Family sets up vending machine outside Siglap home for deliverymen, garbage collectors to get free drinks

Siglap resident Eric Chiam (second from left) and his wife Lisa Chen (right) came up with the vending machine idea last November with their children, (from left) Ethan, Andre and Sophia. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SOPHIA CHIAM

SINGAPORE - Siglap resident Eric Chiam and his family have set up a soft-drink vending machine outside their house for food deliverymen and other workers to help themselves to a free drink.

Installed in January, the machine in the first month dispensed 637 drinks to food deliverymen, postmen and just about anyone who shows up at the Chiam house in Yarrow Gardens on a work errand.

Dr Chiam, 51, is a general practitioner who, with his family, wanted to find a way of offering a cold drink to people who came to the house to deliver food or the mail – even when they were not at home.

He said: “We use a lot of delivery services as a family. We typically try to offer drinks to the delivery workers, but we are not always able to meet them at the gate.”

So Dr Chiam and his wife, with their 15-year-old triplets Andre, Ethan and Sophia, came up with the vending machine idea last November. They refer to it as TYVMdrinks, or Thank You Very Much drinks.

“We do this because it is a way for us to thank them for bringing us food at all times, under the hot sun and in the rain, especially since it is now the monsoon season,” said Dr Chiam.

The project is a family affair.

The children are largely in charge of planning and marketing. Andre planned the project, Ethan designed the vending machine logo and stickers using graphic design platform Canva, and Sophia helms the Instagram account.

Meanwhile, Dr Chiam funds the project and his wife, Dr Lisa Chen, 51, also a general practitioner, selects the drinks and puts in the orders.

Setting up and decorating the vending machine cost about $3,000, and the drinks cost less than 50 cents each.

Besides taking turns to top up the vending machine twice a week, the family often discuss over meals the number and types of drinks to buy and ways to make the project better.

One way to improve the project, Dr Chiam said, is to set up a pay-it-forward system so that others can chip in to buy drinks for these delivery workers.

And yes, the family has noticed that the vending machine has attracted the attention of those who are not on any type of work errand.

Dr Chiam said: “We hope to make the system maybe try to discern whether the person is a delivery worker, for instance, so that the machine does not just dispense drinks to everyone. That way, the system is less prone to abuse.”

Dr Chiam’s vending machine is gaining traction online, and he said it is encouraging to receive kind comments.

“But the most rewarding part of this project is definitely seeing the smiles of delivery men, drivers and service people who use it,” he said.

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