Category Archives: Deal Reviews

Becoming a man of music: my ukulele lesson

Marky Mark visited Elite Pop Music Training Centre on January 24th, 2016

For my latest deal adventure, I decided to tap into my inner Jason Mraz and try to become one of those guys the girls love but other men hate: the pretentious ukulele player. Seeing how learning the guitar was “too hippie” for me and I’m not cool enough to play the drums, I decided to set my sights on the simple looking mini-me of guitars: the ukulele.

There’s something becoming about a man who can express himself and his thoughts through song. If anything else, playing the ukulele seems something fun to do when you’re drunk on a boat. I signed up on Groupbuyer for 6, 45 minute Ukulele lessons with Elite Music Courses in Mongkok. (This is how much I wanted to learn to play – I was willing to travel to Kowloon, the Shelbyville version of Hong Kong).

Just like most places in Hong Kong, the school was located in a residential building, on the fourth floor. I’ve always wondered how it would feel to be the neighbour of this place – it’s like always having the radio on listening to idiots like me fumble his way around a ukulele.

As I entered the room, I was introduced to my teacher – a young kid with long, moppy hair with glasses. We sat down and he proceeded to hand me and the other student (there were only two people for the class) a ukulele. Mine had cartoon characters on it. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get one with the characters from Disney’s “Frozen” on it but hey – beggars can’t be choosers.

So we get to the basics of the ukulele – how to hold it, how to strum the chords and how to read the notes. Reading the notes is pretty basic and straightforward. All you have to do is commit it to your muscle memory and practice where each finger goes. The hardest part of learning is actually coordinating your fingers. I initially thought that given my propensity and ease of flipping the bird to people that I would have good finger coordination – however learning the ukulele takes everything to a whole new level.

I also learned that I had fat fingers and my hands were too big for the ukulele. I would mash the strings together so my teacher suggested that I play a bigger type of ukulele (did you know there’s different types and sizes of ukuleles?!?!) He got me a Concert ukulele – which was one level up. It was made of wood so I didn’t get any cool cartoon characters but I guess it adds a sense of dignity and respect to the instrument (Too bad that doesn’t translate over to the musician). 

So we learned a few chords and was strumming around. There was a bit of difficulty when he found out that I only spoke English, but somehow, through might and the overabundance use of the term “you press here”, we managed to get our points across.

We got to practice playing a few simple songs like “Amazing Grace” and some random chinese song. At my second class, we learned how to play “Happy Birthday” which was simple yet tricky. I can play it really slow but I’m quite proud of my progress. Happy birthday is a great song to learn since you can play it to everyone. I can totally get chicks with my ukulele and this song. It may not be “I’m yours” but it’s a start.

Interested in learning to play the Ukelele like Marky Mark?  Check out the same Elite Pop Music deal that he got here!

Fresh Modern Kitchen and Bar – Lunch Buffet Review

Marky Mark visited Fresh Modern Kitchen & Bar on December 5th, 2015

As a man that hates nature hikes  and shopping, my options for recreation in Hong Kong is always severely limited. Luckily, given Hong Kong’s sky rocket rent and insatiable thirst for novelty, “tired” restaurants are always closing, to be replaced by something new, shiny and trendy.

Alas, as an undevout Catholic with no meaningful relationships, I’ve resigned myself to spend my free time trying as many restaurants as possible during my time here.

This time, I decided to try Fresh Modern Kitchen and Bar as I always walk pass it whenever I go to La Vache! They say never to judge a book by its cover but no one really believes that crap. We totally judge something by its design. For example, I’ve always been attracted by the Fresh Modern Kitchen’s sign:

fresh-modern-kitchen

I’m a guy who cares about “value” which means that I only buy clothes when they’re red tagged and I’ll only buy day old cookies from Ms Field’s. In this case, I wasn’t about to try this place at full price so I got a deal from Groupon instead. This was the deal on Groupon. It was pretty sweet so I had to get it.

$208 for a Western Semi-Buffet Lunch for 2 People at Fresh Modern Kitchen & Bar (worth $380)

buffet-menu-at-fresh-modern-kitchen

Unfortunately, the Groupon was for two people – which was a problem for me as I said before, I’m unable to sustain or have any meaningful relationships. Then I realized that it was actually a good opportunity for me to take out an attractive girl I knew. She might not be open to being seen with me in public regularly, but maybe a free meal might buy her off.

