Tag Archive | NUSS

Making lemonade

As an incurable sucker for freebies, i’d been wanting most of this month to get round to going to Tangs to claim my birthday month’s 20% discount voucher.

But the days slipped away so quickly that it was already half-way thru May when I finally got that clear free afternoon to grab the voucher and venture to shop — in the clear belief that I would get 20% off everything I bought.

I knew exactly what I needed and desired and so felt confident that I would be able to spend the “savings” as well — but at Isetan across the road, and all within the one-hour $2.80 parking charge at Tangs.

Even Tangs’ carpark seemed to favour me yesterday. I felt like walking on sunshine when I found a spot to leave my car right at Level 3 which opened into Tangs.

With military precision I zipped down to Level 2 where Customers Service was. There was no queue and i got served almost as soon as I whipped out my Tangs card and my I/C to claim my voucher.

Then came the crushing disappointment, as the customer service girl intoned that the 20% discount didn’t apply to fragrance, skin care, make up (except for some samples) etc

That was exactly the stuff I had come for; that’s what made me excited — not Tangs clothes, food at its Island Cafe, watches etc..

In fact, if Tangs does collate info on what its card members buy, it would know that I almost never buy anything other than skin care, fragrance and make up from its store.

So why bother to raise my hopes with its “special treat” offer and as a result made me madly disappointed? 😥

What to do? Since I had ample parking time left from my one-hour, I marched out the door to take the underpass to Isetan in Shaw Centre when another blow hit me. At the underpass entrance right outside Tang’s door, one escalator wasn’t working and the other was under repair.

I toyed with the idea of going back into Tangs to shop but hardened my resolve. I won’t spend another cent on a store that misled me — at least not immediately.

So, Lucky Plaza? No, too tacky.. then I remembered Scotts Square which I had visited once briefly.

And if nothing else, Scotts Square’s aircon was super effective.

Then I remembered Crystal Jade Kitchen right at the top of the shopping square and the fact that it had a promo for soy-sauce chicken at $9.90! I picked up a portion and some lau sar buns (pau with salted egg yolk sauce filling).

Though my purchase came to less than $15, the wait staff were super polite. One even poured me a glass of water without bidding, while I waited for my order to be packed.

Yup, Tangs might have handed me a lemon of a birthday treat, but I managed to make some delicious lemonade as a result.

And yup, I busted my $2.80 parking by about 50 cents.

Next year I’ll know what to do with Tangs’ special birthday month offer. It will go into the bin along with all those gifts with strings that come from two of the three clubs I belong to and about which I’ve once dissed here.  With the exception of NUSS that is! Its annual $20 birthday gift voucher with no minimum spend is always welcome! Not those of the Tanglin Club or the Singapore Cricket Club whose “gifts” are poorly disguised ways of extracting money from me!  🙄


Credit card nonsense

This post belongs to the “everything must complain” category. I’ve been encouraged to write about my own experience with the sudden notice from DBS Cards to cancel my Gold Visa (among other cards) starting Dec 1, after reading Boo n Bouquet’s version here.

I was a bit non-plussed on receiving what seemed like a marketing circular that i almost threw away. Just as well I took a closer look.

The circular advised that “as other DBS/POSB Credit Cards bring you market competitive privileges and benefits”, the bank has taken the unilateral decision to close your “DBS Affiinity/Charge Gold Visa/Mastercard credit card XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-7066”.

I hold two DBS cards and at first wondered if the bank meant both since one is what I assume is an “affinity” card (being a National University of Singapore Society card) and the other was once an affinity card too (to Raffles Marina, till some where along the way RM broke off its affinity with DBS and the bank without much ado issued me a new gold Visa card).

Then I took heart. Going by the last four digits provided by the circular, only the ID of my gold card ended with 7066.

And shucks, I’ve got a Giro payment for a small health insurance policy that’s been going on for perhaps 20 years linked to it. With the card gone, my policy may laspe and I don’t want that to happen.

I called the bank’s hotline. I waited for ages b4 I got to speak to a customer service officer and after many more minutes of explanation managed to extract a phone number from him, with the helpful tip on where I might find my policy number in my monthly credit card bill.

