Service without a smile

You can find anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant*…and Singapore’s Mustafa Centre.

A veritable Aladdin’s Cave of things edible, cosmetic and electronic, plus jewelry, pharmaceuticals, and more, Mustafa Centre is open 24/7. First-time visitors will be exhausted just checking out a fraction of the goods. At 2am, you can find insomniac families wandering around.

Store front image:


Mustafa accessories


Mustafa greengrocer

Mustafa shoppers like the variety available – many items can’t be found anywhere else. Deciding on toothpaste or tea can be mind boggling. Take sweetener as an example. Choose from organic or non-organic sugar. Or Lion Date Syrup (800g, $8.50), Pure Harvest Rice Malt Syrup (500g, $6.50), Cecil Coconut Treacle (180ml, $2.50), not to mention Southeast-Asian palm sugar and neatly packaged jaggery (Indian palm sugar).


Mustafa chocs


Mustafa electronics

The fact that I find Mustafa Centre irresistible despite the sucky service is a tribute to the store’s merchandisers. Perhaps service can take a back seat when the goods are the draw. That doesn’t seem right, but how else can I explain why I keep returning when service is at-best casual indifference?

Last week to my amazement, I ran into one staff who appeared keen to serve. Maybe he was a promoter in the health section. That’s how used I am to the usual dour faces.

It was 3pm on a Friday. I brought my basket to a cashier with no queue. Her expression could have curdled cream.  Sorry, I must have interrupted her reverie.

My worst experience was some years ago in the jewelry department where I waited 10 minutes for the woman behind the counter to fish out gold earrings – a gift for my then helper. I tried to get her attention by waving. I said, “Er, excuse me….” She pointedly ignored me as she leisurely pushed earrings onto a display board. I wouldn’t have minded if she’d just looked up and said, “Just a moment, let me finish this.”  Finally, when I wouldn’t go away, she snapped, “Yess!” in a whaddya-want tone.

I’m ranting. Enough.

Even vinegary countenances won’t keep me away. Other stores have something to learn from this.

*Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie’s musical monologue


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