Nara Thai @ ION Orchard + The Entertainer App

MEDIA INVITE

Hello guys!

What comes to your mind when you think of Bangkok? Being a shopping haven for both locals and foreigners, it’s inevitable to think about all the trendy apparels and accessories you can get at a bargain price at the Land of Smiles. For me, I get reminded of the food carts that line the streets of Bangkok and I still miss them fondly even though I haven’t set foot in that city for almost 5 years (due to my preference to travel to somewhere different and further for my annual trip). However, these foods are somehow not really common in Singapore (not sophisticated and restaurant-quality enough?). Hence, whenever my craving for Thai food kicks in, I’d usually settle for safer choices like Green Curry (kaeng khiao wan), Tom Yam, Phad Thai or Pineapple Fried Rice and (the obligatory) Mango Sticky Rice for dessert which often are signature dishes and will never go wrong at local Thai restaurants.

But even the nicest food gets bland after awhile. And surely there is more to Thai food than these few mainstream dishes as evident from what I saw at Bangkok. If so, where can I find them in Singapore?

As if to answer my thoughts, Nara Thai introduced a new and refreshed menu inspired by Bangkok’s famed grilled street food! Thai food lovers like myself are in for a treat with 15 new dishes ranging from $7.90 for the Ma Muang Khara Mel (Caramelised Mango with Coconut Ice Cream and Basil Sauce) to S$88.90 for the Ruam Mit Talay Yang (Assorted Grilled Seafood Platter).

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Nara Thai Cuisine Singapore | 我像不像泰国妹? 😀

First opened at ION Orchard in September 2013, Nara Thai is a restaurant where anybody with a passion for good food can enjoy authentic Thai Cuisine in a relaxed ambience with good service. Named one of Singapore Tatler’s best restaurants from 2007 to 2014, it is known for its Kuay Tiew Rua (Boat Noodles) and Phunim Phad Pong Karee (Stir-fried Softshell Crab with Yellow Curry) while serving a la carte dishes that are derived from authentic recipes which have been adapted into a modern context.

Diners can expect the following dishes from their refreshed menu:

Kao An Chan | Blue Jasmine Rice

Kao An Chan | Blue Jasmine Rice (S$2)

My low-carb diet took a backseat that evening because I was so intrigued by the rice colour. But to be honest, this blue rice tasted just like any basic white rice – plain but fragrant and fluffy. However, what makes it so unique (apart from the colour) is its health benefits. Steamed with dried an chan (Thai for Butterfly Pea Flower, from which the rice inherits the blue colour), it is laden with powerful antioxidants and is also said to treat depression, soothe the heart-mind, relieve stomach and menstrual cramps and known to be beneficial for healthy hair growth (source). So ladies, go easy on your diet and enjoy your plate of Blue Jasmine Rice with the rest of your dishes! 🙂

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Gai Tord Gra Tiem | Crispy Fried Chicken with Garlic (S$10.90)

Not really the highlight of the dinner but the chicken was entirely boneless (awesome!) and really tender. Plus, it was cut in nice proportions thus making sharing very easy at my table for four. The fried garlic (although I don’t fancy fried garlic at all) gave the chicken, which skin was already very crispy, an extra crunch.

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Moo Yang Jim Jaew | Barbecued Pork Neck with Tamarind Dip (S$13.90)

Moo Yang Jim Jaew

Moo Yang Jim Jaew

I don’t know why Singaporean Chinese love anything pork – pork leg, pork belly, pork tenderloin but never (or seldom) pork neck! Pork neck is actually very popular in Thailand and a lot less fatty as compared to pork belly. It has the perfect balance of fat, muscle and tender flesh. It actually tasted very delicious and soft with the right amount of saltiness and went especially well with the Tamarind dip which was sweet and refreshing to the palate! One of the top favourites among the bloggers present that evening, it was also the first to empty on the table.