No, he could not arrange for the Giro charges to be ported over to my other DBS card. No, he couldn’t do anything. I must contact the insurer and make my own arrangements. And to think I had originally signed up for that insurance package because the card issuer made all the arrangements!

More time wasted with the insurers be4 I got the necessary form to instruct the insurer to instruct the bank to deduct.

I’m not the only DBS credit card holder inconvenienced by the bank’s unusual move to delete a whole slate of cards at one stroke.

Perhaps the 7066 cards are cards which are hardly used by their holders.

If so, DBS should have given card holders a choice: use them more often or give them up. And if you give them up, we will help you move your Giro arrangements to other DBS cards you use. We will also help you to consolidate your reward points rather than force you to consume them be4 Dec 1.

That would have been a lot more customer friendly.

But then, when you are Singapore’s biggest bank, who cares about being customer friendly!

I spied with my little eye more

Singapore’s who’s who..

Starting with the scion of a very well-known Singaporean lunching with a woman who isn’t his wife at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Kent Ridge cafe.

I mustn’t jump to conclusions because his dad in his young days too used to escort young women to meals at places such as the Stables (alas all those fillies have become old nags) at the Mandarin Hotel but he never philandered.

Also having a meal at the same clubhouse but away from prying eyes today (8 Sep) were Professor Tommy Koh and Professor Arthur Lim.

They had obviously been hosted by the NUSS committee and management because when I saw them they were being sent off by the NUSS president Johnny Tan and a committee member (also ex president and ex NMP), Chandra Mohan, with much Korean-drama courtesy (ie a lot of bowing).

Prof Lim was escorted all the way to his chauffer-driven car by Mr Tan while Prof Koh made his own way to the reserved car-parking lot for his. Well, at least a lot had been reserved for him in front of the Guild House!

Service — the only winning formula

I’m a sucker for service. So I’ve to disagree with the answer given to the Sunday Times (Aug 2) by Sabrina Ng, who runs European restaurant Ember on Keong Saik Road with her husband, chef Sebastian.

In reply to the question “What is the most important factor when opening a restaurant?”, she answered: “The food. It has be be consistently good. That is what brings people back again and again. If the standard drops, they will stop coming.”

While I agree that the food is important, even more important is the service, something Sabrina seems to deliver as if by second nature.

To be honest, Ember serves decent modern European style food but so does Au Petit Salut, in far more charming surroundings and NUSS outlet at Suntec City, (which tho ranking below Ember and Au Petit in its menu pretensions win hands down in price).

But every time I’ve been to Ember — about five or six times over the years — I was struck by the excellent service, delivered by none other than Sabrina herself.

Every dish that’s ordered, from starter to mains to dessert is delivered by her to the table. I don’t know whether it’s because of my hosts (I’ve only been to Ember as a guest) or whether she does it for everyone, with no exception.

Whatever the case, Ember’s quality of service, in particular Sabrina’s, is a constant in all the reviews that I’ve chanced upon on the Net, with the following two representative examples: 

  • “The service is fantastic. I believe the lady dealing with me is the boss of the place or at least an in-charge and she was very professional and friendly, making a good first impression
  • The service was exceptional for a bistro – the maitre’d took care of us all, chatty without being annoying, warm and friendly. She even helped the old folks at the table next door to cross the road – ok, corridor to the toilet.

As an indication of what a sucker I’m for good service, I signed up for a ThaiExpress Orange card — even tho I hate such “privilege” or “discount” with purchase cards, because for the privilege of upfront spending, I’m tied to spending more.

great service lure

great service lure

Yet I signed up because the service mum, me and the maid (even tho we were dressed more for hawker than shopping centre fare) received at the ThaiExpress outlet at Thomson Plaza was so exceptional that I couldn’t resist the low-key sales pitch — and that was even be4 I had ordered my food!

And no, I don’t regret it because the 2 times I’ve been to ThaiExpress outlets (at Tiong Baru Plaza and West Coast Plaza) since signing up have been positive experiences. And I’ve recovered the initial $30 outlay, leaving birthday privileges to be claimed next year.

NUSS membership has its privileges..

