Thursday, July 23, 2009

Photobooks | Singapore

Photobook Companies | Singapore

If you are not happy with your usual photo albums or photo slide shows on your PC or over the YouTube or Web Albums, you can have your photo memories printed into a book or magazine. But be warned, it will cost you an arm and a leg to do so.

Here is a comparison of the services of various photobook companies in Singapore offering you can opportunity to make a high class coffee table book for your digital memories. As these are early days, costs will probably go down as other companies come onstream. Costs can probably be cheaper if they can get one-run print shops in China and India to do the printing.

digibook singapore
$68.50 for 48 pages in A5 portrait format.
Need 4 working days by local post
Printed in Singapore

9mb software takes one minute to download
Can choose binding style (eg case bound, spiral or perfect)
Provides video tutorials on how to use their software

No option to select paper quality
200gsm Paper super stiff
No option to sort pictures according to chronological order
Difficult to upload large files (may have to burn CD and post it to them)
Pictures grainy even at A5 size
Binding poor - pages not properly glued to book spine, unable to fully open the book
All pictures have to be in portrait orientation
Does not provide prices upfront, making it difficult to determine its competitiveness

shutterfly singapore

$218.65 (inclusive of $29.77 for shipping) for 57 pages in a 12-inch square book.
Need 10 working days for international shipping
Printed overseas

Ability to group pictures according to your choice in one page with their layout story board tool
Allows standout pictures to take up a whole page
148gsm paper quality is good - smooth and nice to flip
Single photo in a page look best

With differing layout, book may come out looking cluttered like a scrapbook
Cannot adjust size of pictures within the page
Must place photos within the template layout
Long captions may not fit into the page

photobook singapore

Photobook Singapore
$112 for 40 pages in A4 horizontal format
Need 3 working days fpr delivery by DHL Express
Printed in Malaysia

Download of 85.6mb design software is quick on broadband
Filmstrip format for selection of photos
Easy to sort photos according to chronological order
Drag and drop features in book's template
Allows you to enhance your pictures, it original is not hi-res.
170gsm paper was smooth and glossy, nice to flip and defect-free
Single photo per page looks impressive
Overall, best value for money.

Difficult to auto-connect; takes 30 minutes for 104 mb upload.
Unable to print a label on the spine of the book
Captions look amateurish, does not match pictures

snapfish singapore

up to 9 photos per page

S$78.83 (inclusive of S$14.99 for shipping) for 50 pages in A4 horizontal format
Need 9 working days for international shipping
Printed overseas

Good selection of everyday and elegant fonts
Template auto-fill feature enables you to easily sort pictures
Final product looked sleek and pleasant.
135gsm paper and printing quality felt similar to Shutterfly though slightly more expensive.

Took 2 tries before being able to upload 500 pic folder for photobook.
Some inconsistencies at the spine area
Snapfish logo on the back cover and page cheapens the book value.

albumstories singapore

Coffee table book 8" x 11.5" from S$109.90 for a 20 page book
Printed in Singapore

They have a physical shop at Peninsula Plaza #01-09 so you can check out quality before ordering.
They offer a wide variety of book designs from slim soft cover magazine-like books to thick fine art coffee table books
You can save on shipping by picking up the book directly from their shop
They can design the book for you (at a fee) if you don't want to use their online template
No limit to the number of photos you can place per page

Looks more expensive than the others, but may be offsetted by better quality than the rest.

Price Comparison:

Digibook = na (no quote given before ordering)
Shutterfly = US$39.99 (8"x11" 20 page book, leather-bound hard cover)
PhotobookSingapore = S$98 (8"x11"40 pages only, debossed, not leather)
Snapfish = US$49.99 (12"x12" 20 page book, leather-bound hard cover)
AlbumStories = S$S$109.90 (8"x11.5" 20 page book, leather-bound hard cover)

Some of these photobooks companies do road shows eg Album Stories with Popular. You can get a good package deal at these special events.

