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