PETALING JAYA, Sept 22 ― He is known as the soft toys uncle in Damansara Uptown, but suppliers have recently labelled David Christopher “Pokemon King” because of his booming sales fuelled by the generosity of Malaysians.
David, 65, said he has never experienced such a high demand for the soft toys in the 15 years he has been selling them.
“And the way I touch people's hearts, the way people come also touch my heart… it shows how many caring Malaysians there are,” he said when met at his “selling spot” outside the HSBC Damansara Uptown branch yesterday.
The whole thing started when David’s plight became viral on social media after a customer left him in the lurch after ordering 250 Pokemon soft toys and not coming to collect them.
Ironically, he is now struggling to cope with the overwhelming demand as Malaysians rushed to help him.
So great is the demand in fact that he now makes two trips a day to sell the Pokemon soft toys instead of the usual one trip. He can’t fully accommodate all the requests for reservations through text messages ― numbering some 200 ― either.
He has also had to ditch other modes of public transport; it used to take him up to three hours to reach his Petaling Street suppliers and selling spot from his Pandan Perdana home. David now has to resort to using a taxi to carry his stock of hundreds of soft toys.
“In fact, I have been selling Pokemon, but before Pokemon went viral… I hardly sell 50 in a week. Then suddenly it went viral. When it went viral, I was selling 300 a day, but now I have reached a stage where I'm selling about 1,000 already for the last three days,” said David, who started selling Pokemon plushies this year.
On Tuesday alone, he sold 500 in less than two hours from 11am, while a second batch of 500 was sold within a mere 45 minutes when he returned at 3pm.
He credits this partly to social media, but also notes the craze across all ages for the plushies of characters from the Japanese franchise.
But just several months before this, David saw his business trickle down as customers bought less amid rising living costs; he struggled to sell even 35 soft toys a day.
“I was earning about RM30, RM35 a day. Was very tough but I stood firm, some day God will work out something for us, you know.
“June, July, August, I was going through a very bad time, when people came to ask me to push drugs, push firearms, but I don't want. I rather struggle, reach my target, enough to look after my son, I go back, I eat sandwiches, have something simple. But what social media did especially this month, I never experienced this in my life, selling 1,000 toys in a day,” the single parent said.
While many come in support of David who was diagnosed with leukemia last March, he instead sees himself as providing a “service” to Malaysians by offering soft toys at a cheaper rate where he only takes a profit of RM3 instead of exploiting the Pokemon craze.
The poor economy has seen price-conscious Malaysians turn to him as they could buy two soft toys from him for the price of one elsewhere, he said.
“The main thing is still I give glory to God. God is the one who brought the customers and brought this thing and basically partly also because the country's economy is bad, there are people exploiting on this by selling it RM20, RM25 per Pokemon and then when it went viral that I was only selling it RM10… what they buy outside, they can buy two from me, so more children can get these toys,” he said.
He said he is contented and can go home to rest after selling out his toys in the mornings, but has added on the second trip as he wants to serve customers who have been waiting, some of whom come from quite far. Some of the customers who took a selfie with him yesterday included one who came down from Penang.
One year on since beating doctors' predictions last March that he only had six more months to live, David shared how people of different religions have prayed for his health.
“Well, now I believe I have been healed because of prayer. Even doctors are surprised, doctors ask me, 'Uncle, there's so much progress are you taking any other medicine?', as I said just now, prayer is my other medicine,” he said.
He also cleared up any misunderstanding by saying that he gets free medical treatment as a senior citizen and only has to pay when he is warded.
David, who believes in hard work and dignity for those making an honest living, flatly refuses to take money without giving soft toys in return, sharing an anecdote on how he insisted on a woman taking 30 toys after she tried to give him RM300.
“I said you go to the old folks' home, then she went to the old folks' home, she was very surprised. Why? Because some of them when they saw the toys, tears went down ― old men, because nobody came and gave them toys,” he said, adding that one of them was so happy to have a friend even if it was a toy.
“So she came back to me the next day, she said, 'Uncle you taught me something, I thought giving you RM300 I was helping you', I said yes, in fact when you take 30 toys, I make RM3, I make RM90… but the number of people you make happy, so from there she learn, then she came back second time during Christmas for the children,” he said.
Indonesian migrant worker Betty, 47, who has been faithfully helping out David in the last two years during her break time, attests to his firm belief in earning his own keep instead of accepting charity.
“When people give money, I see that Uncle doesn't want to accept. When people give money, (he will say) take the soft toys. Sometimes I see and I feel the old folks will truly not want to take the money of others without their own sweat. He is truly a good person,” she told Malay Mail Online.
Betty, who voluntarily helps David out despite not taking a salary from him, said she thinks of her own grandmother when she sees him and merely wants to assist an old man.
“We help this old folk, we help him, God will help us. It’s true all this while, when my child in my hometown was sick, there was people who helped,” the Muslim woman said.
Many other kind souls have chipped in to help David as well, with some new acquaintances offering to give him a ride while some, including his regulars, help collect money from other customers.
Now that David finds that he is doing well, the Eurasian who confesses to having a soft spot for children plans to give away soft toys to orphanages during festive seasons, starting from this Christmas onwards.
He plans to continue selling his soft toys as long as his services are needed.