Bank Negara Raids Walton (M)

Bank Negara Malaysia Raids Walton International Property Group (M) Sdn Bhd

Ref No: 03/09/04

Embargo: For immediate release

On 5 March 2009, Bank Negara Malaysia raided Walton International Property Group (M) Sdn Bhd under the Exchange Control Act (ECA) 1953. The raids were simultaneously conducted at the premises of the company in Kuala Lumpur (W. Persekutuan), Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) and Kuching ( Sarawak ) following complaints received from members of the public. Relevant documents of the company were seized for purpose of the investigation.

Members of the public are advised to be cautious of this type of land banking schemes promoted by the company. Any elements of deposit-taking activities and public offerings such as ‘interest schemes' or investment in real estates schemes (better known as ‘real estate investment trusts' - REITs) should be referred to the appropriate authorities such as Bank Negara Malaysia, Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia and Suruhanjaya Sekuriti. Members of the public are also advised to use lawful remittance channels when making payment or sending money overseas. A list of legitimate remittance channels can be referred at the Bank Negara Malaysia's website ( ) for either licensed banks or licensed non-bank remittance operators.

For further enquiries, members of the public can contact Bank Negara Malaysia at the following contact points:

Laman Informasi Nasihat dan Khidmat (BNMLINK)
(Walk-in Customer Service Centre)
Ground Floor, Block D
Jalan Dato' Onn
50480 Kuala Lumpur

BNMTELELINK (Customer Service Call Centre)
1-300-88-5465 or

Above press release is a full quote from Bank Negara via Bernama News Agency regarding its raid of Walton (M)'s offices in March 2009.

We understand from on 6 March 2009, that "documents were seized for the purposes of the investigation" under Exchange Control Act (ECA) 1953.

This raid operation DO NOT comes in as a surprise because other Land Banking like UK Land International (M) Sdn Bhd, Profitable Plots Sdn Bhd and Edgeworth Properties (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd was raided on 24 October 2008.

The Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) raided the offices of the three companies on Oct 24 after months of surveillance and seized "relevant assets including ICT equipment and documents" to assist in its investigations.

"We decided to take action against these companies because of recent developments in Britain.

"One of these three companies’ parent company is facing winding-up action by the British authorities," said SSM deputy chief executive Rokiah Md Noor.

"We are concerned about the interests of their investors here, as well as investors who have put money into similar companies offering land banking schemes."

The above is a cautionary note to those who intend to invest in Walton or any landbanking scheme. Bank Negara won't simultaneously raid Walton 's Malaysian offices (Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching on 5 March 2009), if they don't have good reasons for doing so.

Also, you can't trust people in forums claiming to be very successful in landbanking investments. They could be landbanking sales people drumming up support for their business.

In any case, with the credit crisis in the USA and elsewhere, there is no reason for people to buy raw land (land between two big cities) from Walton or any other landbanks when you can get a great piece of US property in the city or suburb for as little as US$30,000 or less.

Then there are people who say that if a company has been around for a long time, it cannot be a scam. Go and tell that to investors of Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme. He set up his investment vehicle , Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in 1960 and fooled some of the smartest financial experts (hedge funds) in the US, Switzerland, Japan etc. Worst still, he did it right under the supervisory eyes and noses of the US SEC Regulators. The Sanford alleged ponzi scheme goes as far back as 2001.

Furthermore, even big and "solid" legit companies can fail, just like Lehman Bros., AIG, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual. Then, there was the fire sale vs bankruptcy situation with Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Bear Stearns, JP Morgan (and problems within Citibank and Goldman Sachs) which caused investors to lose a big chunk of their invested funds.

So there is no such thing as a safe "sure thing" investment. Higher returns is always there to cover higher risk. So don't go crying to the government / regulators if something goes wrong. Even for regulated investments, the government is not going to cover your losses as those who invested in Lehman minibonds via DBS, UOB etc will tell you. Landbanking is not a regulated industry. So be warned.

