Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Greed Changes Hong Kong

Hong Kong landlords continue to be greedy -- to the point of evil.

The latest story is a 72-year-old sock seller who is now back on the streets hawking her wares because she can't pay the rent anymore.

Au Yuk-ho used to lease a 250-square-feet store in Causeway Bay for HK$70,000 ($9,022) a month but the landlord doubled the rent to HK$150,000.

She's only selling socks and nylons! Pretty impressive that Au, nicknamed Yuk Jie or Sister Yuk, could pay the rent and have enough left over to raise a family of five children.

Even more amazing is that even though she has resorted to selling her socks on the street, she bears no grudges.

"I won't go hiding at home, sobbing and complaining about cruel reality," she said. "I have cast away my dignity, but I won't give up."

Luckily Yuk Jie has a strong loyal customer base even though she's very blunt and doesn't even allow customers to finger the merchandise.

"I was nasty, some said, but they should know I was the owner and sales lady all in one," she said. Anyway, despite this, they still return."

Meanwhile, the owner of Leighton Bakery, known for its egg tarts and fried egg with ham buns, will be closing the shop at the end of June after 40 years.

Unlike Au, Lam Shek-yam owned the 400-square-foot store and sold it for HK$140 million, making a healthy profit as he bought it for HK$13 million in 1996.

"My wife, my daughters, my 10 staff and I need a good rest starting from next month," said Lam. He has brewed milk tea 362 days each year.

"The only thing I will miss is my customers, some of whom regularly buy up to a dozen egg tarts in an afternoon."

Lam got into the business when he was just 12 years old and neither of his two daughters in their 30s want to continue working at the shop.

Not only is it because it's hard work and long hours, but also because the price of ingredients has increased significantly in the last few years. For example in the last year a 50kg bag of sugar had doubled to HK$250 while the price of flour and lard had also doubled.

Au and Lam are not the only mom and pop shops to close due to insanely jacked-up rents.

Hong Kong is fast losing its unique local flavour only to make way for homogenous chain stores we see on every other street corner.

Is this what we want our city to look like?

But we don't have much choice since we don't "own" Hong Kong.

Nevertheless kudos to Yuk Jie for carrying on her trade.

She's definitely got the Hong Kong can-do spirit.

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