Sunday, December 15, 2013


The countdown to Christmas has started, and shopping for gifts is in full swing for those celebrating this festival. Mine began last Friday the 13th with a visit to the annual Big Bad Wolf (BBW) sale at The Mines Exhibition Centre. It's my third time visiting this mother of all book sales, and it gets better each time.

This year 3 million books are on sale at a fraction of their original prices. That's one book sale that's hard to beat. Of course don't expect to pick up the latest bestsellers. Still one can always find plenty of gems to cart away. I spent only RM252 for a total of 24 books. That works out to an average of RM10.50 per book.

My only complaint: there are no benches for older shoppers to sit down and rest their weary feet after hours of standing and browsing the books.

The sale ends today - Sunday 15 Dec at 9pm. Still time to catch it and get fantastic bargains!

I love books. I think they are great value for money. Not only do good books give me many hours of enjoyment, they educate and enlighten me. Best of all, books can be shared, given away or kept to be re-read at leisure. So this Christmas, books are at the top of my shopping list.

Kinokuniya understands how to keep customers coming back for more. That's building customer loyalty.

The next stop was Kinokuniya at KLCC. It's my all-time favourite bookstore in Kuala Lumpur. There is always a good crowd any time of the day at Kinonuniya. The reason - excellent customer service. The staff are well-trained to be courteous, helpful and knowledgeable about what's available and where the items are located. It helps too that the store carries a wide range of titles, many of which are not available at other major bookstores.

I have been to bookstores where the sales assistants have no clue what you are looking for. Some are just plain lazy. They point out the general direction where the item is located, and expect you to go there on your own and search for it.

Japan's nonpareil customer service makes shopping an enjoyable experience

At Kinokuniya, the sales assistants will walk you there and help you look for the particular item on the open shelves. At the BBW sale, the staff on duty even brought the book to me. I was told that the majority of the helpers were undergraduates part-timing at the sale during their semester break.

Some of the worst sales assistants I have encountered during my Christmas shopping trips were at Central Market (Pasar Seni). The typical response of untrained sales staff is a curt "Don't know", "Don't have", or "No stock". In one case, the counter assistant was so busy texting on her cell phone, she had the audacity to tell my friend to wait for a few minutes! Well-trained sales assistants will walk the extra mile. If their store doesn't carry an item you want, they will recommend a store which may have it. 

The gigantic table replete with Christmas fare of lobster, pudding and wine. Note the size of the man (arrow) in comparison.

During the past week I have been doing my Christmas shopping at the premier malls in the city: Central Market, KLCC, Pavilion, Sungei Wang, Lot 10, Bangsar Shopping Centre and MidValley Mall. My vote for the best Christmas decorations goes to Bangsar Shopping Centre. The concourse boasts a giant replica of a table filled with a Christmas spread of food and wine. Worth a visit just to see it. It's also the best mall in terms of quality and variety of Christmas fare - if price is not an issue.

The Christmas decorations at Pavilion, the city's award-winning shopping mall.

Apart from poor customer service at some of the retail outlets and department stores, the other issues for the mall management to tackle are the lack of benches and toilets for the elderly. At MidValley, for example, aside from some token benches on the concourse level, elderly shoppers will be hard put to find a place to sit down and rest their tired feet.

(Left) Time to take a rest for this gentleman while his wife is busy shopping. (Right) Grandparents minding the little ones need to sit down too. At KLCC.
(Left) Don't they know elderly shoppers can't squat?  There are also no grab bars
on the walls. (Right) What an idiotic design for a public toilet. How is anyone able to sit comfortably with that contraption in the way?

Some of you may find these photos of public toilets offensive. My apologies, but if no one highlights this problem on behalf of older shoppers, they will continue to suffer in silence. The toilets at a popular department store at MidValley are certainly not elder-friendly. There's no way elderly shoppers with knee problems can use the toilet on the left. As for the one on the right, only a contortionist can figure out a way to relieve himself comfortably. Enough said about our public toilets.

Elderly shoppers with poor vision have difficulty making out the small print on price tags. They also can't bend to select items on the bottom shelves or reach for heavy items on the top shelves. When there are long queues at the sales counter or at the ladies' washrooms, it makes sense to have a special queue for senior citizens, like is done at some banks. It doesn't cost extra to provide such conveniences for elderly customers.

This wheelchair lift at KLCC seems to be permanently under
repair which is unacceptable for a world-class shopping mall.

It is good to know that the better shopping malls have ramps for shoppers in wheelchairs, wheelchairs on loan to shoppers who require them, and toilets for the handicapped (should make these toilets available to the elderly too),

I always believe that when public places provide age-friendly or people-friendly facilities, everyone's needs are addressed, including those of the elderly. For young couples, taking their elderly parents or grandparents out on a shopping trip becomes an enjoyable family experience. There is more business for the stores, so it's a win-win situation for both customers and retailers.

Only one more comment to make. StarMetro has reported that there would be a shortage of turkeys for the traditional Christmas and New Year dinner this year. Reason - except for Brazil, all other countries, including the US and Australia, have failed to meet the stringent requirements for the import of non-halal frozen turkeys.

StarMetro's feature article on Friday 13 December, 2013. You won't find the link to it.

It's strange that the article can't be found online. StarMetro must have pulled it from its online edition. A result perhaps of the unhappiness expressed by many Malaysians over the stringent halal regulations? The question that has been circulating on social media is "Since when have turkeys to be certified halal???" 

Related article:

Making shopping pleasant for older adults

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