Spat over bill at HarbourFront nail spa: $1,260 bill manicure leaves couple sore
It was meant to be a relaxing manicure and pedicure session.
But the Bahrain couple, here on holiday, were shocked after they were charged $1,259 for a one-off session lasting 1½ hours.
It left Ms Michelle Ong, 36, and her husband, Mr Ali Hasan Aldhaen, 45, fuming.
"It wasn't anything special. Just a regular session. How could it have cost more than what five-star hotels charge?" said Ms Ong, who grew up in Malaysia.
The shop, Quiche Nail Spa at HarbourFront Centre, said the couple were told of the fees.
But the couple are disputing it.
"We were shopping at the mall and one of their staff members approached us as we passed their shop," recounted Ms Ong, referring to the incident on Nov 27.
"They offered us a $128 package each and we thought it would be nice to do our nails and relax," she said.
The couple entered the shop and started the session.
"During the session, the therapists asked me if I wanted lotion applied to my hands, if I wanted a mask or if I wanted nail extensions," she said.
Ms Ong claimed that the worker did not inform her that there would be additional charges. So she assumed it was part of the package.
She also pointed out that the brochure they were given seemed to indicate that services such as scrubs, putting on a clay mask and applying lotion were included in the $128 package.
"When I went to the cashier to make payment, I didn't realise how much the bill was at first because I was trying to convert the amount back to Bahraini dinar," she said.
It only dawned on her how expensive the session was after she had paid and left the shop.
"I turned to my husband and said it was too much. I was close to tears. I felt so cheated. We ran about the mall and to the information counter hoping to seek help," she said.
Said Mr Ali: "We checked that a manicure at our five-star hotel only costs $75. For $1,200, I would expect my nails to be gold-plated or something.
"We never expected something like this to happen in Singapore, much less a legitimate mall."
The couple, who were staying at W Singapore - Sentosa Cove hotel, returned to the shop the next day hoping for a refund.
This time, The New Paper, following a tip-off from a Singaporean who had heard about their case, accompanied them and observed what took place.
Ms Ong first confronted the staff member and demanded to know why she and her husband were charged so much.
Staff were overheard telling her that they had used different products that cost more.
Eventually, the shop offered a refund of about $140.
But Mr Ali, who is the CEO of a boat company in Bahrain, declined and the couple left.
The couple were not the only ones who left the shop unhappy.
A Singaporean who wanted to be known only as Charlie, told TNP that his wife had also incurred a hefty bill of $371 after a one-off session at Quiche Nail Spa last month.
Charlie, 26, who works as a sales assistant at a neighbouring shop, said his wife needed to get her nails done as she had an important event to attend.
"I was working at one of the shops nearby then and I thought since we were neighbours, I would get a discount if we patronised them," he said.
His wife opted for a manicure costing $148 and a $35 pedicure.
After the session, he was shocked to find that the bill, which was not clearly itemised, came to $371.
"I thought she had taken on additional packages or treatments and so I paid up," he said.
But when he questioned his wife, 21, later about the expensive session, she was equally shocked, he said.
"She said she had actually refused all their attempts to persuade her to upgrade the package or take on additional services.
"I took their brochure and tried adding up the various prices but I couldn't get $371. It's just ridiculous," he said.
He later returned to the shop and sought a refund. He got only about $70.
"I was so frustrated I couldn't sleep that night. That was a $300-plus session for nails that didn't even last two weeks," he said.
TNP spoke to three other nail shops and all said the $1,259 bill was too high.
One nail parlour at Raffles City Shopping Centre charges $70 for a pedicure and $50 for a manicure.
Even if customers choose to add on additional services, the shop would not charge the full price.
For example, the shop ordinarily charges about $50 for a callus treatment pedicure.
When it's added on to a package, the shop charges only about $15 more.
Mr Ali said he and his wife did not make a complaint to the Consumers Association of Singapore or the Singapore Tourism Board.
"This amount of $1,259 is not loose change. It's more than what some people earn a month.
"But what's done is done and it's a lesson to be learnt.
"What's more important is that we hope this does not happen to other customers in future for the sake of Singapore's reputation," he said.
The couple flew back to Bahrain last Tuesday.
Nail spa: Clients agreed with price
We told them of the price and they were okay with it.
That was what staff of Quiche Nail Spa, at HarbourFront Centre, told The New Paper about the Bahrain tourists who were charged $1,259 for a session on Nov 27.
TNP spoke to a receptionist and a therapist on Nov 28, minutes after Ms Michelle Ong and her husband had confronted them about a refund.
A Quiche Nail Spa receptionist said Ms Ong and her husband were charged extra because they had agreed to the use of higher quality products during the session.
Her colleague, who served as the couple's therapist that day, also claimed that she had informed the pair of the prices and additional charges during the session.
The receptionist admitted that the prices they charge are at the higher end.
But she claimed that their customers, about 50 a day, rarely complain because they are always made aware of the pricing.
She then showed TNP a stack of receipts from other customers that ranged between $500 and $1,000.
"These prices, it's common here. We are meant to be a higher-end nail place," she said.
The Consumers Association of Singaporesaid there had been one complaint from a Singaporean against the shop last year about hard-selling tactics by a sales assistant who tried to persuade the reluctant customer to buy additional packages.
The Singapore Tourism Board said there were no complaints from tourists about the shop.
ADVICE FROM CASE
TAKE YOUR TIME
Even if consumers are keen on the package, they should take a few days to think over the offer.
Buying on impulse might not be worthwhile in the long run. Many consumers have regretted signing up for costly packages on the spot.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Consumers should not be pressured into signing a contract. Ask for time to consider.
Leave if you feel pressured to sign up. Sales staff who put undue pressure on a customer to enter into a transaction go against the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.
Consider calling the police if you are not allowed to leave the shop.
CHECK BEFORE PAYING
Check that prices are correct before signing on the credit card slip or keying in your PIN.
Consumers with unresolved disputes with retailers may also approach the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) for help.
- Case executive director Seah Seng Choon