Sim Lim Square is reputed to be the place for electronics and IT.
But it is nothing more than a killing ground, especially for tourists, says a former mobile phone shop owner.
Sick of seeing his neighbours rip off customers, often making them cry, he moved out after a year.
And after more reports of errant mobile phone shops surfaced in the past week, he decided to reveal the secrets behind their unscrupulous sales tactics.
The man, who wanted to be known as Marcus, told The New Paper: "The Vietnamese man who cried after losing $550 to a shop - that's just one of the many people I've seen in tears as they leave Sim Lim Square
"The shop owners have no heart, no remorse. It's time that people's perception of that place changed."
Mobile phone shop assistants can earn anything from $1,000 to more than $10,000 a month in commission, depending on how cunning and adept they are at making customers part with their money, he said.
This is how they do it.
Shop assistants will strike up conversations with customers when they enter the shop, Marcus said.
They may appear to be just friendly salesmen, but it is actually to assess the customers. Their prime targets are usually tourists or clueless locals.
"They will ask where the customer is from and when he is leaving the country. If the customer says he is leaving that very night, then they will go all out for the 'kill'," he said.
He said the shop assistants would also take note whether the customer is wearing expensive clothes or accessories such as watches.
They would also find out how much the customer knows about the product, prices and the level of taxes in Singapore, and hence gauge whether he or she will fall for their tricks, Marcus added.
And locals are not spared.
"I've seen some aunties losing money to these shops. Basically, they will pick on whoever they can," he said.
SETTING UP A SMOKESCREEN
To lure customers to make purchases, they will offer a promotional price, Marcus said.
"They will quote a low price for a mobile phone, one that is too good to be true. They will also tell the customer that the promotion ends the moment he leaves the shop."
But the promotional price is usually not the final price, something that customers are not made aware of, he said.
Once the customer agrees to buy the phone, the shop assistants will ask for payment, he said.
After that, they get the customer to sign a contract. This is where they usually snare unsuspecting customers.
Customers who skim through the contract and don't read the "terms of conditions" properly will fall into their trap.
Some tourists are also not fluent in English and in some cases, customers are told that the form they are signing is for the shop's records.
Once the contract is signed, the customer is told that the price he paid is just a deposit and the sale is conditional on him taking up the shop's in-house warranty.
This warranty could run from a few hundred dollars to more than $2,000 for a two-year warranty.
Said Marcus: "The customer is in a bind as he has signed the contract. The shop assistants will not give him the phone until he pays the full amount.
"Even if he calls the police, they can't do much because his signature is on the contract."
If the customer demands a refund, he will get back only a percentage of what he paid, as stated on the contract, he added.
Some shop assistants may also try to charge extra for activation or unlocking costs, he said.