.. really…and many…
I have four club memberships and the one I hold at National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) is the best value for money, service and variety.

latest NUSS outlet

latest NUSS outlet

I first became a member in circa 1970 when the society, called Guild House then, had its premises in a rather dingy bungalow at 15, Evans Road.

I had no intention of becoming a member but the friend who brought me for a drink there was part of a group trying to expand the membership. The price of membership was $100 and I paid just $50 because one of the membership activists offered to put up the difference, as a sort of incentive.

Atho I wasn’t a product of the NUS (at that time called University of Singapore), I was welcomed as n associate member.

So voila, I became a member and for a few years, paid my monthly subs which cldn’t have been more than $5, but remember in 1970, a Grange Road apartment of 1,400sf could be bought for under $100K.

Thereafter disinterest set in. I stopped paying my subs and resigned myself to the fact that I might b kicked out. The years passed. Then one fine day i received a letter asking me to revive my membership. No demand for past dues; no recrimination.

And I thought why not? Kent Ridge Guild House was about to open and the monthly subs were a “princely” $20!

Unlike the other clubs I joined subsequently (at least two are hugely losing propositions in that I hardly use them; and their membership prices have gone from hero to zero-almost), NUSS didn’t stop at just one location.

It gave me Orchard Cineleisure for 8 or 10 years; and when that lease expired, gave me Suntec City. Be4 them, there were facilities at the then fairly new Amara Hotel as well as Adam Road, altho the latter has never been my favourite destination.

And even be4 the Kent Ridge premises could begin to fray at the edges, NUSS has since the beginning of November moved to spanking new premises at the Alumni Complex still in Kent Ridge.

In a few days time, another outlet opens in the old Singapore University premises in Bukit Timah Road, a five-minute drive from my home.

Great locations; delicious food at very decent prices and usually good service: these sum up why I never regretted being an NUSS member.

But that was not all. A couple of years ago, when I reached a certain magic number (hehe, better don’t reveal my age, hor!) in seniority, I found I no longer had to pay monthly subs which are now $45. Apparently, one has to be a member for a certain number of years to qualify for this privilege.

nasi worth zik-ba-ban

nasi worth zik-ba-ban

 With the $45 saved every month, I could indulge in the above as well as the many delectable sets offered at the Suntec location.

At $22 per person for a three course meal, (with coffee, tea, soft drink and garlic bread thrown in) it’s a steal because the ingredients are excellent, the presentation stylish and meticulous.

A picture speaks a thousand words and all of them directed at our stomachs as a medley of chicken n fish dishes (below) which my family and I had over a recent week-end shows.

nothing fishy here

nothing fishy here

my hallibut

my hallibut

the real mcCoy

the real mcCoy

To round up our lip-smacking mains, was a tiramisu made more delightful with candied orange slice. As usual, we order a liqour to toss into our dessert for an extra kick to end the meal.

sweet ending on a high

sweet ending on a high

I’ve regretted many of my club memberships but never, never being an NUSS member. That’s why I think anyone reading this and isn’t yet a member should make a bee-line for its about-to-xpire offer which ends on Dec 6.

Be4 that date, entrance fees are $3,000, but one-third of this will come back to the member in the form of a $1,000 F&B credit (no limit on what the amout could be spent on in the club’s many outlets).

For the introducer, there’ll be $300 worth of F&B credit but I’ll waive this $300 to anyone who asks me to be their introducer, so that their entrance fee in effect works out to be just $1,700. I’ll also share with the person any winnings from the lucky draw connected with the membership drive.

I’m doing this because someone did it for me almost 40 years ago and I’m still enjoying the benefits today.

After Dec 6, NUSS entrance fees will go up to $4,000 and $10,000 in March 2010. But why delay, as the length of your membership will determine whether like me, you will get a life-time gift of subs waiver when you reach that magic XX years old?

Discipline or meaness?

Because of my mother’s condition, we are forced to employ a live-in foreign maid or what the MOM has termed foreign domestic worker (FDW).

I’ve always believe that one must feed one’s maid well ie three square meals a day. I’ve always believe too that my maid, should I have one, should eat with me n mum at the same table.

With a maid from the deepest Sumatra in situate since 3/3, I’ve been faced with the practical realities of implementing my ideals.