This is what Walton promises you when you attend one of their presentations. What they don't tell you is that: "Past performance is no guarantee of future returns":

Related Article:

More About Walton Landbanking scheme

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Useful Tips What To Do at PC | IT Shows

Useful Tips on What To Do at PC | IT Shows

Here are some Useful Tips on What to Do / Not Do at PC / IT / Computer Shows. It will help you save time, money and energy when looking for that much needed PC / IT / Computer product:
  • Usually held at the onset of the (Singapore) school holidays (quarterly intervals by different exhibition organizers). So this has to be factored in when making your overseas vacation;
  • Expect visitor-packed aisles making walking and browsing very difficult at times. Do not take small children (and partners who are likely to be agitated by large crowds and loud noises) to these exhibitions. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing and be prepared for long hours standing / walking in poorly air-conditioned / ventilated exhibition halls due to over crowding;
  • buying strategy:
  1. Round 1 - (at home) Do your homework on product specs / prices etc.
  2. Round 2 - (at exhibition) take note of prices, specs and booth numbers.
  3. Round 3 - compare deals and make buying decision.
  4. Round 4 - (at home) unpack and test products. If it is not in good working condition, bring it back to the exhibitor for an exchange during exhibition hours
  5. Round 5 - (at exhibition) here we go again!;
  • If you are buying big items like TVs, printers, etc, make sure you buy them at the end of your visit as it is difficult to navigate them around unending and frantic crowds. Pack a good trolley in your car in case the exhibitor does not provide you with a free trolley or won't take home delivery orders for big items. If you are buying a fast moving item, ask the exhibitor to store your item for collection later, make sure you get a delivery/collection receipt;
  • Bargains can be had at these computer shows, if not in price, at least in terms of "extras" thrown in to sweeten the deals. So make sure you ask / bargain;
  • Gizmos fans will be able to test the products without the compulsion to buy immediately
  • Sales staff are usually knowledgeable, it not, ask the manager on duty;
  • Car parking is a problem and expect a long wait for taxis;
  • Come well prepared with a list of targeted products of interest to you. Do your research and narrow down your selections by checking technical features / prices online - especially for products which have newer models in the span of months like cameras etc. If you find something new which you are unfamiliar with, it is better to go home and do your research and come back at a later time to make a purchase. This ensures you don't get a product which don't meet with your requirements;
  • Listen in to knowledgeable visitors' questions / comments and seek their advice if necessary;
  • For technical products, be sure to double check out their technical literature and product manual to confirm the product's specifications / features before buying. Don't rely solely on sales staff hearsay;
  • Be sure to read and mark out the good deals of interest to you in the computer show's newspaper supplement (usually the 1st day of the exhibition in the Straits Times and Today) and make sure you bring it along if it has a special price coupon;
  • At certain hours there may be spot (cheap) sales, check out for these deals;
  • Excess stocks may be "auctioned" off at the last day of the show but don't count of the very good deals to be on this auction list;
  • If you didn't have the time to check out all the special offers, you can go to the shop of the exhibitor on the 2nd day after the computer exhibition closes to see if you can get the same deal as that at the PC / IT fair;
  • be wary when dealing with overseas companies which do have a local office especially newer companies. You may have problems with product exchanges / servicing / warranty;
  • make sure you can afford and really need these items, even if it is on hire purchase. There's a tendency to make impulse purchases at such PC Fairs - due to marketing hype and crowd buying frenzy. It is not uncommon to get a feeling of regret when the product is brought home and found to be not as useful as originally thought;
  • Questions to ask yourself before buying:
  1. in what way will this product better my life?
  2. how often will I be using this product?
  3. when will I be replacing this product with a newer one (eg when it is damaged beyond repair or when a newer, better model comes out?)
  4. will I be saving money if I buy this product now? Will it be cheaper in one year's time? Can I wait for one year?
  5. have I done my homework on this product? Is this the product that best meets my requirements for the next 2-3 years or even longer?
Happy bargain hunting at the exhibition!

