Mass public protests aren't the only things that social networks can kickstart in an hour. They can also come to the rescue of people whose livelihoods are in trouble. Yitzhak Avriel, 78, a longtime carpenter who isn't even on Facebook, is proof.
Avriel had been having difficulty finding customers for a while. He was living entirely off his social security. In a last-ditch attempt to draw customers, he stuck a handwritten ad in a building lobby in Tel Aviv: “Construction of kitchen cabinets. Forty years experience in furniture repair. Fully guaranteed.”
The small, handwritten note touched 34-year-old tenant Rotem Grossman. He photographed the ad and posted it on Facebook. Since then, dozens of people have telephoned Avriel with orders for furniture repair.
“When I saw this little note, my heart was filled with sadness," Grossman wrote on Facebook. "I can’t bear to think about this elderly carpenter, who surely must have put notes like this is many buildings. Do you think he does Ikea furniture? Deep down, I’m sure that he does. I’m buying my next stool from him. What about you?”
About 6,130 people shared the story of Yitzhak the Carpenter on Facebook. A lively discussion ensued. One reader wrote, “I don’t know you, Rotem, but you understand how we tend to ignore such notes. Now, thanks to you, we all stop to think about Yitzhak the Carpenter from 5 Yitzhak Sadeh Street at 052-861-5227.”
Another reader commented, “If he advertises in the old way, he definitely works in the old way – with a lot of love and attention, not a ‘do-it-yourself’ mass-produced mentality.”
Someone even asked whether the notice had been written with a ball-point or fountain pen.
Several people posted flyers and distributed business cards for Yitzhak the Carpenter. The Israeli Yellow Pages gave Avriel a year-long advertising package for free, and Hayik Bamot, a company that makes stages, scenery and various other kinds of equipment for theatrical productions intends to design a sign for the front of the "good carpenter’s shop.”
Avriel says that Grossman’s status saved his shop. “Customers prefer the big chain stores,” he says. He is registered at the Tax Authority as a small business exempt from paying VAT, which means that he earns less than NIS 100,000 per year.
“It’s been months since I’ve had work," he says. "I need money. My wife doesn’t work either and I didn’t put money aside for a pension."
“I put up the notice in my neighborhood, hoping that customers would contact me. I got 15 calls the day after Grossman put up his post. I could hardly believe it.”
Avriel dismisses concerns about whether he can handle the new flood of work.
“I’m 78, but I have the strength of a 50-year-old," he says. "When I work, I feel better and sleep better at night. And then I’m even stronger.”