Children Selling Cigarettes in the Philippines


I was sitting on that same second floor window where I saw the girl with the bag that said “Use Me” when I saw something else interesting.  Does this count as child exploitation?  Isn’t there a law against it?  Maybe there isn’t.  It seems like labor regulation is pretty loose in the Philippines, which can apparently have both its ups and downs.

This reminds me of something else I saw, where children were encouraged to buy tokens for the toy machines in a grocery store at the tobacco counter.


‘Shutting Down’ An Annoying Salesman

Last night we were wandering around Liang Court Mall in Clarke Quay and I happened to see the sign for Audio House on the side of one of the escalators.  I’m a sucker for ogling new electronics so I convinced my wife we should go up there.  I was particularly interested in looking at laptops.  My MacBook Pro has been slowly falling apart.  I’ve been complaining about it for almost a year now, and it’s almost time to go ahead and take the plunge and get a new one.  I’ll be needing it for when I start going to school again later this year.

So, we went ahead and walked into the store.  It was nice and cold up there, and while we were walking past the long wall with the flat panel TVs stuck to it, I stopped to comment on how you could feel the heat coming off of all of them.  Then I got distracted by a movie preview that was showing on the TVs.  I knew I’d seen the movie before and was trying to remember where.

Since I’d stopped for more than 5 seconds, a salesman rushed up right away.

Can I help you?” he asked.

No thanks.  I’m just looking.

I continued watching the preview, trying to remember the name of the movie.  I almost had it when the salesman interrupted my thoughts.

This TV is … blah blah blah … special … blah blah blah…

I interrupted him, “I don’t care what the TV is.  I told you I’m not interested in it.  I’m just watching the preview.”  I said it without bothering to even look at him.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see him throw his arms down in disgust and then stomp away.

I almost felt bad for the guy, but not really.  If he had listened to me the first time, he could’ve saved himself the frustration and annoyance of being shut down and rejected.

I really despise aggressive salesmen.  I’m sure that’s a common feeling.  In the US, a lot of people refuse to visit car lots during business hours so they can look at the cars in peace, without being harassed by some jackass that’s trying to pressure them into a sale.

Oh, and I did finally remember what the movie was.  It was a somewhat cheesy flick called Dragon Wars that I saw about a year and a half or two years ago.  It was fun for the special effects but the storyline was horrible.

Sim Lim Sales People Drive Me Nuts

I have a love-hate relationship with Sim Lim.  I love the place because it’s full of electronics and I love new gadgets.  The place has decent retail prices and if you’re looking for replacement parts, it’s often the only place in Singapore that sells them for a reasonable price.

So, why do I hate going there?  I hate going there because I can’t shop in peace.  I’m the kind of guy that likes to take my time, examining the items on display, reading through the specifications, comparing and thinking about what the best deal is.  I’m often not even there to make a purchase.  I just like to see what’s out so I can have an idea of what’s a good deal when I want to make a purchase in the future.

The reason I can’t shop in peace in Sim Lim is because of the aggressive sales practices of the staff in the various stores.  If you even look too long at something in the store while you’re out in the walkway area, a sales person runs out and asks you what you’re looking for, what brand, what price range, what what what what.

When you can make it into the store before being assaulted by a sales person, they’ll typically walk up and lean over your shoulder to see what you’re looking at.  Then they’ll insult your intelligence by reading the specs of the laptop you’re looking at from the sticker that’s prominently displayed on the wrist wrest of the device.  Thanks, but I can read.  I’ve been doing it for a long time and I don’t need help reading stickers that are placed in a clearly visible position by the manufacturer.

Typically, when I walk into a store in Sim Lim I walk straight to the items that I’m interested in browsing.  A sales person will walk up to me and ask me if they can help me with anything.  I’ll quickly tell them, “No thank you.  I’m just browsing for the moment.”  I say it in a no-nonsense kind of way to make it clear that I’m not interested in being “helped”.

At this point, one of two things will happen.  Either the sales person will take the hint, be polite and return to their sitting area, or they’ll just stand there.  Uh.  Hello?  I just told you I don’t want your help!  So, why do they do that?  It’s like having a vulture crouching on my shoulder while I’m there.  Even worse, they follow you around like they’re making sure you don’t try to steal something.  After a few instances of this I started telling them that if I had any questions about anything, I would come to them.  That didn’t work.  They still followed, right to the edge of the store, which is where I would directly go if they wouldn’t leave me alone.

Some of them have no sense of personal space either.  I had to ‘accidentally’ bump into one guy that was standing so close behind my wife he could’ve hugged her.  That’s really not cool.  Not at all.

Even if the sales person takes the hint and retreats, you’re still not guaranteed to be out of the woods, because that sales person has colleagues; colleagues that may not be paying attention to what’s going on. Here’s an example.  I walked into a store and when I was approached by a sales person I told her I was quite alright and would let her know if I needed anything.  She smiled and walked back to the sitting area.  Less than a minute later I was approached by another sales person.  Then another.  Then another.  I had to wave away four of them.

