Yannie Chan, reporter, HK Magazine, Hong Kong
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To earn enough stamps for all seven saucepans on offer, Wellcome customers must spend up to HK$115,200. Time for honesty, blogger says
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 October, 2013, 5:30am
Wellcome saucepans offers are not so free. Photo: SCMP
They're smart and shiny, stylish, glass-lidded, they look as if they'd add a measure of practical panache to any Hong Kong kitchen … and best of all, they're free.
There's a catch, of course: what shoppers might not realise about the German-branded set of seven "free" saucepans Wellcome is offering in its latest promotion is that they will need to spend up to HK$115,200 at the store to get their hands on the set.
Collecting enough "Happy Stamps" - handed out at the rate of one for every HK$60 spent - to get the smallest of the pans will cost a customer HK$10,800 at the checkout at regular times. The biggest will cost HK$22,800.
What's more, while they are advertised in fliers handed out to shoppers as being "German Woll Stainless Steel Kitchenware Collection" and carry the Woll brand, small print on the same leaflets reveals the saucepans are actually made in China, apparently under licence.
Customer Jo Dehaney highlighted the cost of the "free" saucepans in her Sai Kung Living blog after standing in a long queue at her local branch of Wellcome with time for a spot of mental arithmetic.
"I thought 'Oh good - free pans'," she wrote later on her blog. "I started thinking about which ones I would find most useful, but the queue was long, and I was bored, and before long I started calculating how much these fine German, made-in-China cookware pieces were really going to cost me. The results were staggering."
The smallest saucepan, a 16cm 1.5-litre casserole pot, which the promotional leaflets say has a "standard price" of HK$1,280, costs 210 Happy Stamps - equivalent to grocery spending of HK$12,600 at regular times.
The biggest, a 24cm 7.9-litre stockpot, which has a standard price of HK$1,980, costs 380 Happy Stamps - for which a shopper would have to spend HK$22,800.
To get the whole set of seven saucepans - valued by the Wellcome leaflets at HK$10,360 - a customer would need to collect 1,920 Happy Stamps which, at HK$60 per stamp, would cost HK$115,200 in shopping.
Double stamps are given out for spends of HK$350 or more at weekends and extra stamps are given for "bonus buy" items, so a canny customer who times their visits and always spends over HK$350 could bring down the total cost to HK$57,600 or less.
But Dehaney argued that it was at the very least cheeky of Wellcome to describe the items as free.
"They use words like 'happy' and 'free', but it's nonsense," she said. "The stamps aren't particularly happy and the saucepans most definitely aren't free.
"I think they should just try being honest with their customers instead of coming out with gimmicks like this. People are already realising that it's better to go to small shops. The prices in supermarkets in Hong Kong are just too high."
Wellcome, owned by the Dairy Farm Group, declined to give an interview to the Sunday Morning Post about the promotion and instead issued a statement in response to questions from the newspaper through the public relations firm GolinHarris. The statement said: "We are … committed in ensuring that customers have sufficient information to make informed decisions about their purchases by providing sufficient product information via multiple channels such as newspapers and electronic media."
Monday, 09 September, 2013 [Updated: 7:58AM]
Danny Mok email@example.com
A body found yesterday near a walking trail at The Peak is believed to be that of missing schoolgirl Janet Ng Chun-yee, who disappeared last Sunday.
Janet Ng Chun-yeeThe discovery was made by firefighters at about 3pm on a hill off the Governor's Walk, which skirts around Victoria Peak Garden. Police believe the girl died a few days ago.
The rescue crew had been searching for 16-year-old Janet, who was last seen at a restaurant on Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay on the afternoon of September 1.
She had been dining with friends from St Clare's Girls' School, the elite school she attended. She asked them to join her on a trip to The Peak but they declined, so she went alone.
Police said the height and clothing of the body matched the description of Janet. Nothing suspicious was found, nor was there a suicide note.
However, Janet had sent several instant messages via WhatsApp to her classmates on September 1 at about 2.30pm saying she was "on the way to hell", and "I will die today".
One of her classmates replied: "You want to kill yourself just because the school has been [painted] pink. You are really silly."
Another friend said: "You could just leave the school. Do you really need to die?"
Janet replied: "Forget it. You guys don't understand this."
Later, at about 6pm, Janet sent a photograph to her brother Dicken Ng, taken near Victoria Peak Garden, with the message: "Super beautiful Victoria Peak Garden".
That was the last message she sent before she apparently switched her phone off.
Janet's family reported her missing on September 2.
Police and the Civil Aid Service searched the area and other places where Janet went.
Lucia Lau Fung-yi, the principal of St Clare's, said last week that Janet was a lively and cheerful girl and there was no sign that she would try to commit suicide.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Body found on Peak maybe missing schoolgirl
Monday, 14 October, 2013, 1:56pm
Sandy Li firstname.lastname@example.org
Home prices in Hong Kong have now surpassed the 1997 peak.
The pegging of the Hong Kong dollar to the US dollar has been blamed for creating artificially low interest rates that contribute to the city's sky-high property prices.
However, some analysts warn that Hong Kong's real estate market would face immense challenges if the peg is removed.
Average home prices have soared more than tenfold from HK$700 per square foot in 1983 - when the Hong Kong dollar was pegged to the US dollar - to HK$7,244 last month, based on gross floor area, according to data compiled by Midland Realty.
"When our currency was pegged to the greenback, it marked the day when we sacrificed our role and ability to set interest rates," said Midland Realty chief analyst Buggle Lau Ka-fai.