First, eating at the same table: do I dole out the maid’s portion of food or allow her to help herself to the dishes on the table? I opted for the first and after laying down some vague rules (ie Popo ie my mum must be given to choice pieces of food), left it at that.

Alas, this hasn’t quite worked out. Siti either doesn’t understand what I mean or she’s just plain greedy.  She just dawdles with her rice but keeps heaping veg, meat n fish onto her plate. 

One evening when we had a one-pot all goodies porridge, she went ahead and emptied the pot which had enough for 2nd helpings for all three of us, altho neither mum nor me had finished our first helping — without any reference to us. By the time I realised what happened, it was too late. Mum and I had to go without second helpings and that didn’t make us feel particularly generous towards Siti.

So, I’ve implemented what is a rather mean move: start the meal by giving Siti a portion of everything that’s served at table and then to help her to the food as the meal progressed.

As we also eat out quite often, there’s a new dimension that i didn’t appreciate till I now have a maid. There are places I can’t take her, such as the Tanglin and Cricket Clubs; there are also places I don’t want to take her, because they are pricey.

So, now we are left with Raffles Marina, NUSS outlets, noodle houses or food courts. She’s already been to Raffles Marina twice and once to NUSS at Kent Ridge, as well as a couple of mid-end buffets.

The noodle houses have proved problematic however as most dishes are pork-based and she being a Muslim, I found there isn’t much she could eat.

So, food courts have become the safest bets. They are air-con, have fairly decent loos and have sheltered car-parks, all three pre-requisites for me, if not my mum.

Yet these are not without problems. For one, the need to look for seats for three persons. Siti isn’t alert; my mother is slow of foot and I end up having to rush in, grab the first convenient table and keep a look out for a dopey maid and an old shuffling woman.

The major problem is what amount of money to give Siti to buy her lunch. I started with $4 at the Tanglin Mall Food Court, because that’s what mum’s lunch cost. (Modus operandi: we buy mum’s food and have her settle and then maid n I buy our food separately).

I was surprised she had spent exactly $4. No change. I asked if she chose food to spend all the money or chose food she liked. She said the latter. The next time, at Great World City, she spent $3.30, and returned 70cts change. Another time, I ordered the same food for all three.

Then “disaster” struck. We were back at GWC and I found that I didn’t have the exact $4 to give her. I hesitated and passed her a $5 note with the whispered instruction to spend no more than $4. And we parted.

When I got back to join her n mum, I was a bit surprised to see she had roast chicken, an omellete, a side salad and a small bowl of soup. She handed me 20 cents. No receipt.

How much did that cost? $4.80,ma’am. Didn’t I tell u to spend no more than $4? Stubborn silence. I must instil discipline, so I said aloud:”U’ll have to pay me back 80 cents, from yr next month’s salary”, altho in my mind, I was torn between discipline and the fact that it’s only 80cts for crying out loud.

I might have left it at that if Siti as tho powered by unknown forces retorted,”I’ll pay u out of my salary this month (she had just been paid on 3/4) ma’am”.

“I’m the one to decide and when I said next month, I mean next month, OK?”

Stubborn silence. We went on eating altho I wondered whether I was doing my digestive juices any good by getting so worked up, over 80 cts. But the other part of me said aloud to my mother:”How can I trust her with money to go to the market when she can’t even be trusted with $5 when told to spend only $4?” We clucked at each other, then Siti broke plaintively into our conversation to insist she paid this month and when I said “no” fiercely, she promptly allowed tears to roll down her face.

There was clearly a tussle for one-upmanship here. I wish I could have relaxed but I believe if she were to stay on, then she must abide by my house rules. So, I quietly but firmly asked her to please go away till she could control herself. She obliged only when I repeated my order.

When I recounted this “scene” to my family, my bro-in-law said solve it by ordering the food on her behalf. Dumb idea. I want her to learn to manage money. And I also don’t want to be her nurse-maid.

His son, my nephew, suggested giving her an allowance for food court meals. But he saw how dumb it was even as he was making the suggestion. What if she blew the whole sum on a couple of meals thus creating more needless friction.

The only thing to do is to continue to give her $4 and let her work out the sums. She does get a full breakfast and dinner at home anyway.