Luckily, it worked – she agreed to come out for brunch and even agreed to walk beside me on the street and not wear a hat and hockey mask. I felt blessed.

As she didn’t know how to get there, we decided to meet up at Central station and walk over from there. We got to Fresh a little early and they haven’t yet opened. The place opens at 12 so we had to stand outside and chat a bit. Times like these made me wish that I smoked cigarettes so I could look cool doing something rather than keeping my hands in my pockets. Maybe I can be extra douchy and take up vaporized cigarettes? Next groupon.

Finally, it was noon and we went inside. A middle aged Chinese mom had already beat us to the punch and was already seated. The place was obviously still empty and we got to choose where we wanted to sit. We opted for the corner of the room as it overlooked Hollywood road. It was great to people watch on Saturday since you could see all the people doing their walk of shame from a Friday of night of mistakes and regrets. The awkward part was when I saw a colleague doing her walk of shame. I messaged her. Shame. Shame. Shame.

the view from inside the restaurant

As you saw from the earlier picture, the menu consisted of unlimited cold cuts, salads and soup while we got to choose from two mains followed by dessert and coffee/tea. We decided to spread our risk and order both mains to share. We then headed our way to the buffet to take advantage of the food. Again, we were beaten to the punch by the middle aged woman, who’s already elbow deep on the salad and soup.

There was a choice of two salads and a bunch of dressings and toppings – olives, corn, tuna, cheese, potato – it was kind of random. In terms of taste, you can’t really mess up salad. As long as it’s green, that’s pretty much it. The cold cuts were some ham. The soup of the day was cauliflower. It wasn’t bad as well. Again, it’s stuff you can’t really screw up. Oh yeah, there were also some mussels but I’m not a big fan so that went untouched.

After a few rounds, the mains came. The halibut and the pasta with mussels. The portions were just right – it was enough to fill you but not enough to give you food coma. The pasta was average and the halibut was average. Overall okay. It’s the type of place you’d take your mom to  since she wouldn’t complain. Maybe she’d complain about the lighting – it’s a bit dim in there.

Finally, the dessert came with coffee and tea.

The dessert complete with fork imprint

The dessert was average as well. Felt store bought. The coffee was average too. The service was good – the people were nice and were very helpful. When the bill came, it was only for the service charge which was 21 HKD. Since I was a baller, I gave them 30 HKD and told them to keep the change.

Overall, my date was happy – the ambiance was good, her belly was full, and things went smoothly. I’d like to think that it was because I was so charming but that might not be the reason as I spent most of the time stuffing my face with food. Whatever – I’m the guy who took her to Fresh Modern Kitchen.

For those not digging the lunch buffet date at Fresh Modern Kitchen, check out other popular restaurant groupon deals for great dates on a budget.

Deal Review: $688 for a Smart Vacuum Robot from Groupon

$688 for a Smart Vacuum Robot from Groupon

Groupon’s redemption centre in Hong Kong is located at 38 Russell street, right across from Times Square in the Causeway Bay (near MTR exit A). Soundwill Plaza is a large commercial building and its entrance between TAG Hauer and Swarovski is not hard to miss.

Easy to find Groupon Concept Store entrance (across from Times Square)

Easy to find Groupon Concept Store entrance (across from Times Square)

Upon entering the lobby, you will be ushered into a lineup to take a service lift up to the Groupon store on the third floor… Probably not the best way for Groupon to make a impression.

When you reach the third floor you will finally see the recognizable Groupon green colours with multiple employees ready to redeem your stash.  You are presented with a service ticket upon entering the store and with so many staff on hand, the wait was not long even though streams of customers were coming in by the tens.

The vacuum packaging, Panda faces all over it...