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Kai Jiew Cha Om | Cha Om Omelette (S$12.90)

Cha Om is the feathery shoots of a shrub called Acacia penneta and it emits a revolting smell in its raw form (like stink beans/臭豆 argh) but miraculously disappears when it’s cooked. Apparently, it’s very common for Cha Om to be fried with beaten eggs in Thailand and Myanmar, giving you the above Cha Om Omelette! I call it the Thai version of our Fuyong omelette. It’s a very homely dish widely prepared in Thailand and definitely very tasty 🙂 Best eaten with the chilli sauce served with it!

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Ruam Mit Talay Yang | Assorted Grilled Seafood Platter (S$88.90)

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Grilled whole squid

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Mussels

The platter, good for two to three (but in my case it was for four, so the actual one should be of relatively smaller portion), was a combination of 5 different seafood that are also sold a la carte – Pla Kra Pong Yang (Street-style Grilled Whole Sea Bass), Kung Yang (Black Pepper Tiger Prawns), grilled whole squid, skewered scallops and mussels with chili lime marinate. Squid was a little too dry for my liking but I really enjoyed the succulent scallops and fleshy butterflied Tiger Prawns which were coated with a generous layer of crushed black peppercorns and minced garlic! Shiok. Mussels were great and tangy too!

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Pla Kra Pong Yang | Street-Style Grilled Whole Sea bass with Thai Herbs (S$32.90)

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Lemongrass removed from the Sea bass

The street-style grilled Sea bass is stuffed with lemongrass (as can be seen from the picture above), kaffir lime and galangar and subsequently slow-cooked on the grill. Every fish served at Nara Thai, including this Sea bass, is handpicked by the chef personally at Jurong Fishery Port during wee hours of the morning everyday to ensure optimal freshness. Indeed, the Sea bass (which also happens to be my favourite type of fish, whoopie!) I had was really tender and aromatic. To my bewilderment, the crispy skin isn’t meant to be eaten at all so it was a little stiff and hard to tear (still safe to eat nonetheless if you get fragments of it on the flesh).

Finally, a signature Thai dessert to end a splendid meal.

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Ma Muang Khara Mel | Caramelised Mango with Coconut Ice Cream and Basil Sauce (S$7.90)

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Coconut ice cream topped with basil sauce

The coconut ice cream tasted exactly the same as the one found along the streets of Bangkok but with a subtle dash of basil sauce to give it some zest that wasn’t too overpowering. The mango was absolutely fresh and sweet too! I just wish that we were served individual portions of this awesome dessert instead of having to share haha 😛

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With my +1 for the event!

Thanks Nara Thai and Originally Us for having me at the food tasting session 🙂

And that’s all for my review!

But hold on, if you’re planning to try out the food I’ve featured, do read on because I have another awesome recommendation for you guys!

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Do you fancy some 1-for-1 food offers? If you do, you have to check out The Entertainer! Some of you might have already heard of The Entertainer book which contains a truckload of 1-for-1 vouchers at the hottest restaurants, spas, leisure (yes, overseas hotels included!), beauty, fitness centres and international renowned hotels (and when I mean the hottest, I mean well-known ones like Spruce, Yoshinoya, Marble Slab and many more!), available for sale at selected bookstores. If you’re more of a techie than a bibliophile, you will be pleased to know that The Entertainer is now available as an app!

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Like the book, the app has over 1000 one-for-one deals but with new offers added through the year. You can expect savings totaling over S$89,000 from the app and what’s more, it’s completely free for 14 days! Of course, if you’d like to know more irresistible 1-for-1 deals within the trial period, you can make an in-app purchase of just S$60 (discount code below) to unlock them all 1000+ of them at once! 🙂 Do the math and realise how much you will save with the upgrade! Trial ended? No worries, you can still do so after the 14 days.