Hong Kong's property market has experienced wild swings over the past three decades. It began a sustained upward trend from 1983, hitting a peak in October 1997. But home prices then plunged 70 per cent and entered a prolonged downward trend after the Asian financial crisis. Prices bottomed out in August 2003 and have since climbed again. Prices have now surpassed the 1997 peak by 17.6 per cent, prompting the government to launch a string of measures to rein in the red-hot market.
"Property prices have shot up whenever we see devaluation of the US dollar as our assets become more affordable to overseas investors," Lau said. "As Hong Kong is an import economy, it will boost our inflation and encourage investors to buy properties as a way of hedging against rising inflation."
A case in point was the 26 per cent appreciation of the yuan against the US dollar over the past 10 years, which sparked a buying spree by mainlanders looking for new homes in the city and sent prices to new heights until the Hong Kong government imposed a 15 per cent buyer's stamp duty in October last year.
Andrew Lawrence, the managing director of real estate equities research at Malaysian investment bank CIMB Securities, said the impact of cheap housing credit could be seen by comparing property transaction volumes with mortgage approvals.
Before 2009, about 75 per cent of property transactions required a mortgage, yet following the drop in mortgage rates nearly every property transaction had been mortgage-funded, Lawrence said.
"Homeowners have become ever more reliant on debt to fund their property purchases," he said.
Mortgage interest rates have dropped to 2.3 per cent from a high of 10 per cent in 1990 and 2000.
Asked how Hong Kong property prices would be hit if the city abandoned the peg, Lawrence said the question was what currency it would be repegged to.
"It will most likely repeg to the yuan, which would mean we would have to adapt to the mainland's high interest rate," he said. "It would effectively impose a significant change in terms of interest rates."
But Lawrence said that was unlikely to happen until the yuan became fully convertible, and by then the Hong Kong dollar would be replaced by the yuan. "There will no Hong Kong dollar and we will be trading in yuan," he said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Currency link to blame for soaring property prices
Pursuit of fitness rather than just superficial beauty has paid off for 46-year-old
Sunday, 06 October, 2013, 1:55am
Alvin Sallay email@example.com
Beauty being skin deep, Anna Christianne Ho decided a long time ago that she would prefer to devote her energy towards having a truly healthy body instead of one just pretty on the surface. Ten years later, her efforts paid off when she won a silver medal at the Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship in Vietnam last month.
Think bodybuilding and the stereotypical images are Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing his biceps and grunting "I'll be back", or of Lou Ferrigno bursting his shirt and turning green with rage. So, on the lookout for a ripped female giant, I was surprised when my subject walked into our Starbucks rendezvous rake-thin and with a mischievous smile on her face.
"Everyone expects a bodybuilder to be sprouting muscles but in my case it is more about muscle definition and tone, as I'm in one of the smaller weight categories," Ho says. "In Hong Kong, women are all generally of a smaller size and as such we compete in the model physique category or, like I do, in the athletic physique category."
If it was boxing, she would be competing in the lightest weight category. Weighing around 47 kilograms, Ho excelled in the Ho Chi Minh City event, which drew 350 contestants from 27 countries. She was just pipped to the gold by a Thai competitor.
"It was amazing. I only returned to Hong Kong from living abroad last year and I soon found myself in the thick of it all, winning a local competition. It was a great feeling to stand on the podium representing Hong Kong."
Bitten by the bug, she has now set her sights higher and will represent Hong Kong at next month's World bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships in Budapest, Hungary, along with two other medal winners at the Asian competition - Josephine Yeung Ka-yin and Zico Hau Kin-man, bronze-medal winners in model physique and men's fitness respectively.
It all began for Ho, 46, soon after her second child was born 10 year ago. A yoga and fitness practitioner, she decided bodybuilding would suit her passion for healthy living.
"It is a lifestyle I chose. In Hong Kong, most women focus on beauty. They want to be thin rather than healthy," Ho said. "But being beautiful on the outside does not really help - what matters is to take care of your heart, lungs and other organs. A healthy workout is better than just paying attention to your skin."
As she is a physical trainer by profession, the healthy workout was readily available, and it was just a matter of taking the next step to become a bodybuilder.
"It's all about discipline, especially your diet. We bodybuilders have to be very careful about what we eat. While it is not so bad on a daily basis, when it comes closer to competition time, you have to make a lot of sacrifices, the biggest being water intake."
While she tries to cut down as much as possible on salt, sugar and oil in her normal diet - "I occasionally fry an egg with three drops of olive oil" - Ho as a habit drinks alkaline water ("it helps detox your body"), eats a lot of protein ("mainly fish") and maybe a slice of rye bread. A piece or two of dark chocolate is a treat and when she really wants to indulge, she will go for a piece of creamy Japanese cheesecake.
"If you train yourself and make it a habit, it becomes easy. If you have been eating dessert all your life, try to cut it by half, and then another half and before you know it the benefits will start showing."
Ten days before the Asian championships, Ho cut down her water intake drastically, making do with 800 millilitres a day to increase her muscle definition and "vascularity". "Your veins jut out and you become more ripped," she says.
A member of the Hong Kong China Bodybuilding Association, Ho admits her sport struggles with an image of being riddled with doping and steroids.
"Even though the sport is practised by a small handful and is overshadowed by drug scandals, the Hong Kong China Bodybuilding Association would like to raise awareness, not only of its health and fitness benefits but also so we can portray the correct body image which our vibrant population, especially the youth, should try to adopt," says Ho.
Ho stresses that she and all other athletes are constantly being monitored by the Hong Kong Anti-Doping Committee, and that they are clean.
"We have to undergo random urine tests taken out of competition and I'm pleased to say that we are all clean. This is all about living a healthy life and why would you want to dope yourself?" she says.
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