A living network that promotes and supports the small businesses and community initiatives that are crucial to the well-being of our neighborhoods.

When in doubt support the little guy

Seen Tat Plaza, front entrance.

Seen Tat Plaza, front entrance.

It's a 'no frills' kind of establishment, which is cool, as long as they can fix my problem.

It’s a ‘no frills’ kind of establishment, which is cool, as long as they can fix my problem.

“When in doubt support the little guy.”

Of course, this is sometimes not so easy in our daily lives.  And no wonder, since the big brands and big businesses want to keep us firmly within their grip. So, the malls contain the same chain stores selling the same brands: it doesn’t matter whether you are in Pacific Place, Festival Walk, or Harbour City.  The malls may have different owners – Swire Properties, Mapletree, and Wharf– but the difference is cosmetic.  The stores and their interests are the same – and they all form the “mall industry” web.

The real difference is between the “mall industry” and the un-branded, independent purveyors of wares on the side streets of Mongkok or elsewhere in Kowloon. It’s not difficult to make a conscious choice to avoid the malls, but sometimes the barriers to choosing wisely are higher than it seems.

A friend recently needed to repair his first generation Ipad. Since the Ipad is totally sealed, he didn’t know what was wrong and couldn’t fix it himself. Score one for Apple.  So he went to Apple in IFC, and after waiting to approach the so-called genius bar, the genius salesperson barely looked at the machine. He quickly offered my friend a deal: pay HK$2000 for a brand new… first generation Ipad.  Luckily, my friend refused—after all, he wanted to repair, not just trash, landfill, and replace.

He then went to an Apple-authorized repair centre, which had the even better “offer” of $2400 for a brand new first generation Ipad.

My friend was getting frustrated at following the ideas of Apple’s “genius” network and went to a nameless, faceless repair shop inside the depths of a computer mall in Mongkok. These guys have no brand names, no accreditation, no loyalties to the big mall owners, and probably a few illegal tricks up their sleeves. But they had the answer here: 1st – yes we can fix it. 2nd – only pay us $580 after the unit is repaired. 3rd—if we can’t fix it, you pay nothing.

An hour later, my friend’s unit was up and running.

Morals of the story: Recognize that Apple is creating one of the most closed, anti-competitive ecosystems in business today, and that the main target isn’t your satisfaction but rather your wallet. Once you step in, you are their servant—following their products, their services, their networks, and their rules. Your views and your needs don’t count for much. Neither does the environment. “But Apple products are so cool and they tickle my fancy,” you protest. My question back to you is: Why is your loyalty worth so little?

Second, recognize that most big brands are not as bad as Apple— for instance, Samsung runs on Android which is open-system– but this is a question of degree only. Most big brands still want all your money – and will do anything to keep you within their reach. They may express it in terms of “authorized” or “accredited” providers, whose services are supposed to be “better”, but often this is just a veneer. Remember the heart and aim of branding: to make consumers reach for a branded product, even when others offer identical or even superior capabilities.

And in this case, the little guy – without the big brand power– was actually better. He was someone who was just trying to make a living based on his actual capabilities, without lies or hooks.

View of side entrance of this little mall.

View of side entrance of this little mall.

View from across the street on Argyle Street.

View from across the street on Argyle Street.

Address: 83 Argyle Street, Shop G81B

Address: 83 Argyle Street, Shop G81B


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This entry was posted on November 30, 2012 by in Asia, Hong Kong, Problem Solver, Shop and tagged , , , .
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