The vacuum packaging, Panda faces all over it…

The service that the Groupon employee gave me was mediocre.  I wanted to ensure that the robot vacuum I bought did not have a panda face on it.  I thought that was a fair question since there were panda faces plastered all over the box and I did not recall seeing even ONE panda face during my whole ordering process.  He tried many times to persuade me that the vacuum inside was one without a panda face without opening the box to show me.  All I wanted him to do was take 1 minute to open the box and the problem would be resolved!  After much bantering and him going to the back to “check” he finally agreed to open the box… with a sour face but I didn’t care because I was finally satisfied, no panda face!

I didn’t feel like being squished in a service elevator again so I took the stairs down.  I felt like I was doing a fire drill as the stairs leading down actually doubles as a fire escape.  Overall the redemption process wasn’t as grand as one would expect after seeing photos of the Groupon Concept store, however I give the entire process a pass due to the ease of redemption, and it’s accessible location.

Now onto the actual product, Miss C has always wanted a smart robot vacuum but truth be told, there’s really never enough space in HK to warrant getting one.  However to satisfy her undying fetish for cleaning, we decided that $999 was a fair price to try out a budget model.  Worst case if I accidentally stomp on and break it, we won’t feel as bad at this price point.

Contents of the box

Contents of the box

Upon opening the box, we found that the robot vacuum comes with the following items.  The robot itself, instructional manual in English (no Chinese), barrier beam, remote control, brush cleaner, some blue cloths, and a filter replacement.  You can see a video unboxing of the Groupon Good Robot vacuum cleaner here.

Now for $999 I would say that the vacuum (let’s name him Panda, and it’s a boy) is probably worth its value.  When you put Panda on automatic mode, he really doesn’t have any idea or plan on how he’s going to clean your room.  He just kind of bumbles around like a drunken idiot, and when he hits an obstacle, he will randomly pick another direction to go without really giving thought to its current relative location.  The result is that some parts of your room may be cleaned repeated, while others are never touched.  However the battery life is strong so this drunken cleaning act can go on for a few hours and hopefully all spots are covered.  Click here for a video of Panda vacuum robot live and in action.

 

The barrier beam

The barrier beam

The package includes an instrument that I have dubbed the “barrier beam”.  What it does is that you put 2x D cell batteries in there, and place it somewhere to act as an invisible barrier where Panda cannot cross.  Say you don’t want to vacuum the bathroom, then you would put this white box at the bathroom doorway, and Panda will not cross that line.

One thing to note is that Panda does not work well on carpet.  Actually it doesn’t work at all on carpet.  The carpet that we tested has longer tufts than usual, but every time Panda went on it he immediately got stuck and threw and error code.  What did impress me however was how Panda was able to find his way back to the charging station with pinpoint accuracy.  Once he’s low on energy or you press “stop” on the remote, he thinks for a couple seconds then makes a bee-line for his home, which is actually quite entertaining to watch.  See the Groupon smart robot vacuum in action.

Relatively compact and small

Relatively compact and small

Overall I would say that this robot vacuum is good value for those who want to give it a try, but don’t want to shell out $3,000+ for a Roomba, LG, or major brand.  This appliance was obviously made in China but it doesn’t seem very tacky at all.  Most importantly I think it adequately minimizes the number of times that you actually need to manually clean or vacuum the floor in your home.  Just preset it to run while you are out of the house, and you’ve saved yourself lots of time.

 

Sleeping on his charging dock

Sleeping on his charging dock

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

See more great daily deals from Groupon!

Deal Review: Graco Baby Ear Thermometer by Graco

link to the deal: http://hk.dealshongkong.com/group_buy/FunMart/56123

FunMart‘s redemption centre is located at 38 Pitt Street in the Yau Ma Tei area.  To get there from the MTR, simply take exit A1 and walk a couple minutes against the direction of the MTR exit.  After crossing the intersection, you will find the commercial building located on your left.

entrace to funmart redemption centre

After heading up to the 23rd floor, you will find that the office space is quite claustrophobic.  Quickly head left from the elevators and you will find yourself at unit 2304: Funmart Headquarters.

funmart loyalty card

Inside the redemption centre there was 1 staff, 2 other customers, and tons of products from their website showcased on shelves with price tags for immediate purchase.  Even though there was 1 staff redemption was quick and painless.  The staff also gave me a loyalty rewards card, where you can earn $50 for every $1,000 you spend with them.  Not a great rewards program by any means, but certainly better than nothing.

