Saturday, May 23, 2009


(Warning: the following is a bit of a super long rant. I apologize for any incorrect spelling/grammar.)

Where should I start...

So last Saturday, after Bern and I went on the tour to the DMZ, we decided to go to Yongsan to check out their electronics since we were closeby. We went to the I'Park Digital Mall because they have a decent variety of all sorts of the latest electronics and you're able to bargain.. and also because it was where the KUBA buddies brought us to buy our cell phones and I bought my electronic dictionary there so I had a really good experience there. After drifting around a couple of mini shops, we semi-knew what we were looking for and how much we would and should pay for the gadgets.

At the next stop, I ask the guy "Samsung P3 olma-yeyo?" and he said 240,000won, which is a really good price considering it's around 290,000won at Kyobo bookstore. So, intrigued, he shows it to me but then says "this one is better", taking the Cenix S-300 out of the display. I've never heard of the Cenix. My first thought,
the P3 looks way better. But then, he started comparing the Cenix with the Samsung P3. They were both multi-function devices: have video, mp3, can record sound, radio, picture display, and you can read texts off their ebook. They were also both haptic, which means you can control it through the sense of touch like iPod products.

He claimed that the Cenix was better because it was made in Korea whereas the P3 is made in C-H-I-N-A, the Cenix had a longer battery life, the Cenix had a bigger screen than the P3, the Cenix was a newer model by a few months, the Cenix came with a stylist and you don't need to convert the file type for it to work on a Cenix (for example, some of these gadgets can only play AVI files so you would need to convert the file into that format). The last point was pretty much what sold me as I don't like to deal with technical things in that way (I'm a big fan of drag and drop. I currently have a Microsoft Zune and the program I have to use drives me nuts).

Cenix S-300, 8GB
(also comes in white)

Samsung Yepp P3, 8GB
(also available in silver)
I asked how much it (the Cenix) was - he said 330,000won. Wow.. expensive... and then he asked me if I would watch TV on it (you can watch live TV in Korea on these things). I said no - there's no such thing in Canada so no need. OK - he dropped the price to 300,000won. Meanwhile, I was unsure and played around with the gadget. He was rushing me and kept packing it up, but all the while, he was nice and asked us a lot of questions about ourselves and was kinda hilarious and schiz-y. Anyway, all in all, he was a very convincing SA.

Then he showed me all these accessories such as a leather case, a USB adapter, a memory card, and headphones... and eventually gave them to me, saying that they're free because he likes us. I didn't want them, but since it was free, why not? Then he showed me how to drag and drop the music and loads a bunch of Korean songs onto my player. Super simple. I asked him what the return policy was - he said "exchange within 2 years, but no exchange if it's scratched + 1 year warranty". 2 years?! I couldn't believe it so I confirmed it with him.. 2
years??? Yes. 2 years. OK. I was still unsure about how much I would grow to like this gadget, but with the exchange policy, I figured I could try it out at home and then come next week to exchange it to what I originally wanted, the P3.

As I was about to pay, Bern decides she wants to get her MP3 player - a Cenix S-200 so we tried to get a deal since I was already buying something. She got hers for 110,000won including a USB adapter. We paid together in cash. I asked for a receipt - he wasn't going to give me one, but he did give me his business card.

1 week passes -- I used it around 2 or 3 times -- uploaded a bunch of music, photos, and a couple videos. I don't like it. I can't totally personalize the screen to what I like (the font is an eyesore and I can't find where to change it on their official website), browsing photos take forever and when I try looking through the thumbnails, it shuts down because the files are too large, the photos I load (of the ones I take from my digi) don't fill up the whole screen and look pixelated, it's not as haptic as I thought it would be (the P3 seems very haptic!), and the device is still just as ugly as I first thought IMO (it's that shiny plastic black that looks inexpensive and you can see fingerprints easily). Completely unimpressed.

And THEN on Tuesday, I tried researching the player online to find reviews and compare it to the P3. Guess what I found!
The player is only supposed to be 176,000won for 8GB (what I got) and I paid 300,000won!!! AND the screen size is the same for both P3 and Cenix -- 3 inch! I was scammed! WHY would he do such a thing? I can't clearly remember, but I realized that at one point, he asked Bern how long she was staying here (until Monday) and when she would be coming back (not for a loooong long long time). BIG HINT. He thought I would be leaving with her so he could have jacked up the price, knowing we wouldn't find out how much extra we were paying before we left. Also, the fact that we were young and that we were foreigners didn't really do any favours for us.

SO I couldn't believe that this would happen! I've only had amazing experiences with customer service and getting things for too-good-to-be-true prices from who I believe are honest people.. and now I have this... stain. I talked to a few locals about this and they said, as a Korean, they were very sorry and embarrassed this happened and offered to help come talk to the retailer for me. They also said Yongsan is notorious for that and that even some locals stay away from that mall because they would rather buy it online or from a more established retailer (something similar to Best Buy), even if it meant they paid more.