For the list of PC / IT / Computer Shows in Singapore 2009, click on link below:

List of PC / It / Computer Shows in Singapore 2009

© - Useful Tips on What To Do at PC | IT Shows:

PC | IT Exhibitions | Singapore 2009

PC | IT Exhibitions | Singapore 2009

This is the list of PC, IT, Computer Exhibitions scheduled in Singapore in 2009:

IT Show 2009, Singapore

IT Show 2009

12 March to 15 March 2009, 12pm to 9pm
Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre Suntec Singapore (Suntec City)
IT Show takes up 300,000 sq ft with 800 exhibitors of Levels 1,2,3,4 & 6 of Suntec Singapore.
IT Show features a wide range of computer and consumer electronics and accessories, software and backup systems.

PC Show 2009, Singapore

PC Show, Digital Imaging, Game and Consumer Electronics 2009

11-14 June 2009, 12-9 pm
Levels 1, 3, 4 and 6 at Suntec Singapore (Suntec City) with 600 exhibitors with S$51.7 million sales generated during the PC Show.
PC Show Exhibitors features desktop computers, laptops, wireless network, printers, computer accessories, car GPS system etc

Comex Exhibition 2009, Singapore

Comex - It & Consumer Technology Exhibition

10-13 September 2009, 12-9pm
Suntec Singapore, Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6
Comex is SG's biggest I.T. exhibition with 820 leading manufacturers and suppliers.
Comex Exhibition Space: 345,000 sq ft of IT, Digital Entertainment, Mobile and Consumer Products

SITEX Expo 2009, Singapore


26-29 November 2009, 11 am - 9 pm
Singapore Expo, Halls 5 & 6
200 exhibitors in 226,042 sq ft (in 2008) floor space
SITEX Expo longest running IT fair - since 1988 is the launch pad for Singapore's best infocomm and consumer electronic products with S$45 million sales generated at SITEX Expo.

Hot New Products to look out for:

Digital pens
High capacity, high speed memory cards
Mirrorless Dslr with large sensors (Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Pentax, Sigma) with HD Video capabilities
Next generation Smart phones
Compact cameras with GPS and good low light shooting capabilities

Related Article:

How to get the most of that PC / It Exhibition visit:

Useful Tips on What to Do at PC | IT Exhibitions:

© - PC | IT Exhibitions | Singapore 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Timeshare Companies Complaints

Timeshare Companies Complaints

Interval Resorts Network (IRN) has issued an important warning which all timeshare owners should take heed of. This advisory is found in the IRN website and read as follows:

[Quote] "Members Importance notice

It has come to our attention that certain companies/ parties (with some allegedly representing themselves to be agents of IRN, ATC or the Timeshare Association of Singapore) have been contacting members like yourself by way of telephone calls purporting to assist them with offers to rent, sell, terminate and/ or repurchase your membership for interested third parties.

The Management of IRN and Asian Travel Club (ATC) would like to WARN ALL members to refrain from entertaining such calls and against taking up such offers. We would also like to stress the following:

  1. IRN does NOT engage in any rental, resale/ repurchase of ATC memberships by itself or any other third party;
  2. IRN does NOT appoint any agents to act on it’s behalf in respect of such rental, resale/ repurchase of any memberships;
  3. IRN does NOT approve of any such rental, resale/ repurchase transactions;
  4. ALL members are urged to inform IRN accordingly if you have been contacted with sufficient details in order that the necessary reports may be lodged with the relevant authorities;
  5. IRN does NOT divulge personal particulars and details of your membership to any third party for any purpose whatsoever.

Some of these companies have also been known to contact members under fictitious company's name and have also even purported to offer Cash Back/Money Back guarantees.

