Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lost in Mustafaland

The world is divided (OK Singapore, not the world)...between the people who love shopping in Mustafa...and the ones who wonder what the hell is wrong with the other group.

For all who know me will know I belong to the latter group. So yesterday when I decided to take trip to Mustafa, it came as a big surprise to my friendly neighbours. And to be honest I kinda surprised myself too. But all in the effort of doing things that are outside my comfort zone, and the electronic items on my list- I threw caution to wind, and ventured Mustafa bound.

Well...actually the main draw was the butter dosa and filter coffee at Murugnas, but it got me to Mustafa.

And now this is no exaggeration, but I cannot remember the last time I was there. At least a few years since my last visit... and no, not even the ‘new Cold Storage style 3rd floor grocery section’ could get me there. At this juncture I would like to point out 2 things:

1) I am eternally grateful for Mustafa’s existence. Cannot imagine what I would do without my chaat samaan and Indian Maggi masala. So a significant portion of my grocery budget is spent there, except Rose does the shopping and not me.

2) This is not a snobbish thing. I even detest Carrefour- which is French. Basically I don’t like hypermarkets. They are big, scary and make me immensely uncomfortable for reasons that can be attributed to my control freak nature. Hypermarket is a very diverse uncontrollable environment. I simply can’t enjoy my shopping there. And I adore grocery shopping!

Well coming back to Mustafa. I took a deep breath, try to ward off the look of intense fear in my eyes and entered into the ever so crowded level one perfume and make-up section. (Really?! Make-up from Mustafa?) Ok...ok...I digress...I went over to purchase a cordless phone for the home. And the sales staff was super efficient and I made my decision in all of 3 minutes. And then I had to head to B2 Computer section and to reach there I passed through every conceivable product section- toys, household appliances, clothes (again, really??), shoes and exercise equipments even. How Mustafa manages its stock inventory should be a retail management case study on its own- if it’s not one already.

I needed speakers for my laptop and a ‘wireless presenter’. I did not know it was called that, I explained to the salesperson that I wanted ‘the remote control to move PPT slides’. And to my utmost amazement he understood exactly what I wanted and showed me the ‘top of the line’ version. It’s super cool. Has a laser pointer too!

Next stop- household appliances, once again manoeuvring through aisles and aisles of assorted products and hordes and hordes of Indian tourists (and once again, WHY??).

And there I stood in front of 100s of electric kettles- clueless and confused. Another very attentive sales person- a Chinese one this time- came to me and offered his assistance. I was so grateful! It hardly ever happens in Singapore especially in super and hyper markets that someone comes over to you. At Carrefour I am usually chasing them half way down the store, and when I finally locate someone, they do not have the slimmest of idea where the product I need is located.

Not only did the salesperson educate me about electric kettles- well am not a tea drinkers so have never purchased or owned one till now, he also demonstrated the difference between a China made and a German made product. You have to sniff it! The China one smelled vile! But cost 3 times less. Now I am a complete sucker for ‘professional advice’, so I bought the 60$ German made kettle, knowing fully well that the reason for pushing it was more likely higher commission than professional attitude. But I was impressed with the salesperson’s helpful nature and the sniff test was the clincher.

As I started to read my list, the salesman asked me if he could help me further and offered to review my shopping list too. (He recoiled once he saw my handwriting though). In any case rest of my list was Indian groceries for which I made my way to level 2. Though got off at the wrong level and once again I had the lost in the big bad woods look in my eyes.

Finally I reached my destination only to find Amul butter out of stock! But then I discovered the fish and meat section. The signage of ‘Ostrich and Deer meat available’ made me nearly throw up though. I did buy fresh Pomfret (and cooked Bombay style fried Pomfret for dinner- heavenly!).

And then I got lost rows and rows of frozen goods, pickles, spices and got attacked my humungous shopping baskets and run over by trolleys. Bought back scary memories and then I remembered why I never come here. The shoppers are bloody insane! They travel in hordes and have no concern or caution for fellow shoppers- some of whom are not veterans at this game!

I also came across quite a few goras shopping. One woman was walking like she was exploring some spice bazaar in Agra. And one was there with her whole family- 3 boys and a husband- and they were discussing merits of cumin and chilli powder- right in the middle of all that craziness.

I had completed my shopping by then. And I must say I am SUPER IMPRESSED at the quality of service at Mustafa. They are courteous, know where products are stocked- even if it’s not on their floor, are informative and a complete joy to deal with! Think Mr. Mustafa must have enrolled them for some customer service classes. Wish there was one for the shoppers also!

After making payment, I had to go back to the counters to pick up my items and surprise-surprise- got lost again! Finally as I walked out through the doors, I looked back with a slight shudder. Knowing that though the experience was not altogether terrible, I would so not be making my way back there anytime soon.

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