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.
The above quote is taken from a July 2008 post on the popular mrbrown.com blog. Since then, cycling on the pavement seems to have been extended to Pasir Ris, where I live now, though I’m not completely sure how it works. You see, there are separate riding paths for bicycles in some areas of Pasir Ris that are clearly marked by bicycle symbols painted on the pavement. These paths are very easy to distinguish from regular sidewalks. However, cyclists seem to be trying to monopolize all sidewalks in Pasir Ris.
The reason I pulled that quote from his blog is because of his great advice.
Let me repeat it: “Practice Zero Impact pavement riding.”
Over the past few months I’ve noticed a trend in how cyclists use the pavement that’s annoying and often dangerous. Cyclists will often zip by you, going so fast that were something to happen, there would be no way for them to stop in time to prevent a serious accident. Despite the relative lightweight structure of a bicycle, it can cause serious harm to a pedestrian. A cyclist should take care to maintain a safe speed and watch out for pedestrians who may not be paying attention.
That leads me to my next point. Bicycles need to have bells on them and those bells need to be used.
Do not expect pedestrians to realize you’re there, especially if you’re approaching them from behind. Even if you’re approaching pedestrians from the opposite direction, you need to ring your bell. Bikes move fast, and a pedestrian may not have noticed you the last time they looked up to orient themselves.
Most of all, be courteous. Understand that you’re the newbies on the pavement. Keep in mind that sidewalks were made for pedestrians and because of concern for the safety of cyclists, the government is allowing you to share that sidewalk with them. Even if you’re on a dedicated bike path you have to keep it real. People are by nature going to take the easiest path and if that includes walking on the cycling path, they’ll do it. That doesn’t mean you should run them over and nearly clip them as you go by. You should still show courtesy and ring your bell to alert them to your presence. Who do you think will take the blame if you hit them and cause them injury?
The past few months I’ve been experiencing more and more instances of cyclists nearly running me or my wife over, or seeing it nearly happen to other people. I’ve seen cyclists swerve and nearly crash because they weren’t watching where they were going and almost hit someone. It really pisses me off because if a bicyclist slams into my leg with their pedal and breaks my shin, chances are they’ll get up and cycle away quickly to avoid having to pay what will be an excessively high medical bill. Where does that leave me, the pedestrian, who was simply walking on the pavement as I should have been? What will I do? Write to the forum? I certainly can’t pay a hospital bill with ideals or popular public opinion. I can’t say it wasn’t my fault and get a free fix.
Complicating this matter even further is the fact that motorized, electric bicycles are becoming more and more popular in Singapore. These cyclists typically travel at greater speeds than a person on a regularly pedaled bike would and, because what they’re riding is considered a bicycle, they’re not obligated to use the roadways. This poses a big risk to pedestrians.
Also, in this same category of potential disaster, why are motorcycles regularly driving down sidewalks in Pasir Ris? Ya, seriously. I’ve seen motorcycles make turns up the ramped curbs at pedestrian crossings and then use the sidewalks as a shortcut to get to their HDB parking area. The problem is even more serious in front of the hawker and food court area located at block 443, Pasir Ris Dr 6.
Motorcyclists regularly drive onto the sidewalk, shooing pedestrians out of the way as if they were the ones in the wrong place, so that they can then block pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk by using it as a motorcycle parking lot.
Speaking of block 443, over the past few days there has been construction in that area. I was really happy with it… at first. I thought they were finally going to do something about the congestion on that sidewalk between the pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. I thought they were going to widen the sidewalk. There’s certainly plenty of space for it, given the 7 feet deep bushes on one side and the grassy area on the other. Instead, someone, in their infinite wisdom, decided to put a heavy, high curb along the edge of the sidewalk which makes the usable space even smaller and creates an even higher risk for physical injury. I’m sure they meant well. Perhaps they thought that putting the curb there would discourage cyclists and motorcyclists from using that area, but that’s definitely not going to be the case. This is a rather central area that sees a lot of bicycle traffic and this food court is a big gathering area for watching football (soccer) games and drinking at night.
Something needs to be done to regulate the use of sidewalks. Motorcyclists shouldn’t be riding on them at all, and if cyclists are going to continue to be allowed to use them, there should be a better level of policing going on by plain clothes officers lounging in highly trafficked areas, like along Drive 1 in Pasir Ris.
I shouldn’t have to worry about my physical safety every time I use the sidewalk, constantly looking over my shoulder to keep an eye out for reckless cyclists.
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.