Ginza Calla is a popular IPL hair removal salon in Singapore.
Here it is.
They opened in 2014.
Ginza Calla, and other similar shops, usually offer packages that consist of a certain number of visits. It makes sense as hair grows, and repeat sessions are often sought.
They also offer lifetime packages which are highly lauded, and arguably encouraged. But we’ll get to them later.
On September 21, 2020 Ginza Calla closed operations in Singapore.
For some of their customers, that was the same day they found out about the closure as well.
So what was the reason for closing?
“As you may know, the global Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted the economy and businesses. Ginza Calla has similarly been adversely affected and we find ourselves unable to continue our operations here in Singapore.
While our situation is not solely attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has certainly played a major part in leading us to make this difficult decision.”
And what about those who purchased packages with some of the sessions unused?
“For our customers with packages that are not cancelled and have not been fully utilised, we have sent you an email containing information on our refund policy. Please check your email for the details, including what you need to know on refund eligibility and procedure.”
What are the details?
Here are what we understand to be the details in emails setting out the conditions for refund.
Standard packages: Customers are entitled to a refund amount equivalent to the value of the remaining sessions left in the package. So if you have seven sessions left in your 10 session package, you get the refund equivalent of those seven sessions.
Pretty straightforward, until you get to the Unlimited Package.
For unlimited packages, the same concept applies. But this time they give a set number to base remaining sessions on.
In this case, that number is six.
So if you have gone for five sessions on your unlimited package, you get refunded for one session. If you have gone for six or seven, no refund.
The third point in the email states that if the person submits an application for a refund, they agree to the method of calculating their refund amount, as laid out in the first two points. The refund amount would also be the full and final settlements from Ginza Calla.
According to the email, the attached refund has to be filled up by October 21, and may take up to 21 business days.
Speed and transparency
One Alson Tan’s wife was one of the customers affected by the sudden closure.
Tan told Mothership that his wife had paid for two “unlimited” packages, worth around S$300 and S$1,700-2000 at the time of purchase.
The couple are currently weighing their options in terms of how to approach this sudden closure of the outlet, and the issue of refunds.
Joanna is another Ginza Calla customer with 2 lifetime IPL packages. She told Mothership that she too was only informed via SMS on the day of closure itself (Sep 21).
This was in spite of the fact that she had visited the outlet three weeks before. No one had told her about any imminent closure then.
They are not alone, other affected individuals have joined a Facebook group “Ginza Calla Support Group”, with over 220 members at the time of this article.
The group was started by Charlene Soh.
Here is what she put down in the group descriptor:
“I literally just received an SMS from Ginza Calla saying that they will close down operations… Tomorrow?? I previously bought a lifetime package and I can’t call through the one phone number they gave for “any queries”. Thought to create a group / commiseration party for anyone in the same situation and is awaiting further news of what will happen.”
Speaking to Mothership, Soh recounted how she had gone down to the Orchard outlet right as they were preparing to close down.
She noted that the employees seemed just as shocked about the abrupt closure.
How unlimited is unlimited
Soh made it clear that she never thought unlimited meant literally an eternity worth of hair removal.
In fact none of the customers we spoke to who had purchased an “unlimited package” held that perception of what it meant. They were more taken aback at how final the parameters for refunds for an “unlimited package” was.
So what does it mean?
Well if you go by the refund email, a lifetime package, at least what is deemed refundable, consists of six sessions.
But the point itself appears to contradict this definition, stating that those who went for seven sessions were not applicable for refunds as well. If a “lifetime” package is worth six sessions, why would they expect customers to go for seven?
It’s a bit confusing, but here’s probably how a business can survive offering unlimited sessions.
If there is permanent hair removal after say the sixth session, there would be no need to keep coming back.
Any further sessions, even in an unlimited package, would be then deemed unnecessary.
So, why the unlimited offer in the first place? For the company, perhaps marketing reasons? An unlimited package sounds like a great deal to take up, compared to the more definite six or seven or eight sessions.
Mothership understands that the price point for the unlimited deal was generally only slightly higher than the next highest deal with a set number of sessions. Which might make the jump from finite to “infinite” rather appealing.
Packages with 9, 12 sessions
For the customer, it serves as a pragmatic warranty of sorts. If the hair is not completely eradicated from a certain region by a certain amount of sessions, there will be no additional fees for the few more sessions they might require.
Let’s just take a look at the price point from a blog review, randomlessonsinlife, of Ginza Calla back in 2015.
“Nonetheless, their Brazilian IPL was quite affordable. (Nine) sessions were at $899, 12 sessions at $1163 and unlimited sessions for $1320.”
Which again raises more questions than answers in terms of refunds. If the nine and 12 sessions are considered standard packages, would using only six then leave customers with three or six sessions as refunds?
But would using six on an unlimited sessions package mean the cutoff point is at six? And going for six sessions would effectively mean no refunds?
And if unlimited is loosely defined as number of sessions a person has to attend to achieve hairlessness, then six should be the definitive number of times it takes, according to the refund email.
However even on Ginza Calla’s own promotional material on their site, the number is subjected to a bit of hedging.
The email doesn’t seem to explain how they arrived at the number six as well.
That confusion is amplified by the aforementioned third point in the email sent to customers:
“if the person submits an application for a refund, they agree to the method of calculating their refund amount, as laid out in the first two points. The refund amount would also be the full and final settlements from Ginza Calla.”
Which could theoretically mean a decision made on imperfect knowledge.
From what Mothership understands, the way consumers might use the package is going for sessions a few months apart from one another. After a few years, the sessions should rightfully become an annual affair, just for maintenance.
Incidentally the email to consumers also mentions that there would be no refunds for packages that have not been utilised for 12 months.
We have reached out to Ginza Calla, and will update the article if they get back to us.
In response to queries from Mothership, The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) revealed that there had been “17 complaints on the sudden closure of Ginza Calla and/or First Consulting Lion Pte Ltd”.
“In general, consumers who purchased packages complained that they were unable to obtain refunds for unutilised sessions of their packages.
Consumers who bought packages with “unlimited” sessions complained that the company will not be giving any refunds if they had utilised six or more sessions of their packages.”
CASE also asked consumers to be mindful:
“In view of the uncertain economic climate, consumers should be mindful of the risks of purchasing pre-paid packages, as they would most likely lose whatever unconsumed balance in their packages in the event the business becomes insolvent. It may also be challenging for consumers to seek recourse when the business goes insolvent. We would like to call on consumers to be vigilant and exercise caution when they make advance payments.
Consumers who are unable to resolve their disputes with Ginza Calla can approach CASE for assistance (hotline: 6100 0315, website: www.case.org.sg).”
Totally unrelated but follow and listen to our podcast here
Image from Charlene Soh/Ginza Calla Support Group FB and Google Maps/Julien