The following are the names of some of the companies that our members have been contacted by way of telephone calls:

  1. Asialinx Asset Management Pte Ltd
  2. Worldex Pte Ltd
  3. Project Media Pte Ltd
  4. Max Mega Pte Ltd
  5. Supreme Motivation Tours Pte Ltd
  6. Lee & Chandran Pte Ltd
  7. Zealz Corp Pte Ltd

We urge you to contact us immediately at our special helpline at 68356481 or 68356486 between 10.00am – 9.00pm (Tues-Sat) if you have been contacted by any of these companies. We value you as our member and we will continue to strive to provide you with a positive and enriching experience for many years to come. " [Unquote]

Members of the public should be careful when dealing with the 7 companies and follow CASE advisory strictly. Just because IRN and ATC are complaining about Asialinx, Worldex, Project Media, MaxMega, Supreme Motivation Tours, Lee & Changran and Zealz Corp., it does not mean timeshare owners can throw caution to the wind when dealing with IRN and ATC too. In fact, after all the bad publicity about timeshares, I don't see why anyone would even consider buying any timeshare product when there is no regulation protecting buyers from unscrupulous timeshare companies. If you must buy, check with CASE, Timeshare Association (Singapore) as to whether the company you intend to deal with is reputable and not blacklisted company.

Read about press coverage on the complaints and CASE action on Singapore timeshare between 2001-2004 companies from the following link by the Timeshare Victim Support Group:

CASE | Timeshares

Advice from CASE regarding Timeshares

Here are some good advice by the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) on Timeshares

  1. Do not attend a timeshare presentation only for the gift; very often, there are so many restrictions, the free gift is seldom worth the time you spend. Go only if you are interested in a timeshare holiday.
  2. Buy only from a member of Timeshare Association (Singapore; they have promised that you may cancel the contract within 5 days if you decide that you have been misled or if you think the timeshare package is not something you really need or can afford.
  3. Pay only by cheque, and not by credit card; cheques can be stopped, but credit card payment cannot be cancelled.
  4. Do not buy a timeshare scheme for investment purposes; you often have difficulty in re-selling them.
  5. Do not buy timeshare solely for the right to travel to other resorts.
  6. There are sometimes tiresome conditions to fulfill before you are allowed to exchange your resort for another.
  7. Do not buy a timeshare out of pity for the salesperson having to talk to you for so many hours or for fear that he or she will lose his/her job. Remember that you are paying out a large sum of your hard-earned money.

CASE also advises owners not to resell your unwanted timeshares through timeshare resellers / brokers. You will not only end up paying exorbitant fees, but also after all that effort and expense, you will find that you will not be able to get your timeshares sold. If you need to sell your timeshare, contact the resort owner directly and see if they are willing to purchase your timeshare.

Friday, July 10, 2009

UAG | Wine Investment

UAG | Wine Investment

Straits Times, 7 July 2009 (page B4) reports another sad story of investments that should never have been. This time is about a wine "buy back" investment firm Universal Assets Group (UAG) which had its office at BTH Building in Defu Lane 10 sealed by the landlord after it had defaulted on its office rent by one and a half months. Their office used to be at Suntec City.

UAG Wine InvestmentUAG (established in 2005) offered wine trading and brokerage services, as well as a scheme whereby customers could buy fine wine (read: expensive wines, not the stuff we usually drink) and sell it back to the company a year later for a profit (said to be about 10-12% to be paid out in February or March this year). Some 1000 customers individually invested about $6,000 to $91,000 in UAG's new age Australian / French wine buy back scheme. One case of wine usually costs about $10,000 - unless business is really bad.

UAG was established in 2005 and used to have offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Australia. We understand that UAG gets wine brokers to do cold / hard selling and charges a 12% sales commission according to some sources.

At the UAG YouTube posting, their video was promising a 30% return on investment. At other ads like in the MRT trains, they were promising as much as 40% returns. Watch the UAG youtube video here. So much for a "peace of mind" investment.

As my rich old uncle always tells me: "If anything can go wrong with an investment, it will. So go through all the fine details over and over again. Don't take anyone's word or promises at face value. If they promise you high returns, be extra careful. There is no such thing as guaranteed returns or high returns without high risks. So do your homework and don't come asking me for money if your investments go bust".