I really don’t know what the point of them hovering around me is.  It just puts me on edge.  It makes me feel like I can’t stay in one spot too long and make my own decision.  When they don’t leave me alone, or even worse when they try to offer me a “special price six minutes only” I quickly turn and leave and go to the next store.

I don’t like being uncomfortable and I don’t like feeling pressured when I’m considering spending a large sum of money on an electronic device.  I want to take my time and make sure that I’m picking an item that I’m going to like; not what the sales person tells me I’ll like.

I know this is a cultural difference, because I’ve seen the same behavior from sales people in the Philippines.  It’s odd that this is the only place in Singapore (that I know of) that does this.  Honestly, it makes me want to avoid Sim Lim if I can.  It’s too bad more stores in Singapore don’t have web pages that show their specials and sales.

So, here’s what I recommend.  If you’re a sales person and someone tells you they don’t want to be helped, hand them a flyer with your store’s current specials, tell them your name, thank them for visiting your store, and tell them that if they need anything you’ll be available (not waiting, because that sounds aggressive) in the back of the store.  Also, label your products with prices and whatever specials come along with them, like free bags, etc.  Mark brightly what’s on sale and put it near the front of the store.  Make sure everything has tags detailing the devices capabilities.  But don’t harass your customers!  Let them browse in peace.  If they have questions they’re not going to run away.  They’ll ask.

Aggressive Salespeople Are Ineffective

Sometimes employees in Asia can be a little too helpful for comfort.

There’s a stereotype that in the Southern US, people are more friendly.  In most cases that’s true.  It’s not unusual to have a conversation with a stranger.  It’s acceptable to ask a stranger for directions.  It’s not uncommon to have a conversation with your server and, depending on where you go, it doesn’t take long to become a “regular”.

Now, take that hospitality and re-imagine it as something aggressive and unwanted and that’s what you get from many sales clerks in Asia.  Add being a white foreigner to that and you wind up being harassed almost nonstop when in a shopping area.

It’s not particular to any one country either.  I’ve experienced it in every country I’ve visited in Asia so far.


The first time I took a trip to the Philippines we stopped by a mall.  Which mall it was slips my mind now, but we were in a big department store.  I think we were looking for some new socks.

(Picture from the store where the sock incident occurred. This outfit looked really gay so I took a photo of it to laugh at later.)

Distributed throughout the area were dozens of sales people.  They looked like vultures.  As soon as I stepped off the laminated walkway and onto the carpeting and showed the slightest interest in something on the shelf it was like watching cats descend on a bowl of fresh fish.

“May I help you sir?”  “Would you be interested in this sir?”  “How about this?”  “We have a special right now on…”

All this before I’d even finished looking at the first package of socks I’d picked up.  How am I supposed to know what I want before I’ve had a chance to properly browse?  And what makes this horde of sales people think I’m incapable of picking out a package of socks on my own?  I don’t have to be a local to successfully complete that mission!

Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This one was kind of expected, since it was, after all, a tourist area.  But it’s still unnerving to walk down a row of stalls and have people constantly calling, “Sir! Good deal sir! Hello!  Hello!  Hello!”  As if I didn’t hear them when they first started talking, and I’ll stop just because they say hello?  I don’t think so.

Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Again, this is somewhat expected because it’s a tourist area, but some of them were seriously aggressive.  They would step out in front of you and try to block you from moving on as they waved flyers and menus in your face.  One of them even tried to grab my arm.  That’s definitely not cool.


You don’t see that sort of thing happening in Singapore quite as much.  Well, it’s not as aggressive anyway.  If you enter a store and start handling the clothes one person may stop by and ask if you need assistance, but if you decline, they leave you alone.  My only issue is that they approach you as soon as you start browsing.  Then, when you do need assistance they’re elsewhere, behind the register or in the stock room.  It would make more sense for them to approach you after a few minutes of being in the store.

Where it is a bit bothersome is at the hawker centers and food courts.  People will call out to you and try to draw your attention.  Some of them are more subtle.  They try to be friendly, or try to guilt you into buying.  There’s a particular woman that sells fish soup at the nearby hawker that tries to win people over with a charming smile.  So, like I said, not so bad, but still more than what I’m used to.

It Just Doesn’t Work!

I suppose you could say this adds to the excitement and experience of visiting these places, but I’d rather relax and not have to worry about being hounded by people every time I get near a store, restaurant or bar.  Rather than draw me into a sale, what this type of behavior does is push me away.  I don’t want to feel like I’m being forced into making a purchase and I definitely don’t want to be hassled on a vacation.  Well, Singapore doesn’t really count as a vacation, since I live there, but I thought it was worth adding for comparison.

Oh, and one other thing I noticed is that there seem to be more salespeople in Asian stores than in the US, where you sometimes spend 10 minutes trying to find a single employee to help you with something.

Your Worst Customer Service Experience Was In:(online surveys)

Roman Gladiator Cosplay on Orchard Road

Just some random cosplay I saw down on Orchard Road (Singapore).  It’s an advertisement for a gaming establishment that I assume does LAN gaming.  I haven’t visited the gaming houses for network or online games in Singapore, and probably won’t.  I prefer gaming on my own laptop, or on my XBOX 360.