Three men dashed out, hiding their faces as soon as the shutters of a shop at Sim Lim Square opened yesterday afternoon.
They weren't fleeing from the police.
Instead, in an indication of their shame, these salesmen were wilting under the glare of publicity.
Faced with a squad of reporters and photographers outside the shop, they went from salesmen, known for aggressive sales tactics, to publicity-shy innocents.
Believed to be working at mobile phone shop Mobile Apps on the first storey, the men had been behind the shutters during a police raid.
The media had been waiting for them for nearly two hours after being alerted to a surprise raid at two shops - Mobile Apps (#01-50) and another mobile phone shop, Gadget Terminal (#02-80).
As soon as the shutters rolled up after the raid, the three men from Mobile Apps ran off in different directions.
Two headed towards Albert Street, while the third dashed towards Rochor Canal Road.
One of the men, who covered his face with the hood of his sweater, ran into a lift at Burlington Square next door.
Ten minutes before they fled, plain-clothes policemen were seen carting out two large boxes and a small one from the shop.
The police had spent nearly two hours inside Mobile Apps, which pulled down its shutters at about 12.45pm.
Although the shop is registered under the name Mobile Apps, its signboard reads De.Mac Gadget.
Gadget Terminal was raided next, without much drama.
The shop assistants were not in the shop when the police carted away three big boxes and two small ones at about 3.30pm.
The police confirmed that they had begun investigations into the two mobile phone retailers at Sim Lim Square, following reports lodged against them.
The nature of the complaints are not known.
A police spokesman added: "It is inappropriate to comment further as investigations are ongoing."
Both shops were on the alert list issued by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore Tourism Board for having the most number of customer complaints.
Gadget Terminal was at the top of the list, with 14 complaints over the past three months.
Mobile Apps had seven complaints.
According to Case, since January, there have been four complaints from local customers against Mobile Apps and nine against Gadget Terminal.
Most of the complaints involved customers being charged extra fees for warranty or phone unlocking after signing the contract. A small portion of complaints also involved defective goods, said a Case spokesman.
This is the second time that police have taken action at Sim Lim Square, following the raid on errant retailer Jover Chew's shop Mobile Air last month.
Plain-clothes policemen were seen removing electronic gadgets such as tablets and phones, and documents from Mobile Air.
While most shop owners The New Paper spoke to were concerned about the negative publicity that has hit the scandal-ridden shopping centre, they were glad the police were finally stepping in.
One of the owners of a camera shop on the second floor, who declined to be named, estimated that business had fallen between 20 and 80 per cent.
Those depending on walk-in customers were the worst hit, he said.
"It's a short-term pain, but a long-term gain.
"Currently, there is a lack of confidence and trust in shops in Sim Lim Square because these errant retailers have tarnished the place with the same brush."
Another camera dealer, who shares the shop space with Mobile Apps, was also upset. He reopened for business shortly after the raid.
Declining to talk about the raid, he retorted angrily: "Our shops are not related. My business has been badly affected after all the media reports. I have to feed my family."
Another electronics shop owner on the first storey said business had been at its lowest point in 20 years.
He said: "We used to see policemen coming to Sim Lim Square every day but for them to enter a shop and raid it, that's not common.
"But that should be the way it's done - to deal with these errant shops once and for all."
ERRANT RETAILERS AT SIM LIM SQUARE
Gadget Terminal (#02-80): 14
Mobile22 (#01-42): 14
Mackin (#02-87): 7
Megacentrix Technologies (#02-77): 7
Mobile Apps (#01-50): 7
K-One Mobile (#01-40): 5
SLR Pro (#01-56): 5
*Figures for complaints received between September and November this year.
Source: Consumers Association of Singapore and Singapore Tourism Board
SIM LIM'S SAGA
Sim Lim Square mobile phone shop Mobile Air refunds a customer $1,010 in coins.
A Vietnamese tourist is caught on video crying and begging for a refund at Mobile Air.
Details of Mr Jover Chew, owner of Mobile Air, and his wife are splashed online.
The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) says it will start injunction proceedings against Mobile Air.
Mobile Air, closed for more than a week, reopens under another owner who identifies himself as Ricky Lee.
Mobile Air is raided by police.
Mr Chew clears out his shop and tells Lianhe Wanbao that he can never set up shop again.
This article was first published on December 5, 2014.
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