are within the same complex called the “Sports Hub” which also has an indoor pool as well as a shopping mall. The Indoor Stadium is where a lot of the music concerts, MMA events and basketball games are played.

 

 

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome. As are upvotes and resteems, if you like what you see.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes,

Ray

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

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Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year (SGPY)

Here’s another contest for y’all. Best wishes and good luck!

The “Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year” photo competition aims to showcase the rich biodiversity and greenery that make Singapore an endearing and exceptional City in a Garden. Rediscover the heritage and value of our parks, gardens and nature reserves and capture your interpretation through photographic lens of this living space and greenery that Singapore is famous for. The competition features an open, youth and Instagram category.

Singapore Garden Photographer of the Year Photo Competition (SGPY)

Source: Nation Parks Singapore