Good interior design and renovation need not be expensive
If you’re like any consumer, fighting against rising inflation with a depressed pay cheque for the last few years, big box is where you’ll first go in search of cheap stuff – electronics, groceries, diapers, etc. In any new apartment, household electrical appliances are the default, but it seems prices couldn’t get any lower than say Courts, or MEGA at Kallang. Or so I thought. Then I heard from a real estate agent friend who has been helping her clients find cheap, new appliances for their rental flats recommend Tolay located at 460 Geylang Road (Tel: 67459698). I took an excursion out there with my 14-month old toddler in tow, and was pleasantly surprised. Here’s our adventure of the month:
Geylang and its colourful streets are known to come to life at night, but when we went there in broad day light on a Friday morning, the girls were already plying the streets with their trade. It was clear I was not their target audience and they left me alone. A very pretty Chinese girl dressed more like an office worker than a hooker caught my eye – unlike her peers, she was just standing there and not actively looking for patrons.
Past the rows of shophouses, old grocery stores and loitering hookers, I finally found Tolay nested along the quieter corners of the street. A nondescript glass door that belies its vast interiors, the only hint that it is a white goods store is a big truck parked outside with a driver loading up truck-load of washing machines, refrigerators and TV sets etc.. It was 10 am by the time I arrived, and I am probably their first customer of the day. I stepped in to find two old gentlemen having their coffee and breakfast, flipping newspapers and watching telly. The third old gentleman (I’ll call him Third Uncle), probably in his 60s, came walking past an aisle of refrigerators to greet me. “来进来，想看什么？”（What are you looking for?) came the immediate greeting.
I proceeded to give him my laundry list: Am looking for a washing machine, dryer, built-in oven, ceramic hob, refrigerator, and if budget allows, I’ll also like to get a dish washer. Third Uncle brought me through the brands they have and immediately ushered me to view the EF brands of electronic appliances. It’s a relatively unadvertised brand (you’ll probably not hear of it if you don’t look hard enough), but it’s brochure claims to have been in business for the last 30 years. Good enough for me.
But what really attracted me to the shop is Third Uncle and the prices. He was sincere, clearly telling me which model is good, which isn’t, based on three decades of running the business and customer feedback. He was clearly knowledgeable and knows where the goods come from, where they are manufactured, and if it is easy enough to find parts should I need to replace them after a few years of usage. Tolay’s prices are significantly lower than most other big boxes like Courts, Harvey Norman, BEST and even MEGA (in Kallang). For example, a ceramic hob I saw in Harvey Norman cost $1200 for two rings, at Tolay it was only $560 for four rings. Though we are not comparing same brands but the savings are too great to ignore.
My toddler son has by now kept himself amused with the washing machines knobs and buttons, clearly satisfied with his new playground. I was busy looking at the display sets and doing mental calculations, when he disappeared into the next aisle of TV sets. I found him eventually, sitting quietly on Second Uncle’s lap, happily munching biscuits and watching a singing competition on TV. Free childcare services – I couldn’t be any happier.
As I continue my hunt for value-for-money appliances, Tolay is clearly my kind of shop – good service that won’t break my bank account. What I loved most is the owners are not concerned about just pushing big known brands, like those sales executives at Courts or Harvey Norman. Tolay ask about my budgets before giving recommendations. Then they give me the pros and cons that comes with each brand.
I had originally budgeted more than $5000 for appliances based on prices I found at big boxes, but now, I only need to budget approx. $3000.
|Item||Price||Brand||Big Box Price|
|Ceramic hob, 4 ring, vitro ceramic hob with sensor touch||$560||EF, HB AV460-A||Not sold in Courts, Harvey Norman, Best Denki.|
|Built-in oven, 56 litres, 6 functions, turn control knob (not sensor touch)||$450||EF, BO AE62-A||Not sold in Courts, Harvey Norman, Best Denki.|
|Dish washer, 7 wash programmes, variable temperatures, energy rating (AAA)||$630||Elba, EB 9235||Not sold in Courts, Harvey Norman, Best Denki.|
|Washing machine and dryer set||$880||Elba||Not sold in Courts, Harvey Norman, Best Denki.|
|Refrigerator, digital inverter compressor, 2-door, 234 Litre capacity||$580||Samsung, RT 32||Courts: $659 during its mega 40th anniversary sales, excludes GST|
All prices at Tolay includes 7% GST and delivery charges.
And because the prices are really quite reasonable, Tolay does not throw in “free gifts”. Big boxes do that to lure unsuspecting customers, but most often, those “free” vacuum cleaner or clothes steamer have already been accounted for in the retail price reflected to customers. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Payment at Tolay can be cash and carry, or just call them up before you need your goods and pay when they deliver. They deliver within the next day usually. I left with very pleasant memories of Third and Second Uncle. And of course, my toddler son left his comfortable, front row seat only after much cajoling.
On my way home, the office-girl-lookalike hooker was still standing at her corner, bemused at my second appearance. I smiled at her as I walked past, quietly satisfied with my new found favourite shop.