Another YouTube video posted by UAG featuring Universal Assets Group CEO, Mr. Dominic Sim, on an exclusive interview with China CBN TV on fine wine investing.

It would seem that UAG over estimated the wine market potential which took a big hit due to the Credit Crisis late 2008. However, some buyers claim that they could not sell their wines at an auction market via their designated wine brokers even after one year. If there are no buyers in the open market, how can you make a profit?

In May, a group of investors filed a police report regarding overdue payments that were promised to them in writing. So far, they were paid a fraction of the amount due or none at all. 17 disgruntle customers also filed a complaint with CASE. Consumer Association of Singapore is trying to track down the directors of UAG to serve them a voluntary compliance agreement. The unhappy UAG clients intend to take a class action legal suit against UAG to recover their money. The Small Claims Tribunal will not take the case as it involves an investment product.

Our research shows that there are at least 5 other wine investment companies. Hopefully their wine does not go sour on them too. Irene Ang, local business woman and celebrity is said to be an early investor of wines here. In my mind, if you don't have a wine shop or drink wine by the barrels and have a huge wine cellar in your basement, you have no business investing in wine. If you don't have place to store your wines, UAG will charge you storage and insurance at $2.50 per bottle per year.

What is going on in Singapore? Are there insufficient legitimate investment vehicles for them to invest in? Investing in bottled wine? What next, bottled water which will make you fabulously rich when Singapore's water agreement with Malaysia expires in 2061? Hopefully these guys would get paid in wine. Drink up guys! That was your Plan B, isn't it?

Wine investing is an unregulated investment, so if there is a problem, you'll have to get a lawyer to sort out the problem. Don't expect CASE to bail you out. If the company goes bust, there's not much you can do. Even if they have assets after closing shop, it would only be enough to pay up a fraction of their financial commitments.

For those who think wine investment is still a good investment, consider this:

Risks of Wine Investment:

  1. Wine Spoilage due to poor temperature & environmental control at the warehouse
  2. Low Market Liquidity, i.e. you can't buy/sell at a time of your choosing
  3. Bankruptcy Risk - the Wine company/importer selling you the wines can go bust (if a couple of top 10 banks in the USA can go bust, so can any other company - BIG or small)
  4. High Holding Costs i.e. warehousing costs, insurance can easily come to 3-4% per year of the value of the investment. This means you'll have to sell the wines at considerably higher prices with each succeeding year to cover these costs
  5. Demand & Price Fluctuation - it can go down especially luxury (expensive) wines during bad times.

Like landbanking, there is no such thing as a sure thing. Just talk to those people who bought Layman Brothers minibombs. The chances of these people getting 50% of their money back (not counting the deduction of legal and other costs) are pretty slim.

I have an ostrich farm in Australia. Wanna buy?

Timeshare | MaxMega

MaxMega Timeshare Update

Straits Times, 2 July 2009 (page B4) reported that MaxMega vacated their Tras Street premises about 2 weeks ago leaving timeshare investors in a lurch.

As reported in my earlier article on MaxMega, a group of 33 unhappy buyers had complained to CASE that MaxMega had failed in their promise to recover their investments with other timeshare companies and provide additional payouts. This after the buyers had signed contracts and paid substantial fees upfront ranging from $5,000 to $40,000. They were later told that they could not recover their investments and were asked to fork out even more money for another timeshare resale product.

CASE served a voluntary compliance agreement two weeks ago to MaxMega directors, Yaacob Yusoff and Muhammad Yazid Samri. The agreement would have committed them to ending unfair practices, failing which CASE would file an injunction to stop MaxMega's operations. The directors had not replied by te deadline of 30 June. If there is no response from them, CASE will leave it to the police to investigate further.

Investors are awaiting the outcome of police investigations before taking legal action against the company.

This episode once again proves my contention that it is not worthwhile to make deals with these types of timeshare resellers.