December is usually my happy month. It’s the Christmas season, everyone is a little more relaxed and forgiving, and the thought of holidays always cheers me up.

However, a couple of things started off on the wrong note.

I already know this – time and again there have been numerous warnings to be more careful when shopping online. Yet all it takes is a moment’s carelessness and weakness to fall for a scam.

I hardly buy stuff and when I do, only from reputable sites. But over the 11/11 weekend which was supposedly the blowout sale day for online shopping and in last-minute desperation to get a birthday present, I bought a fitness watch. The site, www.gakite.com, looked bona fide, like a proper American website with terms and conditions all spelt out.

After paying, I noticed things looked a little fishy – the payment slip that came back just had one line saying “successful transaction”. There was no proper e-mail acknowledgement from the website, no company letterhead, not even any indication of what was purchased. All my numerous e-mail asking for clarification and when the item would be delivered went unanswered.

I checked my credit card details and the price was 20% more than purchase price, which didn’t seem right even with the fluctuating exchange rates.

Then a close friend told me how she was recently scammed too as her purchase of a compact camera turned out to be from some China-based website. And true enough, mine was some suspicious “shopping prince” based in Shenzen.

A more experienced tech friend looked at the site and immediately pointed out it looked dubious as the reputable said brand doesn’t have a representative company in Malaysia.

I looked up an article on sussing out fake sites and it warned that if the discounts offered were too good to be true, they probably are. If the wordings (like the ones in my payment slip) are dodgy and in bad English, it’s suspect.

Poor website design, sloppy English, suspect domain name, shady contact information – these are other signs to look out for.

Also, if the site hasn’t been around very long – you can check this on Whois.net for basic information on when a site has been registered. Surprise, surprise, gakite was set up only in October, just weeks before 11/11.

I guess it’s an expensive lesson learnt, and I hope others will learn from my mishap too.

Another thing that irked me was a comment by Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Ismail Abdul Muttalib in a few English news sites which quoted him as saying that there were husbands who do the cleaning, washing, cooking and taking care of the children.

“However, we are not sure whether they are doing this voluntarily or they have been forced by their wives,” he said.

Apparently, there are about 60,000 house husbands in Malaysia, who are considered as “working” at home.

I take offence at the suggestion that men could be “forced by their wives” to stay home. Yet in the past, and I know even among some of my own relatives, it was acceptable that the wife not be allowed to work!

Amazing that in this new millennium, we still don’t have a more egalitarian view of the family.

It could be purely for economic reasons that the wife is working instead of the husband as she may have better work opportunities.

Surely we need to re-examine the definition of the stay-at-home dad. In Sweden, for example, parents are entitled to 48 paid parental leave days when a child is born. Each parent is entitled to half of that number of paid leave days. And it seems nearly a quarter of all parental leave is taken by men.

And here we are, still having to canvas for five miserable days for paternity leave in Malaysia. Men are just as entitled to look after their children and should be applauded for stepping up to the task instead of being insulted.

Instead of trumpeting how we are only now recognising the role fathers play, we should look beyond that at how we can improve the conditions for families so that regardless of whether it is the men or women who choose to stay home, there is a support system in place.

Given the Yuletide season, the scramble is on to see who has got the best Christmas advert. Department store John Lewis, with its “Moz the monster” commercial, has been rated least successful in five years. Debenhams, with its Christmas fairy tale love story, and Waitrose’s #ChristmasTogether are at the top of the most popular list. No doubt it’s all commercialism, but familiar themes of love, family and giving still speak louder than everything else.

These days, with the Christian world constantly under attack, and even supposed Christian nations like Britain and the United States copping out by opting for politically correctness, the message of Christmas is buried even further.

But it doesn’t change the fact that no matter how much you tweak it or water it down, for believers, even if the actual day Christ was born may have been in July instead of Dec 25, it’s still about celebrating the birth of a Saviour.

With No. 1 son away for the first time this year, Christmas will feel a little quieter – but I think it is in absence that we reach out more for those we love and grow closer together.

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, may your troubles be miles away and goodwill to all!


If you’re looking for a present for him, it seems ‘man-buns’ are a thing now! Have you started on your shopping yet? Send your feedback to star2@thestar.com.my