Singaporean Generosity

[Edit: I’ve made some changes to the wording of the entry, as it’s been suggested that it may have come across to some people as slanted and mean-spirited. I disagree, personally, but it’s no loss to me to change the words since my conscience is clear anyway. If the amended version changes your view of the events, feel free to say so.]

When I heard a colleague of mine had got a good bargain on a premium brand sale item which is usually quite expensive, I mentioned that Alec had been thinking of buying something similar, and asked if the sale was good. She said it was, and also that she’d gotten a $10 voucher with her purchase which had to be used on the same brand within the next week or so. Her mum had it at the moment, but if her mum didn’t use it she could pass it to me.

The following Monday, this colleague emailed me saying she’d brought the voucher, and could sell it to me for $5. She added that I could take it first, and only pay her if Alec ended up using it.

I have subsequently learned that we were operating under a misunderstanding – she thought we were going to share the cost-savings from the voucher, whereas it would never have entered my head to perform such calculations in the first place. But that doesn’t leave me any less bemused by the mindset.

I don’t mean to look gift horses in mouths, but surely I can’t be the only one who would just give a voucher like this away without a second thought? If it’s something I don’t intend to use and it didn’t cost me anything, I’d be ashamed even to charge a complete stranger for it (I’d have given it to the next person in the queue for the cashier quite happily, for example), let alone someone I know, and I’m not even a particularly generous person! (In case anyone’s wondering, this person is no worse off than me, so while not rich, she is hardly short of cash either.)

Your views? Was I unfair to have burst out laughing the moment I read her email?


  1. It’s something that comes out of a poverty mentality that Singaporeans have – which is goes like this “I don’t have enough so even if I have something I don’t need I still don’t have enough.”

    Dunno. Dustin just gave away an iPod Nano we weren’t using to a friend who was thinking of buying one. He did get it as a gift, but the point is that if you’re not using it, you don’t need it and aren’t likely to need it in the future.

    So if a friend of yours needs it and will use it for running every day and it will give him pleasure and utility, then well, he should be the one that has it.

  2. it’s also a bit weird that the first time she mentioned it to you she didn’t also mention the “discount rate” she would be able to offer it to you at.
    she unilaterally offered it to you (with what some would have understood was no strings attached) then tried to add a precondition.
    I say!! thats just not cricket!

  3. How close are you? I’d say $5 is $5, and any discount is good news. And if paying $5 buys your way out of a friendship that’s as mercenary as that, it’s excellent value.

    Next time you go for a drink/meal with this person, make sure they pay for half your taxi/bus fare there…

  4. *Homer puts voucher for “5 cents off Shake & Bake” in the collection plate.

    Marge: “Homer!!”

    Homer: “It’s OK Marge. We can spare it.”

  5. wahahaha… Forget it… I would rather pay Samsonite the $10 rather than to pay the colleague $5. At least Samsonite was being upfront from the start.

  6. That is pretty phenomenally craptastic. The icing on the cake would be if she were (like I think many Singaporeans would be) self-righteous about it as well. It’s mine what, wah lau… I give you lobang, you still want to complain. You think you who?

  7. BTW, I didn’t need the voucher in the end because Alec had already bought the luggage by then. So I was luckily able to just send an innocuous “Oh, he bought it already but thanks for the offer anyway!” reply.

    LOL Tamara!

  8. i was just wondering… would you have thought the same of her if she was upfront about the $5 straight from the beginning instead of slipping it in later?

  9. terry: I’m mainly just bemused by the idea of charging anyone for a $10 windfall voucher at all, so I don’t think it would matter much to me whether she said it at the start or not.

  10. Wow. I would have bargained her for it – “I buy from you for $1, you want or not?” – just to see how she’d react.

    But I can be vindictive and you seem like a much nicer person. :)

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