A New York City deli owner is giving back to his community in a way that involves the intersection of kindness, social media, and math, CNN reports, by letting customers take home for free whatever they can grab in five seconds. In order to receive the items, however, customers must consent to having their shopping spree documented on social media and they have to solve a math problem.
Ahmed Alwan is a 20-year-old college student and a cashier at a Bronx convenience store, Lucky Candy. Known for his infectious smile, Ahmed said that some of his customers have a hard time making ends meet. So the cashier, who has been known to extend credit to his customers and to give out free coffee and muffins to nearby commuters waiting for their morning transit, decided to start something of a game.
“All I wanted to do was to help people. But I wanted to make it fun,” he said.
The rules are pretty simple. Ahmed asks the customer a math question, such as “What’s 5 times 5?” or “9 times 9 minus 5?” If the customer is correct, they have five seconds to grab whatever they can and take it home for free. Ahmed films their shopping spree and then later posts it to the social media platforms TikTok and Instagram.
Most customers go for the obvious, like chips and snacks. One guy managed to grab a hookah. Another tried to take Ahmed’s cat — which Ahmed wouldn’t allow.
Of course, high-ticket items like cigarettes and lottery tickets are behind the counter, where a customer is unlikely to get to them within Ahmed’s five-second countdown.
“It’s a way to entertain and educate people in need while putting a smile on their face, too,” he explained.
Ahmed’s father, store owner Saleh Aobad, is proud of his son and said that the videos have impacted his business “in a positive way.”
Ahmed’s videos have gone viral on both Instagram and TikTok, receiving tens of thousands of followers on each platform in the few weeks that he’s been putting the challenges up.
As for paying for the goods that his customers grab, much of the cost has been coming out of Ahmed’s own pocket. He also says that he intends to start a GoFundMe page to raise money for future games, which will evolve into riddles and other questions besides math problems.
“The money will be going towards products and food that would be used for the challenges and even simple donations for customers in need,” he said.