The Graco thermometer in it's packaging

As for the product itself I was a little disappointed with the packaging.  It was quite underwhelming for a product which claims to have an original price tag of $298.  However upon opening the product and testing it out, my opinion has changed.  It is actually quite a well-made piece of equipment.  The thermometer is easy to use and has a full set of English and Spanish instructions.  What impressed me the most was that it comes with a lithium battery that guarantees at least 5,000 measurements from the get go.

Everything that comes with Graco 5 second thermometer

The thermometer allows you to take your baby’s temperature in mere seconds, and appears to be accurate upon repeat measurements.  The measuring piece (the part that goes into the ear) seems to be relatively safe; in the case of sudden jolts or movement I still don’t think my baby would be hurt.  The thermometer is actually branded and sold by GracoBaby, a baby products company based in USA.  The thermometer itself is manufactured in China.

Overall I would rate this group buying experience a 3.5 out of 5 stars.  FunMart is a dainty but effective group buying company.  They are one of the few daily deal sites that offer lots of baby products so kudos to them for that.  The redemption process was smooth and easy, unlike my experiences with “bigger” group buying sites such as GroupBuyer.  Given the right item and price, I would probably buy from FunMart again and put that loyalty card to good use!

Review: 64% off T.G.I Friday’s from BEECRAZY

I must say I’m not a regular on group buying deals and am somewhat skeptical about the quality of food or service that I’ll be getting. However, I saw this TGI Friday deal and thought the food should not be that bad given it’s TGIF so I decided to give it a try. I called 3 days in advance for reservation and the process was smooth. Being that it was a Saturday night, I expected that it may be hard to get a table, but it didn’t seem to be the case. My boyfriend and I got there about 10 minutes after our scheduled reservation, but we were given a seat immediately.

We didn’t know what to expect but figured since it was a group buying offer the food was probably not going to be as good as it normally would be or was going to be smaller than regular portion sizes. The manager took our deal vouchers and also offered us the regular menu, which was nice since we were thinking we might need a “real” starter. Luckily we had decided to wait and see, because once our soup and salad came, it was clear that even for this special offer, they served us their normal, giant sized portions – and my boyfriend was totally happy about it! Lobster soup was pretty good but the Caesar salad was only average. For the main courses, there were 4 to choose from: Steak, Ribs, Grilled Salmon, Shrimp & Chicken Pasta. We had opted for their signature Jack Daniel’s Steak and Jack Daniel’s Glazed Ribs, and boy, were they good choices too. My boyfriend’s steak was really big and totally unexpected since the special menu for our deal didn’t specify the size. It turned out to be a 12-oz. steak and my boyfriend gave every single last piece of it a great home in his stomach. With the steak also came their cheddar cheese mash potatoes. The mashed potatoes had differences in texture where small potato chunks were embedded in the mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese. One word: yummmmmy!

My choice of the glazed ribs was the real star of the meal. At first bite, it had this sweet taste from the Jack Daniel’s glaze, but it then finished off with a salty taste at its core. The meat was moist and easily came off the bone. It would have been a perfect 10/10 for the ribs, except it was a tad bit too salty and if they had held back the salt a touch it would have been a masterpiece. Another nice surprise was that the meal came with unlimited refills of iced lemon tea. One thing was for sure: there is no way anyone can possibly leave feeling hungry still!

The finale had us each seeing a chocolate brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate fudge. The warm chocolate brownie mixed with the icy cold ice-cream made it easy for me to finish the dessert in a heartbeat. Now I know why they named this as their signature dessert. All in all, both my boyfriend and I think this was a great deal in that there was so much for only $198 and the service from the staff was really good. It has definitely exceeded our expectations. The restaurant itself is very spacious (which you seldom find in Hong Kong) but we were surprised there weren’t too many customers (maybe that’s the reason why they do group buying deals to attract more customers?). Anyways, we (and our stomachs) were really happy with this meal and will definitely buy the deal again!