So today, I got a friend (a local, not the ones who offered - they weren't available on Saturday, the only day I was free) to do a huuuge favour for me and come with me + try to exchange the Cenix for the P3. (Side note, apparently it's Korean culture to pay for the other person's meal even though they're doing a favour for them -- I don't get it! It's like doing 2 favours!) The guy who sold me the Cenix wasn't there. Just my luck. Instead, we talked to another guy. After over an hour of
constant talking in the fastest Korean I've ever heard in my life (my friend + him talking in Korean.. I just stood around, unable to input anything but confirm what had happened that day) where at one point, the SA (a guy) started whining to my friend "sonniiiiiimmmmmmm" (a polite word meaning, "customer") [omg so feminine] when my friend told him he would report him to the customer service people, the SA said that it was that price because of the memory card. (You're kidding me.. since when did a 4GB memory cost more than $100CDN?!). Good try, buddy. Then he even went as far to say that Bern didn't pay 110,000 for her MP3 (when she DID) because that price is too cheap and that the seller would not get any commission if he sold it at that price. Pssshhh (but yay Bern! You got yours for a great price!). At the end of the first hour, he said I couldn't return it because it has been used and because of that, the couldn't sell it again. Um... then can you explain to me the purpose of the exchange policy???

OK, that's fine. I just want to exchange it for the P3. The SA said no, unless I was willing to pay extra or else the shop would lose money. What?! The P3 only costs 240,000won! That store already has 300,000won of my money for something that should only cost 176,000won - why in the world would I pay
more? The SA said that actually, the price I saw online was wrong and that the 8GB should be 210,000won. The thing is, it's such a new model (the 8GB, I mean... the 4GB is available to buy online) that they don't have the price anywhere on a Korean website - nothing to compare it to. That's great for the seller because he can sell it for any price he wants, which he pretty much did.

SO we went to the customer service desk and got the customer service rep to come down and solve the problem. After another hour of more Road Runner-type Korean talk (seriously even faster than on the first floor, believe it or not -- think Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls on fast forward.. and omg... one thing about the Korean language is that it contains a lot of fluff and not much content so at the end of the hour, my friend summarized everything that happened in 2 sentences), the situation still wasn't solved. (I wonder how long the convo would have taken if it was in English...). The SA was being very stubborn. So, we went to the 9th floor to talk to someone even more superior where we were offered green tea and stayed in a conference room for another 1.5 hours. My friend mentioned something about how the CS representatives wouldn't usually take it this far, but because I bought the device for 30%+ however much it is sold for online, it wasn't right (yea.. didn't fully understand that). The guy on the 9th floor who helped us was a graduate from Korea University and because he learned that we were both from KU, he said he would try his hardest to try to help us return/exchange and looked like he really meant it. (Sidenote: It's neat how much university affiliation is so significant here. My friend said that because the 9th floor CS guy was his senior, he couldn't ask to talk to someone in an even higher position - it would be very rude). Guess what I found out -- the guy who sold me the Cenix doesn't work at that shop anymore?! He has opened his own shop in the same mall!

The KU grad CS guy gave me 3 choices:
1. The CS department would give me around 80,000won back in cash to cover the difference of what I should have paid, but I would have to keep the Cenix. No. I don't want to keep the Cenix.
2. Since the SA doesn't work at that shop anymore, the CS department has to talk to him and see what he says about the situation on Monday. This is because he's the one who got the commission... but why would he be on my side? That means he would lose his commission! I can only hope for the best for this option. I have to go back sometime this week to see what happens.
3. If all else fails, I will (get help to) report this to the customer service of Korea. Wow - I never thought I would have to take this to such a level! They will make the shop allow me to return the item or exchange it, but it would take about a month so I would have to do it ASAP after this week!

Anyway, that was my sitch. I'm so grateful and appreciative of my friend who spent over 4 hours, arguing on my behalf. He was such a good sport and said he enjoyed the challenge, especially since he's so easy going. He also said he wished his mom was here -- Korean ajummas are amazing bargainers and can definitely raise their voice to get what they want hhhh

Lesson learned: it may be common sense, but make sure you don't buy from I'PARK digital mall @ Yongsan unless you're with a local Korean (preferably someone who can talk well, if you know what I mean), don't buy something you haven't researched, don't buy at the first shop you go to - price hawk, absolutely love the product, and be fully aware of their return/exchange policy!! (And this goes for everywhere in Korea -- the longer you stay and talk to the SA, the bigger the discount they will give you once they learn more about you).

... to be continued.


  1. Wow I feel like it happened to me, but at the same time it didn't, cause it didn't.
    =( poor you.
    Man that guy acts fast, opened his own store somewhere else BUT according to this other SA i was talking whilst he was talking to you about the P3, that guy we were talking to was the "boss" but whatever.
    I was kinda wondering how that thing could be more expensive than the samsung thing..
    boy oh boy.
    i hope something bad happens to that guy at his new shop T__T

  2. hi! I just came across your blog while i was browsing throught the koreanbloglist haha. anyway, i enjoyed reading your previous posts, seems like your having a lot of fun in korea (good for you! and lucky yoU! LOL)

    sorry to hear about cenix/samsung p3 incident.. hope it will be resovled soon and hope you get the p3 that you originally wanted :)

  3. Bern: I definitely wasn't thinking that day! I don't wish for something bad to happen to his shop, but I feel sorry for him for having that awful job as his job! haha

    Anonymous: Korea is great ^^ There's so much to do and see. Thanks for commenting!

  4. No, the lesson learned is not "don't shop at so and so"... the lesson realllly....

    if you're buying electronics. look for reputable large stores. you get what you pay for...

    i suggest you go to linko or homever or somewhere with good customer service and a real return policy.

    come on, if you were in china, would you believe anyone selling at an electronics booth who said there was a return policy ??? don't think so!

    don't go to a korean shijang and expect good service. that's why you gotta invest the few extra bucks and shop at name brand places.

  5. i love reading ur blog in korea it seems interesting! ^_^