Monday 21 January 2019

I bought $3.50 towels from Mr Yoong in Chinatown because of viral post

As Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the towel “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”.

And for the past few days, the towel has been the hottest selling item at Chinatown Complex, though most of the buyers don’t look like interstellar hitchhikers as far as I can tell.

It’s all thanks to an online post that went viral late last week.

In case you haven’t seen it as you’re one of those heroes who swore off social media because the Internet is evil, this is what the post said:
If you’d like to buy bath and hand towels, floor mats and handkerchiefs, do consider getting them from stall No 183 at the ground floor of Chinatown Complex.

This stall is run by Mr Yoong, who is the sole breadwinner, supporting his disabled twin sisters who have muscular dystrophy and are unable to communicate, let alone support themselves. Mr Yoong has been operating the stall since his parents passed away.

One of the Yoong sisters is in Cheshire Home, a charity nursing home giving full time care to the disabled. The other sister, who used to struggle to move about, is also having mobility problems as her muscles have weakened and she cannot move around. They stay in a flat above the complex.

Chinatown complex will close for 3 months from March 2019 for repair works, and it will be tough for this family of 3 without any income.

CNY is around the corner, so if you’d like to get some new towels, do head down to the shop to get some reasonably priced cloths!

Did the story about Mr Yoong and his sisters bring a tear to your eye?

Because I know a place where you can get a towel to dry it.

As an unrepentant bandwagon jumper, I decided to check out the Chinatown Complex stall myself on Saturday afternoon and possibly buy a towel or two to help the guy.

But it seemed the guy didn’t need my help as a crowd had already gathered around Mr Yoong’s stall when I got there.

Was he selling towels or BTS merchandise?

The man had practically become an idol himself because of the viral post. That’s the power of social media for ya.

But his was a one-man operation. What if he needed to eat or go to the toilet? I wondered.

Looking a little overwhelmed but still in good humour, the spindly 55-year-old was telling people that all the big bath towels were sold out, but everyone made it a point to buy something before leaving.

Mr Yoong has told Lianhe Wanbao he didn’t want donations – just buy his towels.

Which was what I was trying to do as I finally squeezed my way to the front of the crowd.

I spotted a pack of hand towels marked $3.50 and indicated to Mr Yoong that I wanted to buy one. I thought it was $3.50 for one towel, but he handed me the whole pack of six.

That’s like 58 cents a towel. I haven’t bought many hand towels in my life, but I suspect that’s a pretty good deal.

Except I’m not sure what I’m going to do with six hand towels.

Well, I am planning to use GrabHitch for a trip to Alpha Centauri next week.

Anyone wanna come along?

I have spare towels.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 January 2019

UPDATE: Chinatown Complex reopened on 1 June 2019 after renovations

Monday 7 January 2019

I ate McDonald’s Salted Egg Yolk Loaded Fries and didn't vomit (But someone else did?)

There’s an old saying: One man’s salted egg yolk loaded fries is another man’s dead lizard in a pack of Irvins salted egg fish skin.

That has never been more true than last week, when McDonald’s introduced its Salted Egg Yolk Loaded Fries.

I enjoyed the fries, but for others, they might as well have eaten a lizard.

And it was mostly the latter group that swamped the comments section on the McDonald’s Facebook page.

A sample rant:
“McDonald!!!!!! You call this salted egg?!!! Or do you mean SALTED FISH?!!!!! Not a single bit of salted egg taste!!! It tasted like salted fish instead!!!!!! It tasted sour and salty at the same time? It’s damn gross can!??!! Super duper disappointing!!!”
I think the planet ran out of exclamation points after that comment.

Another compared the fries unfavourably to drain water:
“Remember that time we caught a tilapia and the water from the longkang went in my mouth? Yeah after eating this I think the longkang water taste better.”
The most on-trend comment:
“Food review: McDonald’s salted egg yolk loaded fries tasted like YouTube rewind 2018.”
The most meta comment:
“Muahahaha... reading all these comments tastes much better than the food itself.”
I was taken aback by how angry some of the posts are. It’s almost as if McDonald’s killed their dog in its pet boarding facility or something.

That people paid over $4 for the Salted Egg Yolk Loaded Fries (a la carte) probably didn’t help.

It’s more expensive than the Golden Salted Egg Milk Foam Tea from Gong Cha but cheaper than the Salted Egg Lava Brown Sugar Pearl Fresh Milk from Liho.

Yes, salted egg is in everything now. And they don’t all come with lizard.

Still, some who ate the McDonald’s Salted Egg Yolk Loaded Fries claimed the food made them nauseous.

One wrote:
“Just had this 10 mins ago at AMK branch in AMK gardens. I vomited at the carpark outside. Feeling sick after eating this.”
McDonald’s actually replied to the comment:
“Thanks for highlighting this to us and we’re sorry to hear about your experience. Could you please share with us via private message your contact number and e-mail address? We’d like to look into this and get in touch.”
Another person just compared it to puke:
“Is it supposed to smell and taste like vomit?”
Not passing up a chance to throw rocks at a rival drowning in salted egg yolk sauce, Burger King also joined in the comments:
“We know, the clown did it again. Yet another blunder. Here at Burger King, we never mess with our fries. That is why you should totally get our Cheesy Fries for only $2.50.”
To which someone responded:
“Burger King Singapore comment totally uncalled for, tasteless n only jeopardizing ur reputation no matter how bad the sauce is. It is alright for consumers to express their discontentment but not u, commenting bluntly on ur competitor’s page.”
But another commentator defended BK:
“This happens all the time between the fast food outlets in the US though. Carl’s Junior will poke at BK or McDonald’s, Jack in the Box will poke at Carl’s and so on. It’s quite funny when they do it right.”
Surprisingly, the biggest winner in the McDonald’s Facebook fries fracas is not the King but the Colonel, who stayed out of the fray, thanks to customers’ posts like this:
“Ordered KFC cheese fries and it tastes sssoooo good!! just to counter back the horrible Mcd salted egg fries.”
Another winner is McDonald’s itself because one thing the comments also highlight is how much people really miss the restaurant chain’s usual festive offering this time of year:
“Cancel all that and just BRING OUT THE PROSPERITY BURGER & CURLY FRIES EARLY. No need to wait for Chinese New Year.”

To bring it full circle, the most ironic comment may be this:
“Please give me back my money, Mcdonalds!!! If you don’t know the real taste of salted egg yolk, go and buy a packet of Irvins salted egg and know the real taste of salted egg!!!”
But perhaps this final comment best explains why people are so salty over McDonald’s Salted Egg Yolk Loaded Fries:
“Secret ingredient not there... no gecko taste.. no wonder everybody is so pissed off.. haha.”

- Published in The New Paper, 7 January 2019