64% off T.G.I.Friday’s Dinner in TST

As of March 2013, the Dinner deal above is expired, but BEECRAZY is offering a Lunch/Brunch set for $67

Review: German Pool halogen pot CKY-282 from BEECRAZY

Easy To Redeem (4/5)

The pot was very easy to redeem. All I had to do was buy the pot from BEECRAZY and pay an extra $60 for delivery. The day before delivery I received a notification, and a delivery-man rang my door bell the next day as promised. He made me initial some receipt and went on his merry way and there I was standing in the doorway, the proud owner of an extremely large cardboard box. The only negative is that this pot is very popular, so I actually ordered it back in July knowing it wouldn’t be delivered until August.

Quality of Good or Service (5/5)

While the box was a little dinged up, the pot inside was in tip-top shape. It’s protected with lots of styrofoam in the packaging, and was actually a little hard to pull the pot out of the box. The pot comes with lots of little extras such as a mini cookbook (supposedly worth $188hkd as printed on the cover although I don’t think anyone would actually pay for it), instructional DVD, pot extender to make the pot even bigger/taller, some metal grills and tongs. My friends told me that German Pool makes quality appliances, and I felt that the pot is sturdily built and will probably last for years.

Overall Bargain & Savings (5/5)

Total savings for this is pretty huge, as I’ve seen Halogen pots being sold for $1,000+ at department stores like JUSCO and SOGO. For $699hkd, not only are you getting a halogen pot but a pretty darn good one. I actually thought this was just a glorified microwave until I saw one in action at my friend’s house. It’s able to cook meat to a juicy flavour in very little time. The best part about it is that all the oil and gunk you normally get from grilling or pan-frying is contained within the pot, so it makes for a much easier clean-up; while the end result of the food is not much different.

Of course your interest in this appliance is mostly based on your cooking skill.. if you’re a masterchef you probably wouldn’t be looking at using a halogen pot. Most of my friends are just regular gals who like to cook, so I’ve recommended this pot to all of them. BEECRAZY still sells this but for an inflated price of $880hkd where they include a pair of poultry shears. It makes sense for the shears as one of the first things you’ll cook when you get this pot is Chicken (soooo juicy and soooo tender!), but that’s adding $180hkd for a pair of scissors! If you can read Chinese, Funshare has this deal at the price of $699hkd for just the pot itself at the time of writing.

Check out a video of the German Pool Halogen Pot unboxed: Cantonese version | English version

Daily Deals: Worth the Rage, a Personal Encounter

For my day off from work, I decided to cash in on a manicure/pedicure deal I purchased for a local spa in Central Hong Kong. Not only was the experience relaxing in itself, but even more rewarding because I remembered I just paid less than half of the spa’s everyday price for this service. When I bought this deal, I was given the option to suggest it to two friends to be rewarded with $50 worth of credit. I turned around and put that credit towards $150 worth of food at my favorite eatery. And on and on and on…..

hong kong manicure pedicureOnce scrutinized for turning to the web for Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, and ideas for family activities, my family and friends have now all joined in the group buying movement. In exchange for discounts, sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial promise merchants to deliver spikes in clientele. Being skeptical at first, I only bought local restaurant deals for my family to use. After having nothing but positive results and customer service, I now wake up awaiting delivery of these daily deals in my Inbox. I have bought everything from deep discounts on vacation spots, passes to rides at the local city park, clothing boutique deals, and gun range vouchers for my husband. I have yet to be disappointed.

But the huge discounts aren’t where the sites stop. Some of these group buying sites make it possible to go coupon-free. I can actually display the coupon on my phone at the establishment, and leave the hassle of printing out a coupon at home. There are, however minor, downsides to these deals. First, most of them come with an expiration date of about six months from the purchase date. Second, some deals restrict the number of coupons purchased per person. For example, if you bought more than two coupons for a certain salon, you were required to use them all on the same visit.

With the rewards system a majority of these sites provide (i.e., crediting you $100 for recommending two friends), the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. LivingSocial, for example, gives you the entire deal for FREE if you encourage three friends to sign up for the site and buy that deal. Moreover, the site also gives you $40 credit towards any future deals just for having friends sign up for the site (which is free!).

This has become one of the hottest trends online, and is made even more so by the rise in social media. I definitely use my personal networks to clue friends in on the latest deals. We also have seen a rise in our social lives, getting together to partake in our great discounts.