Bedok trolley gang lends helping hand

SINGAPORE - If you happen to catch a cab in front of Bedok Point, don't be surprised if a stranger opens the taxi door for you.

In recent months, a mysterious group of four men have stationed themselves at the public taxi stand in front of the mall, taking turns to help people into cabs or cars.

They are not employed by the shopping centre or any of its tenants.

On two separate occasions, MyPaper observed two different men dressed in T-shirts and shorts helping mall customers. They opened and closed taxi doors; loaded bags, wheelchairs or prams into the boots; and wheeled back supermarket trolleys.

The men got to pocket the $1 deposit each time they returned a trolley. Customers would also usually hand them a small tip.

On the first occasion, the man working at the taxi stand declined comment and fled on a bicycle.

But the man MyPaper spotted on the second visit, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim and looked to be in his 60s, was more willing to chat.

He said he had worked as a mover until he suffered a back injury. For the past seven months, this job has been his sole source of income.

He said he earns between $3 and $35 a day, with some generous people giving him $10 tips.

"We do it just to pass time and get a bit of extra money," said Mr Lim in Mandarin. "We are all retirees, this is better than sitting at home."

He said all four men are Bedok residents who live near the mall. He declined to say how the group formed.

The men take turns to work shifts of about three hours, and coordinate their movements by texting one another. But most of the time they show up only during the mall's busiest periods - lunch and dinner time.

"In the afternoon, when there are very few people, we usually go home and rest. There are no fixed hours," he added.

Sometimes, police come around. Mr Lim said he was approached by policemen twice.

"They leave after a while because they know we don't ask for money. Any tips we collect are given to us voluntarily," he said.

Sheng Siong owner Lim Hock Chee said he had no issue with the men helping customers wheel back trolleys.

"If customers are willing to be helped, it is a good thing. It is also a good way of making sure our trolleys do not go missing," he said.

Housewife Tan Siew Yao, who shops at Bedok Point twice a week, said she appreciates the help, especially on days when she has bought a lot of groceries. She usually gives the man between two and five dollars in tips when she does not have a trolley.

Retiree Lim Cheng Kai has more reason to be grateful.

The 67-year-old said: "(The men) are very helpful because my wife uses a wheelchair, and they help us load the wheelchair in the trunk. It makes our lives much easier."

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