Eye On Taiwan
Date: June 3, 2016
By: David Wang
While many extremely rich Taiwanese, including one old-moneyed scion of the financial sector in Taiwan likely rated as high net-worth individual with assets totaling 7-figure greenbacks, enslave and pay about US$550 monthly overseas contract workers to often work 16-plus hour days without quality sleep to show the obvious absence of correlation between generosity (as well as hospitality) and depth of pocket to irritate those working for the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and any other charity looking out for the underprivileged, at least one Taiwanese woman gave freely an hour of her time to talk about the modest enterprise (as shown) that generates a humble income to perhaps equal a basic wage for the ex-seamstress from southern Taiwan.
Such generosity seems unremarkable until the 50ish Ms. P, a polio victim who has been in a wheelchair for 5 years, tells me that she has managed to raise 2 daughters and works 12-hour days starting at 8 a.m. and that being stuck behind a counter is no picnic.
Many aborigines, low-income people, handicapped in Taiwan can enter a draw, showing demand-over-supply, to win license to be ticket vendors for the lottery run by the ChinaTrust Commercial Bank of Taiwan, being the government’s attempt to level the playing field as well as show its humanitarian side.
But no matter how well-intentioned a plan starts, a few selfish, greedy entrepreneurs always manage to ruin the party.
Most lottery ticket vendors across Taipei are manned by perfectly healthy Taiwanese, to which Ms. P attributes the existence of “consortia or well-financed parties” who rent from the licensees the right to run ticket retailers, a tactic that she blames for depriving other truly needy people of the opportunity to achieve financial independence. Winners of licenses can forfeit their right to enable less lucky applicants to take their places. Perhaps some of her handicapped peers simply don’t want to or lack the energy, motivation to work 12-hour days. But Ms. P says ChinaTrust explicitly prohibits the re-authorization of the licenses.
Few rules or laws in Taiwan are strictly adhered to being the rule of thumb. Once again proven so it seems.
In fact many ticket outlets, especially the ones spread across impressively large premises, are staffed by 20ish and 30ish, attractive Taiwanese women to show perhaps lack of other job opportunities, initiative to find more challenging work, lack of training and education to develop more promising career, plain laziness and complacency, or be relatives of those who rent licenses.
I received about US$144 in monthly handicapped allowance but it has been revoked due to my yearly income now exceeding US$15,380, which I have not challenged, says Ms. P, who pays US$1,076 monthly to rent the small room not much bigger than 2 queen-sized mattresses, which she laments being expensive but typical in central Taipei.
However she is glad that Taipei subsidized her US$3,076 for the US$6,153-plus spent on decorating the interior of retailer.
Despite being authorized to run the retailer for 10 years, Ms. P says her particular outlet is not a fecund cash cow as it is for some of the bigger rivals a few steps away, which she believes to be raking it in, as with another retailer run by a friend who has been miraculously lucky to have won a license in each of the last 3 draws, whose store is near Nan-Men Market (one selling traditional Chinese culinary staples as fermented sweet-rice congee) with ample well-heeled customers.
Able to take 8 percent profit from the tickets dispensed from a touch-screen-unit that can also scan for winners, Ms. P says that the scratch-and-win tickets yield 10 percent revenue but expire in 6 months, with the organizer notifying 3 months before such date to allow vendors to seek refund. Such policy is also a gamble for vendors have already paid for scratch-and-win tickets so must eyeball the market for robustness to avoid being stuck with unsold tickets to rack up a loss.
Some vendors actually buy over US$30,770 worth of scratch-and-win tickets, which would be a savvy bet in a buoyant market as 10 percent return would be enviable for many businesses today, including high-profile ones listed on the NY Stock Exchange.
Besides the illegal renting out of licenses, another form of lottery is peddled surreptitiously by some vendors. This underground lottery is offered with of course better odds and without the 20 percent tax imposed on the legal lottery in Taiwan, says Ms. P, who adds that a vendor nearby was busted for pitching the black market lottery and has had his license revoked.
Most customers here are working people who buy a few tickets but I have one regular customer who must have figured out a system, so he drops in daily to buy US$153 worth or about 50 tickets…I think he probably recoups his investment consistently…which is why he dares to buy so many tickets every day, says Ms. P.
Selling machine-dispensed tickets is less of a gamble for one only has to pre-agree the amount to be deposited with ChinaTrust before starting the business, so Ms. P, with US$1,538 in deposit, simply carries on daily as she takes in cash that enable replenishing the deposit as necessary, and the business tax is paid every 3 months to show extra diligence on the part of the authorities, she says.
Outwardly an ordinary handicapped woman in a wheelchair, Ms. P, who says ChinaTrust won’t allow photos to be taken inside a retailer and declined to be in a photo, has not only won the game of life by overcoming adversity to raise 2 children, but having won the second time to be lucky in the drawing of lottery-ticket vendor licenses.
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