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Full users (those who paid S$60) get to enjoy 1-for-1 main course deals* at Nara Thai, one of the participating merchants. Every merchant comes with 3 buy-one-get-one-free coupons (mostly for main course for food deals) and the most amazing thing is that they are not restricted to one per product purchase! In fact, you can even combine ALL 3 in one transaction for a party of 6 (omg why wasn’t I introduced to this app earlier when I was having my internship?!). Once you have used up all 3, you can actually get more by trading coupons with your friends! All coupons are valid for the entire year excluding eves of and public holidays (weekends OK!). It’s fuss-free and really easy to use 🙂

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*1-for-1 Main Menu Item at Nara Thai. This includes appetizers, drinks and desserts. Do take note if you’re planning to use this offer for your main course (i.e. don’t order anything else)!

The app is available for download at theentertainerme.com or via your appstore (Android/iTunes) while the book retails at S$75 at selected bookstores. If you’re getting the full version on your phone, do quote “2015ALVIN” upon purchase to enjoy a 10% discount!

Have fun and thanks for reading! 🙂

Nara Thai Cuisine (ION Orchard)
2 Orchard Turn
#B3-21
Singapore 238801
Tel: 6634 5787
Operating hours: Mon-Sun 11.30am-10.00pm
(last order at 9pm Mon-Thu, 9.30pm Fri-Sun)

Nara Thai Cuisine (Westgate)
3 Gateway Drive
#03-07
Singapore 608532
Operating hours: Mon-Sun 11.30am-10.00pm
(last order at 9pm Mon-Thu, 9.30pm Fri-Sun)

E-mail | Website | Facebook

EVENT: LINE Friends Pop-Up Store at 313@Somerset

MEDIA INVITE

Hey guys!

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LINE in Singapore

Almost three years ago when I got my first smartphone (yes, I was probably the last person my age to own a smartphone then because… buttons for the win), I was so intrigued by mobile apps that I started downloading a whole slew of them on it. Messaging apps, of course, form an integral part of my phone usage (because for the first time ever, I didn’t have to pay for excessive messaging), even today. I had a few of them installed on my phone for different purposes but I only actively used two, one of which was LINE for its free voice calls (back then before WhatsApp introduced it) and wide selection of expressive stickers. The latter reminds me of the good ol’days of MSN Messenger when I would bombard the other party with lots of big emoticons. But the Japanese messaging app is different in the sense that its stickers feature popular cartoon characters from Disney, SpongeBob SquarePants and even my favourite Pokemon! To date, I think I’ve spent over S$8 on these premium LINE stickers alone ^_^” They’re just sooooo cute!

But that doesn’t leave frugal users, who are reluctant to pay, with nothing. There are also default stickers which are equally expressive and endearing. You’re bound to find something that accurately illustrates your mood among the pool of free stickers starring LINE’s mascots Moon, James, Cony and Brown (the only expressionless one hahaha but still adorbs, my favourite!)

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LINE style! From left: Brown, Cony, PSY, Moon and James. (source)

By 2013, LINE became even more popular with over 120 million users (more than 400 million now) across the globe. Its mascots even have its own TV animated series in Japan (click here for episode 1! Please watch it’s damn funny), further proving how well-received the app is.

In 2014, as part of LINE’s efforts to bringing Singaporean closer to the ultimate LINE experience, it held its first ever pop-up store at Wisma Atria to roaring success, with as many as 100 people queuing up before its opening to be one of the lucky customers to walk away with free LINE mini doll worth S$14.

This year, if you haven’t heard already, the high-anticipated pop-up store is back again for the second time, at 313@Somerset. Located at the mall’s Atrium on Level 1, the pop-up store will run from 8 June to 15 July 2015 and will likewise have an extensive array of official LINE merchandise including exclusive collaboration items.

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Entrance of 313@Somerset

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From level 3 of the mall! It’s e-ve-ry-where!

My favourite LINE character mascots, Cony and Brown will also make special appearance during the period of the pop-up store for photo-taking opportunities. The event will also feature a photo zone, complete with a backdrop for the perfect selfie with the mascots. Scroll down towards the end for the mascots’ meet-and-greet timings!

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With Brown and Cony! Brown is so animated and affectionate I love it!

