The TV man can, but the trade’s dying out

Seasoned craftsman: Cheng is one of the oldest tradesman in the city and still runs his business in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Johor Baru since opening it in 1972. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: Modern consumer habits have turned electrical repair shops like 76-year-old Cheng Hau Git’s into a sunset trade.

The seasoned electrician who has been plying his trade in Jalan Tan Hiok Nee here for close to five decades said consumers preferred to replace their faulty electronic products with new ones rather than send them for repair these days.

“When I first started my business in 1972, television sets were uncommon, so I mostly repaired radio sets, irons and other household appliances.

“But when it gained popularity in the 80s and 90s, there were always television sets for me to repair.

“That was also during the peak of my business when I had three workers helping me, ” he said in an interview.

Back then, Cheng said most electrical stores had at least one in-house electrician to offer repairs, as compared to the present day where faulty items were sent to the brand headquarters for inspection and repairs.

After bulky television sets were phased out by LED, OLED and the likes, the people seldom sent their sets for repairs anymore.

“Consumers rather buy a new set because repair costs tend to be expensive.

“For example, a replacement circuit board usually costs about RM200 to RM300 on top of the workmanship fees and waiting period.

“The competitive prices of brand new sets, which come with a warranty, makes it difficult for repairmen like us, ” said Cheng, who got into the trade after obtaining his skill certificate in Singapore at the age of 19.

The old-timer recalled that in the 1970s, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee was mainly lined with textile businesses and offices but most of them stopped operating over the years.

The area is now mostly occupied by food and beverage shops while other lots are vacant.

“There used to be another repair shop in the next street, run by three brothers, but they closed down a few years ago.

“This stretch has always been deserted with some calling it a ‘dead street’, ” he said, adding that walk-in customers have dwindled over the years.

Aside from electronic product repairs, Cheng has been providing door-to-door wiring and repair services for his regular customers in Johor Baru and Skudai to survive.

Though he imparted his skills to his three sons by bringing them along when he did electrical and wiring services off-site, Cheng said none of them wanted to take over the business.

“Since they are not interested, I did not want to force them as this job is tiring and laborious, ” he said.

Despite his old age, there is no slowing down for the grandfather of four.

“I have been doing this for so long, it feels like second nature to me. I also enjoy the freedom of moving around so I do not plan on retiring yet, ” he said.

“I hope to do this for as long as I still can.”

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