"I work very hard to raise and educate 3 daughters," the 67-year-old optometrist used to work from 9 am to 9 pm said to me. "Now, two are married and I don't get a cent from them."
"Do you really expect the younger generation to give parents some money from their earnings every month?" I asked. "They have different values. If they don't need your money as adults, you should consider yourself fortunate!"
Nowadays he closes his shop whenever he likes because his rental in downtown Orchard Road is around $4,000 while the other shop rentals in other malls were charging $8,000 - $20,000 rental per month. "I do not charge clients who are poor," he declared to me. "There was one who asked me if he could pay by instalments. His family member has cancer and so I said that he could pay me when he was able to do so."
"Would you be giving free spectacles if your rental was $15,000/month?" I asked.
"Well, the clients who need free spectacles will not step into such posh shops."
His 3rd daughter in her late 20s had brought in a 13-year-old cat for me to remove an ingrown toe nail. She had phoned me at 10 am on Saturday as the cat's paw was bleeding and I suggested that she bandaged the foot and bring the cat in today, in order to save on after-hours costs which would come to over $300.
So, here she was, with her father. She would not bear to see her cat's ingrown toe nail being cut off.
"My cat claws me all the time at home," she warned me. So I expected a ferocious lion all ready to swing her claws at me. But she was very quiet and there was no need for a sedative. She just lied quietly and patiently and I got some images taken.
"Since you have worked for so many years, you must have lots of clients," I said to the father. "Is your children taking over your business?"
"No, my children are not interested," he had already given up on his 2 older daughters and this younger one was working happily in an events marketing company in publishing.
"I am interested," the 3rd daughter said she had spoken to him and would not mind attending the compulsory optometry course to be accredited. He had not groomed the 3rd daughter.
"Rentals will not stay at $4,000/month forever," he had no confidence in his children to compete and bring his goodwill and clientele business to a higher level.
"Have you got a website?" I scrutinised his name card as he said my spectacles were out-dated and old fashioned. I told him they were branded "Gap" and the thick black frames were admittedly, not modern looking.
His 3rd daughter laughed as she is from this internet generation who appreciates websites and know the levelling power of the social media. Maybe the father knows that one-man-operator optometrist practice is a dying business but I don't think so. Many such shops hire people who come and go and there is a niche for proprietors who provide personalised service and is available over the years as the family members grow up.
Of course, the internet generation may not be loyal clients and go for fanciful renovations and high prices. However I believe there is a place for a niche optometry personalised service with years of experience. It is very difficult to find such old veterans nowadays if you value experience over glamour.