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Brown giving me a thumbs-up for initiating a selfie HAHAHA (aye can’t see the backdrop though)

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Missed the appearance of Cony and Brown? Fret not! There are mascot cut-outs of all the LINE characters for you to pose with, available 24/7 hehe

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The names of the characters are on the ground just in case you forget who they are!

As I was invited to the media preview of the pop-up store this morning (2 hours before the official opening), I was also one of the first to lay my hands on the merchandise! YAY! Let’s take a look at what the store offers, as well as some highlights of the event 🙂

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SPOTTED: Crew putting up the Brown Cuddle Doll on display. It’s H U G E.

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“I’m ready! Come and buy me! S$298 only :D”

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Spotted another Cuddle Doll! This time it’s Cony!

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This is one of the collaborated items I was talking about – the limited edition LINE x Swarovski jewellery

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Jewellery close-up

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Omg how cute is this necklace??

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Another collaboration, with EZ-Link card! And it’s only S$10!

The third collaborated items are the LINE x LAMY pens 🙂

Sally the duck!

Cups for sale, featuring Sally the duck!

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Water bottles

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Sally water bottle

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Cushion

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Figurines

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Head plush

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Mini plush

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Postcards

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Postcard designs

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Plushies

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Gel pens

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Pin badges

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Dust caps

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Folders and notepads

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More badges and other stuff

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Apparels! Boyfriend and I both got one top each

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1.5 hours later, some guy really bought the Brown Cuddle Doll! Woah who’s that lucky girl (I assume)?

Prices at the pop-up store range from S$2.50 for a folder to S$298 for a LINE Cuddle Doll. It’s surprisingly affordable if you ask me and I even got myself a Brown mouse pad! Boyfriend also won a Brown pin badge from the sure-win lucky draw! 🙂

Other LINE user privileges

– All LINE users will receive 10-20% discounts

– Type your receipt number in LINE Event Official Account for a sure-win lucky draw of LINE merchandise! Official hard copy receipt has to be produced upon collection for verification

– Notice of LINE Brown x LAMY Limited Edition pen sale will be highlighted via LINE Event Official Account

Apart from the merchandise, there are also several events lined up for the shoppers!

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Also, follow 313@Somerset on LINE for a chance to win vouchers, goodies and many more!

Thanks LINE Singapore, 313@Somerset and Originally Us for having me. I had a blast! I also received an awesome goodie bag as well, courtesy of 313@Somerset 🙂 Let me show you guys what’s in there:

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What’s in my goodie bag

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What’s in my goodie bag – stickers

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What’s in my goodie bag – Head Plushies!!

Head on down to 313@Somerset now and immerse yourself in the exclusive LINE merchandise and engage in some fun and games! Remember, the pop-up store is only going to be around ’til 5 July, less than a month from now so hurry!

LINE FRIENDS POP-UP STORE

8 June – 5 July 2015
Store hours: Mon-Thu 11am – 10pm / Fri and Weekends 10am – 10pm
Venue: 313@Somerset, 313 Orchard Road, S(238895)
Homepage | Facebook | YouTube | 313@Sometset Facebook Page

Review on Carousell

This is NOT a sponsored post.

HEY FELLOW SHOPAHOLICS! I’m sorry if this took ages to be up (if anyone is even waiting for it) because it’s a hassle to take screen shots on my slow phone!

As promised many posts ago (actually not really since I didn’t really update very often), this is my review on my favourite shopping app as of now, Carousell! I exceeded the data usage bundle in my plan during the first few months of using Carousell because you really don’t want to miss any great deals (you have no idea how fast a great deal can be snapped up).

Let me start with a brief introduction of Carousell. As many of you would have known from my first Carousell blog post, it’s a mobile app for shopping available on Android and iOS. Sadly, it’s only applicable in Singapore and Malaysia since most of the sellers there reside in these 2 countries. However some (a minority though) do provide international shipping so, rejoice! If you’re lucky enough to encounter buyers who practise international shipping, you can pay through Paypal. I do have to warn you, though, that we’re very wary of buyers from countries further than Malaysia because of possible frauds. One blacklisted country would be Nigeria because, you know, the only word you’d associate Nigeria with is “scam”. True enough, quite a number of Carousell users were swindled out of expensive branded goods that were worth hundreds of dollars and duped by fake Paypal payment confirmation emails (what’s new?).

