Uncle Dom's inspiring story has gone viral. 

The opening of the new Ikea Bang Yai store has brought with it the unexpected feel-good story of Sornchai “Dom” Upparamai, 71. Eleven years after retiring from his post of nearly four decades at the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, Uncle Dom spotted a mass-recruitment ad for Ikea on Facebook. Following two interviews, he was rewarded with a sales staff job. Not long after Uncle Dom was the subject of a viral Facebook post that pushed him into the public spotlight and kickstarted talk about the values of older workers. We visited him at his workplace to discuss his newfound career and notoriety.

What did you get up to after you retired?

I picked up a few small jobs here and there. One of them was at a private company where I saw quite obvious corruption. I couldn’t stand that so I quit after a year. I also became a monk for five months. I was a taxi driver for a bit but I didn’t know how to use Google Maps so I lost money every day from getting lost so I couldn’t do it anymore.

Do you like working here?

Everyone here is so lovely and that makes me feel better about my age and my life. I’ve been working since I was 11 when I wanted to buy my own football gear. That’s one way I can relate to Ingvar Kamprad [Ikea’s founder], as he started working when he was seven. I can’t stay still and I just want to do something regardless of the job position.

How long have you been working here?

I got a call back about a month after my two interviews and I started training on Sep 1 [2017].

What's your work schedule like?

I’m a part-time employee and that requires me to work a minimum of two days per week. Sometimes I work three days, sometimes five, depending on how busy the store is. I usually start at 9am and sometimes I finish at 2pm, 4pm or 6pm.

Can you walk us through your day of work?

If I do the 9am shift, I would have to arrive at 8am. Then I would have to check the stock, making sure I wear a safety vest every time I go into the warehouse for security reasons. I’m responsible for returning the items that customers decide not to buy at the last minute to the right aisle. I make sure all products have the correct price tags and that the place is neat and clean. I also guide customers on how they can have their products delivered to their home.

What do your children and grandchildren think of this?

My son who owns a restaurant in Australia said to me, “dad, what did you do, you’re famous now?” Both of my children live in Australia and are very proud.

What do customers think of you?

The feedbacks been all positive and friendly. Everyone seems to want to talk to me and that makes me want to improve myself, as I am at their service. There are also many, many people who recognized me from Facebook and ask me for selfies. A lot of people also ask me how I got the job here. One customer brought her father to meet me and said, “this is the man who I told you about.” Another senior customer said I have inspired her to keep working and that she wants to apply for a job, too. So far, I’ve only ever met one customer who was rude to me, but I just kept smiling at her.

Do you feel that other staff treat you any differently because of your age?

Everyone is always so nice to me and so eager to teach me stuff. I can be the typical old person who forgets easily and they would have to teach me again and again, and they are so patient with me. I came from a completely different job background and knew literally nothing about this business [Ikea], but they are all so patient with me. Without these people I wouldn’t still be here. If I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t force myself to be here. It wouldn’t be good for my mental health.

What do you like most about working here?

When I first started, the younger generation would always ask me, “Uncle Dom, you’re old, why are you still working?” I think Thai society needs to change that mindset. Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t work or that you have to wait for your children to give you money. It gives me purpose. I’m not bored and I want to come here to work. When I’m not working, I wake up with no plans and that makes me more stressed than having to work.

What do you like to do in your free time?

If I’m not working here, I just watch TV, read or go to the temple or library. That’s pretty much it. I could go to a shopping mall but I feel embarrassed about just walking around a shopping mall as an old person, so I only go when I absolutely have to. I also like going to the park to exercise.