Family In Siglap Sets Up TYVM Vending Machine To Dispense Free Drinks To Deliverymen
Sometimes, we tend to forget the privileged environment we live in. With just a few taps on our phone screens, we can get our favourite dishes delivered to our doorsteps in an hour or less.
However, it’s easy to take the individuals running these services for granted.
The Chiams, a family of five living in Siglap, aims to change that through a humble vending machine named TYVM Drinks — short for “Thank You Very Much”.
Speaking to MS News, the ladies of the Chiam family said the vending machine dispenses free drinks for delivery and service personnel in the area to thank them for their hard work.
Family used to hand out drinks personally
The Chiam family comprises five members — Dr Eric Chiam, Dr Lisa Chen, both 51, and their 15-year-old triplets Sophia, Andre and Ethan.
The family recently made headlines for setting up TYVM Drinks outside their flat in Siglap, to belanja drinks for delivery and service personnel in the area.
Lisa revealed that the family has been staying at their current residence for about 10 years. Over time, they befriended the postmen, delivery people, and even refuse collectors in the area.
Before starting TYVM Drinks, the family handed out drinks to these local service personnel whenever possible, but it was always a hurried affair.
They then looked for a more sustainable solution — by placing the drinks outside their home instead.
First iteration was an outdoor fridge
Initially, the Chiams considered placing a fridge outside their home. However, they soon realised that it was not the best idea as a fridge is not waterproof and would require shelter.
Nonetheless, the family still entertained the idea.
They thought about either using an old fridge that they had in storage, or using one with the clear display door that is typically seen at drink stalls. Although they also intended to get a steel shelter for the fridge, the idea proved unfeasible as the ground outside the house was uneven.
On top of these difficulties, a fridge is also more prone to abuse as there was no way to prevent people from swiping all the drinks in one go.
Ultimately, it was dad’s idea of having a vending machine that seemed the most reasonable — it’s waterproof and dispenses drinks one at a time.
TYVM is a family-wide operation
Between November 2022 and mid-January 2023, when the vending machine officially launched, the research and procurement process was relatively fast. When the family decided on the vending machine, eldest son Andre pulled up a Google Doc and planned out the steps to make it happen.
Next, second son Ethan pulled up good ol’ Canva to create a logo they could be identified by — colour palettes and all. He also designed stickers to jazz up the vending machine.
The final result is a colourful and eye-catching facade.
Speaking about the design, Sophia, who’s turning 16 this year, said, “We’re not necessarily trying to create a whole brand around this. We’re just trying to make it easier for people to recognise us and to spread awareness,”.
Like her two brothers, Sophia also has a part to play in the whole affair — handling a majority of TYVM’s social media.
Meanwhile, dad Eric provided the funding for the project, according to his post on LinkedIn.
Current vending machine is secondhand from Japan
The initial cost of the project — including the secondhand vending machine, waterproof electrical outlet and wiring, and the first batch of drinks — came up to roughly S$3,300, Lisa revealed.
The machine in question is, in fact, a pre-loved one from Japan. While the family doesn’t know how old the machine is, they do know that it has dispensed over 70,000 drinks. Apparently, its counter was not reset before it was shipped.
Lisa joked that she would be quite happy if it could even last the family a year, considering that it is completely exposed to the Singapore climate.
As the one in charge of restocking the drinks, Lisa places her orders on the usual channels you’d expect — online suppliers such as LazMall, RedMart, and Shopee.
Since the fulfilment times of these platforms are usually a few days’ wait, the Chiams have to plan ahead whenever stocks run low.
When the project first started, they restocked the machine about twice a week, but the frequency has increased to about three times a week as of late.
Drew curious users when vending machine first launched
When the vending machine was finally operational, people in the neighbourhood were naturally curious about the contraption along the pavement. At the start of the year, there were some who would try to get a drink just to see if it really worked despite not being the people the drinks were meant for.
“By any chance, if one of us is home and we see someone who isn’t the intended audience, we’d just go out to remind them of the machine’s purpose, which is to help the people who serve us,” Sophia said.
With their gentle explanations, passers-by quickly understood the purpose of the machine and have mostly been cooperative since.
“We want to keep it positive and not bring any negativity into this. If they wish to take it, or if they have taken it already, sure, enjoy the drink! Just refrain from taking one every time you pass by.”
Family heartened by the positive attention
With the recent influx of media attention TYVM Drinks is getting, more people are now aware of this special vending machine in the East.
As mentioned, Sophia has been the one handling most of the media queries that have been coming their way — ours included. One might think that it would be intimidating for a 16-year-old to be facing the media, but this young lady seems to be taking it all in her stride.
“We’re doing good, and it’s inspiring a lot of people, so it’s been amazing to read the encouraging messages from a lot of people. We appreciate every kind of attention we get because it’s for good and keeps spreading positivity to everyone,” she shared.
The family’s aim for this operation is not for profit or anything else besides helping people, she said. “The end goal is to be able to look back and recognise that this is something positive we’ve done to help people.”
Sophia shared that her sweetest memories from this project so far are seeing the delivery and service people smile into the surveillance camera in gratitude after getting their drinks. “That’s really all we want, that’s all that matters to us.”
Meaningful endeavour brought family closer
This vending machine has not only helped others but the Chiam family as well. It brought everyone together for a common goal, and Lisa is extremely grateful for it.
“It’s not easy to get three teenagers to have a collective goal, as you can imagine. They all have different interests and passions, so this has been quite encouraging and fun.”
Ultimately, TYVM Drinks is the Chiams’ way of encouraging kindness among everyone.
I think kindness is important, especially if you have been blessed. Even in small ways, where you say ‘hi’ to the cleaner or say thanks to the refuse management people, small things like that matter to us.
So, delivery people, next time you’re in Siglap, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this very special treat just for you.
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Featured image by MS News.
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