On Carousell, you can be a buyer, seller or both. I started out as more of a seller but I gradually got too lazy to measure my apparels so now I buy more instead. There is a camera function on Carousell where you can just snap pictures (4 maximum), add a short description and post! There are many lurkers on the app so don’t be surprised to receive offers at ungodly hours like 5am.

Adding on to the roles on Carousell are traders. Traders, as the name suggests, simply trade their items for other items listed by other users. They hardly purchase because they are self-proclaimed “poor”. I am perfectly alright with trading but sometimes you just gotta admit that it can get really annoying to keep getting trade requests especially when you have already stated “NO TRADES” on your listings. On top of that, their items are not very appealing either -_- No offence traders but, please learn to read okay before you get on my nerves. *shakes fists*

What are “trades“?

This is one of the most common questions asked by people who are new to this whole online shopping world. Basically, to trade means to swap, and in this case, you swap items with the other party. The one who initiates the trade would express interest in one (or more) of your items, either by commenting on your listing or (most annoyingly) offer you $0 to start a private conversation with you, though you don’t really need to offer anything to send a private message now. You start by looking through the initiator’s listings, and see if anything catches your attention. Typically, you’d want to pick the item which value (i.e. selling price) matches that of yours. Otherwise, the one who is receiving the item of a higher value would have to top up the balance in cash, or offer another item that is around the same price.

For example, if Carouseller expresses interest to trade in your $10 item, you look for something that costs around $10 in her listing. If you like something that costs, say, $15, you may negotiate with the other party and see if she is able to compromise the difference of $5. Otherwise, you’d have to offer $5 in cash or another item that’s valued at $5 on top of the original $10 item that sparked the discussion.

Some sellers tend set difference pricing for purchases and trades. For example, the listing may show $10 but somewhere on her profile or item description, you notice something like: “trades+5” or “U+I+”. For the former, the value that’s indicated beside the “+” is how much you have to factor in on top of the listing price if you’re planning to trade. So for example, if the item is selling for $10, and seller specifies “trades+5”, she reserves the rights to pick something that is worth $15 on your listing for trades without having to top up any difference. Or, if you offer something that is less than $15, she can request for a top up of the difference in value even though both items may cost the same.

Why is there such a practice, you may ask? Well, apart from greed, some sellers see trades as making a loss because she may be trading something of superb quality with a rag (yes, dishonest sellers everywhere!). Hence, this serves as a cushion to minimise the impact of feeling cheated. Some sellers just dislike trades, but they don’t want to be too inflexible and miss out on great deals. Others are just trying to deter fickle people from approaching them for trades.

“U+I+” simply means “You add, I add”. This is usually to combat sellers who charge unreasonable trade premiums. Thus, if you have this as one of your terms and conditions, you can say that your item is now $15 instead of $10 now because the other party started it first.

Carousell interface

Carousell interface on iOS.

Beauty Products section

Beauty Products section

There are many different categories catered to different types of shoppers. “For Her” are mainly listings of female apparels, shoes, accessories and anything girls use in general while “Beauty Products” are cosmetics and stuff you apply on your body, just to name a few. For me, I frequent “Beauty Products” so much that I rarely shop at Sephora now because you can get brand new items there at a fraction of their retail prices. You can find brands ranging from Urban Decay, Benefit, MAC, 3CE, Anna Sui and even Dior there. I’m an addict and you’ll be astounded to see the results on my next post HAHA.

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Feedback left by my sellers and buyers on my profile which I obviously blurred so that no one can stalk me.

One tip for new Carousell users to avoid getting scammed or stood up is to read sellers or buyers’ reviews left by other users whom they have transacted with. This review function was recently added and it really helps in deciding if you should go ahead with the transaction. There are 3 kinds of feedback: Positive (+) / Neutral / Negative (-). I personally take positive reviews which are too vague (e.g. “friendly buyer”, “item received”) with a pinch of salt because they look really forced and patronising, like they were pestered by the seller/buyer to write them a good review to add to their positive feedback count. Receiving positive feedback can stroke your ego so I guess that’s why.

Feedback cannot be deleted but it can be amended by the giver. For example, if you find that you have received an unsatisfactory product after giving the feedback, you can change your review from “Positive” to “Negative” and even amend the explanation.

Feedback page

You can easily add a feedback by going to the user’s profile. I have only added feedback to those who are worthy of it and if I’m kind enough (I usually am), I’ll reciprocate reviews left on my profile. 😛

However as you know, it can be a hassle to keep visiting profiles to spy on others’ reviews so another way to know who the problematic users are is by looking up the keywords “blacklisted”, “scammer”, “beware” or anything similar on the search engine. It will pick up listings which contain the keyword in their description. I used to search for “blacklisted” users but recently there have been an increase in users warning buyers of being blacklisted should they back out on the deal on their listings. Now you’ll need to get past tens of listing to finally get to the first actual blacklist notice. To save time, I only search for the other 2 keywords now.

How a typical blacklist notice looks like.

How a typical blacklist notice looks like: a screen shot of the blacklistee’s profile as the cover photo and screen shots of their SMS conversation coupled with written account when you click on them.

It can be really fun to read blacklist accounts but after awhile you’ll realise that it’s always the same ol’ story – buyer delays in payment and never does, buyer doesn’t turn up for meet-ups, seller receives money but never sends out item as promised, etc. Unrepentant blacklistees appear on so many blacklist notices that their usernames are naturally etched onto your memory.

So far I haven’t blacklisted anybody because I’ve only encountered buyers who back out on deals which is fine with me. I understand the consequences of impulse buys (lol) so I do not insist that they have to buy even after confirming the purchase. They can change their minds for all I care (unless I have travelled all the way to their convenience to meet them – that is just downright irresponsible). This pretty much makes me a very bad salesperson LOL.

You can also use the search function to look for things (duh) because sometimes the seller may have accidentally selected the wrong category for the item so you don’t see it in the correct “department”. For example, a lipstick listed under “For Her” (technically it’s not wrong la). The administrator of Carousell would reclassify it but he would miss at times.

Searched for Urban Decay

“Urban Decay”

Searched for Benefit

“Benefit” – for the unaware, BNIB means BRAND NEW IN BAG (and BNIP means BRAND NEW IN PACKAGING)

I hope the listed sellers don’t mind that I am indirectly promoting their items here. And I have to reiterate this: EXERCISE CAUTION WHEN BUYING COSMETICS. Don’t end up buying counterfeits please. It’s so-not-worth-it.

In my opinion, what sets Carousell apart from other online marketplaces is the convenience in negotiating prices. Being a true blue Singaporean, I really enjoy bargaining even though some prices are already a lot lower than retail. It’s terrible I know, but most of the time I’m just trying my luck. If it succeeds, great! Otherwise I am always understanding enough to adjust my prices closer to what the buyer/seller wants. Some people dislike bargaining as much as trading though. I respect that but I usually stay away from such inflexible sellers (unless the item is already ridiculously cheap). I mean, it’s an online marketplace for a reason right? Pfft.

Hone your negotiating skills on Carousell!

Hone your negotiating skills on Carousell! I usually go 2-5 bucks (the acceptable range) lower than the stated price unless it’s below $10, which I’ll probably only take 1-2 bucks off. But on really crazy days I’d go down by half. But that’s a very rare occurrence so please don’t judge me 😦

I have pretty much mentioned the unique features of Carousell.

I will get my haul post up soon (link here). Meanwhile download the app on Google Play or AppStore and shop away!

NOTE: Since publicising this post in 2013, the app has undergone massive makeovers. While this post remains relevant today, I still urge everyone to download the app and experiment with the newer features not mentioned here. I will do an updated review if time permits.